These first two months of 2012 have been really, really fun here in Baltimore. As I’ve said numerous times before, I was seven years old the last time the Orioles had a winning season in 1997. Since then, we’ve all been teased by hot starts and promising prospects, only for the losses to mount during the summer and the players to depart over the winter.
For a few weeks now, I’ve wanted to believe that this organization has finally turned the corner. I’ve wanted to believe that Buck Showalter was finally the right manager to lead this team back to contention, and that Dan Duquette was finally the right general manager to make the aggressive, smart moves needed to contend in the toughest division in all of sports. The notion that this young, talented core assembled by Andy MacPhail and supplemented by Dan Duquette was finally good enough to take on the beasts in the American League has certainly crossed my mind. Some days, I believe it to be true. Other days, I remain skeptical.
After all, even if all of this does come together and 2012 turns out to be a magical year here in Birdland, will it continue?
Will the increased revenue generated from the added attendance that the coming months will undoubtedly bring barring a complete meltdown be put back into the team? Will it allow Dan Duquette to go out and not only add pieces, but keep his own? Would this version of the organization that is finally getting a taste of what it feels like to win in Baltimore have the drive to keep building, rather than constantly crossing their collective fingers hoping that 90 percent of the puzzle falls into the correct places in order to contend?
The Orioles are winning, and quite honestly, they aren’t showing many signs of slowing down. But how would this organization, led by an owner who has shown absolutely no commitment to winning consistently in this market and a general manager who was both highly successful and out of baseball for nearly a decade, handle success? How would they handle, well, not sucking?
I wasn’t sure. I was, and still am, more skeptical about the long-term relevance of the Baltimore Orioles than 2012. Once a team starts to win and gets that taste in their collective mouths, it’s often very tough to slow them down. Whether or not this team contends for a World Championship in 2012 is certainly up in the air, but I have a hard time envisioning this team not being at least in the top half of the baseball world come October. Even that would have to be considered a successful season given the bleak outlook of both the present and future just two months ago.
However, with an Adam Jones extension seemingly inevitable at this point, I have to say I am extremely surprised, impressed, and excited about where this organization is headed.
Peter Angelos is still the owner, and all that comes from that is not going to change. But the fact that the decision makers in the organization recognized the necessity of doing SOMETHING with Adam Jones prior to the trade deadline is a very good sign.
The fact that the decision was to extend Jones rather than trade him is an even better sign.
This organization has claimed to be rebuilding ever since Syd Thrift traded the likes of B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick, Charles Johnson, and the rest of the mediocre crew back in 2000. They’ve claimed that they have been building for the future each and every year of this decade and a half losing streak. We’ve heard the same tune from Jim Beattie, Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette, and Andy MacPhail. Unfortunately for Orioles fans, the “building” never got past the ground level and they were using some pretty inferior hammers in the process.
When Buck Showalter was hired, he referenced the movie Braveheart and talked about how there would come a point in time when the organization would decide to release the spears and “go for it.” At this time, it would be determined that the core in place at the time was ready to contend, and at that point, it would be time to open the checkbook and make the moves necessary to contend for a championship, not just for one year but each and every year.