One group, which I’ll refer to as “Group Optimistic,” argued that the Orioles didn’t really need to make that many additions. After all, Manny Machado would be on the roster for the entire year, as would Nate McLouth. Nick Markakis would return after being injured during the stretch run in 2012, and both Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold would, once again, attempt to get through the season unscathed.
On the pitching front, it was contested that the O’s could reasonably expect improvement from Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and at least a few of their young but still unproven starters in Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Steve Johnson. Plus, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were waiting in the wings, ready to have a Machado-like impact in 2013.
Oh, and the best bullpen in baseball in 2012 would continue to be the best bullpen in baseball in 2013, so why bother making any additions to that group?
In other words, Group Optimistic believed everything was dandy in Birdland, and that the Orioles were already set as a legitimate World Series contender heading into the 2013 season.
The other group, which I’ll refer to as “Group Pessimistic,” believed this team still needed some help. Yes, Manny Machado would be playing for a full season, but he still couldn’t even legally walk into a bar. Could he really be counted on to provide above average production over 162 games? Was Nick McClouth reliable enough to be handed a starting spot after playing well for all of two months in 2012?
How could the O’s count on Brian Roberts giving this team anything of value when he hadn’t been healthy for any decent stretch of games since 2010? Same goes for Nolan Reimold, who coming into 2013, hadn’t been a good player for more than a month since 2009 (or year one of Barack Obama’s first term as president).
Group Pessimistic didn’t understand how Dan Duquette and Buck Showlater could rely on Jason Hammel to be their ace, when he’s had exactly one season with an ERA under 4.0 (last year in 20 starts), and only two with an ERA under 4.6. Wei-Yen Chen was consistently good last season, but would the hitters adjust to him in his sophomore season? Would Miguel Gonzalez continue to make a seamless transition from the Mexican League to the best division in the world? Did Chris Tillman really turn the corner, or did he just take a detour on the Daniel Cabrera/Matt Riley path of self destruction?
Last but not least, the members of Group Pessimistic pointed to the stats that will forever be ingrained in the lore of 2012. 16-2 in extra inning games, and 29-9 in one run games. How in the world were they going to repeat anything close to that?
Seems to me that Group Pessimistic had lots of unanswered questions heading into 2013. You know what? That’s okay. Every team in major professional sports has question marks going into any given season.
The problem with the 2013 Orioles, which I’ve pointed to several times between then and now, was the fact that the overwhelming majority of those questions needed to be answered with positives for this team to be a legitimate World Series contender. Because of the lack of help from the front office, this wasn’t a situation where if 50 percent of these questions go the O’s way and 50% go the other way, that “luck” would break even and the Orioles would contend again. That’s not how it was ever going to work with this team. The Orioles were too lucky last season for that to be the case. They needed nearly everything to go right again.
The Baltimore Orioles needed lighting to strike two seasons in a row.
Thus far, not all has been lost. Through May 18th, Chris Davis and Manny Machado are both MVP candidates. Adam Jones has picked up right where he left off in 2012, establishing himself as a legitimate star in today’s MLB. Wei-Yen Chen continues to pitch like a very reliable #2-#3 starter, even as he currently sits on the DL with an oblique issue. Chris Tillman seems to have really turned that corner and looks poised to have a very nice career ahead of him. Brian Matusz has continued to excel in the bullpen, and Jim Johnson, aside from two blown saves this week, has remained one of the best closers in the game. Darren O’Day still looks to be a gem of a pickup by Dan Duquette.
But again, unfortunately for the Orioles, scoring 50 percent on this list of questions wasn’t going to cut it. Not when the other 50 percent includes Jason Hammel reverting back to his pre-Orioles form of mediocrity surrounded by maddening talent that he just can’t harness. Miguel Gonzalez is no longer the hunter. Rather, he’s the hunted, to the tune of a 4.58 ERA, averaging less than six innings per start. Jake Arrieta was a total disaster, yet again showing no real growth or improvement since his debut in 2010. Pedro Strop, not surprisingly, has been a cross between Mariano Rivera in his prime and Terry Matthews in his, umm, prime.
Shockingly, Brian Roberts couldn’t stay healthy. In fact, he couldn’t even make it three games to the home opener without injuring himself, and he won’t be back anytime soon. In the mean time, the Orioles are throwing out a combination of ineptitude featuring Ryan Flaherty, Alexi Casilla, and Yamaico Navarro. Nolan Reimold has been relatively ineffective and now has a seat next to Brian Roberts on the all too familiar disabled list.
And the Dan Duquette scrap heap specials of 2013 in Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurrjens have yet to help the O’s win any baseball games.