We are now less than a week from the greatest day of the year, opening day, and our hearts are starting to beat a little faster. It is time to preview the rest of the the Rays divisional rivals. Rather than have us rant about the inadequacies of the other teams and how jealous we are of their payrolls, we decided we would call in the experts. Over the next four days a different guest writer will preview his/her team. We have turned to our favorite team blogs for writers that would provide an entertaining, passionate and completely biased view. (click “continue reading” at bottom for the complete post)
Up first: Baltimore Orioles. Our guest author is Scott Christ of Camden Chat. It can’t be easy being an Oriole’s fan with Peter Angelos as an owner but we can empathize after suffering through the Vince Naimoli era. Scott has built himself quite a following at Camden Chat as part of the Sports Nation community and is the place we hit up first whenever we need to get caught up on all things Orioles. Enjoy…
When I was asked to write an Orioles preview for Rays Index, I thought, “Sure!” I like writing about the Orioles — that’s why I do it so often. I also like doing guest spots at other sites. It’s kind of like Flavor Flav stopping by on the Wu’s Iron Flag to shout a few times and have a discussion with Method Man. And I want to be more like Flavor Flav, at least pre-reality TV Flav.
Then I kept trying to write the preview. I thought about all the things I could talk about, this player or that, look out for the future of Nolan Reimold (actually, don’t), Daniel Cabrera’s BABIP, and then I had another thought. It was, “Holy crap, I am sick of previewing the Orioles.”
Spring training rolls around every year and is fun for a little while, but then you have your team’s roster pretty much established and the whole thing is a waiting game for the first real contest of the season. Given that the O’s kick off at the ugly Homerdome against Johan Santana, I’m not exactly thrilled. The next 161 games, I’m pretty sure we can win those. All of them.
But I don’t have it in me this late in March to talk about the technical or statistical ins and outs of the club anymore. You’ve probably seen the last nine years of Orioles baseball; it’s been kind of like the last nine years of Devil Rays baseball, only slightly better, though without a Carl Crawford-type guy to get excited about because that’s your boy out there in left field. We do have Nick Markakis now, who I hope will become our boy on a consistent basis.
Instead of analyzing your usual chief rivals in the race for cellar dwelling, let me just share with you a bunch of junk you probably couldn’t care less about, all of it dealing with the Baltimore Orioles.
1. Every year, someone says that the Orioles “could surprise some people.” This year, I’ve taken it upon myself to up the ante. I say we’re making the playoffs, and the closer the season gets, the more I’m sure we’re just going to win the division. I have some sound arguments (well, they’re sound if you’re a lunatic), but the fun of being a fan sometimes lies in being nuts. Every March, I get progressively more ridiculous than I was the last.
2. We are the only team in the American League East that did not sign a Japanese player this offseason. I will admit that I see this as a distinct disadvantage for my Birds. Unlike the Hideki Matsui sweepstakes, the Orioles didn’t even bother to send Matsuzaka an email. What kind of commitment to winning is that? Furthermore, Iwamura went for cheap. But, no, we have Chris Gomez. On the plus side, we are stocked with Canadians.
3. Hayden Penn came to camp with a sweet moustache, but shaved it off. He later forgot his luggage and missed a start, which has put him close to the doghouse. These character flaws — moustaches you never intended to keep, forgetfulness — are the type of things that can ruin a career. That, and Penn’s fastball is straight as a grizzly’s… Did you ever see Grumpy Old Men? I don’t want to curse. I love the kids.
4. If Ted Nugent was a middle reliever, he’d be Jamie Walker. I could not be happier to have that guy on my team. Endlessly quotable.
5. We traded for Kris Benson in the 2005-06 offseason, and all the humorous pundits would say things like, “Anna (and Kris) Benson traded to Orioles.” You see, Anna Benson is a stone-cold hottie — she’s bona fide. She’s been in FHM and Maxim, I think. I don’t know, I don’t really read Baby’s First Playboys. Now that Benson is hurt and out for the 2007 season, which came conveniently after the Orioles decided to bring him back, we get to hear things like, “Anna (and Kris) Benson out for the season.” It really never ends, and it never gets less funny. Really. That said, I don’t think Anna Benson is such a bad person. She’s kinda famous and she uses that to share her opinions. Big deal. Now if she were Anna Schilling, oh boy. (See what I did there? Take that, Curt, you extremely friendly guy.)
6. I am a heterosexual male, but if there is a pair of teammates in the league more handsome than Brian Roberts and Corey Patterson, I don’t know where they are. The O’s should really market those two guys for the ladies. There’s a nickel to be made there, but on the downside, the grounds crew might spend too much time collecting undergarments from the field of play. I would like to see the generally shy Patterson use his wheels to run away from an oncoming stampede of Oriole groupies.
7. Daniel Cabrera got eye surgery this winter, which is conflicting for me. I hope it improves his control, although that’s probably not terribly likely. But I’m going to miss the Wild Thing Vaughn version of Cabrera that came back from Ottawa with cool glasses and more strikes. I always wanted there to be one of those late-80s/early-90s era Fleer cards for Cabrera and Adam Loewen, with some goofy fonted graphic that says, T
WIN TOWERS. Hopefully that can still happen.
8. The Orioles are one of those teams that doesn’t allow beards, yet they’ll let Paul Shuey come to Fort Lauderdale with a moustache that would make Sam Elliott proud. I think their official rule is that they allow “neatly trimmed moustaches,” but Shuey’s was nothing of the sort.
9. Many of the offseason moves the team made have been jokingly referred to as, “So Orioles,” or, “Such an Orioles thing to do.” Most of them are right, even if I do think some of these players make this a much better team than last year’s squad, which was really quite a sad group, what with that bullpen and Brandon Fahey and Fernando Tatis playing left field. Anyway, I think the one move that even the most homeriffic O’s fan can’t help but just make fun of is giving Paul Bako $900,000 to caddy for Ramon Hernandez. You know, because you just can’t find some catcher in AAA or even Low-A to duplicate Bako’s major league production. Eli Whiteside really must have pissed off somebody.
10. I believe Melvin Mora spends roughly 78% of his life looking really glum about something. I wish I knew what it was. I’d try to help him out.
Probably not so in-depth, I know. But let me say this: The Orioles could make some noise this year if Bedard, Cabrera and Loewen pitch well, if Wright and Trachsel can hold up the back end, and if Huff hits something like the good Aubrey Huff and less like the lame Aubrey Huff. We know Tejada will be good, we know that the bullpen almost has to be better (for $43 million, it better be), and we know that Kevin Millar will at some point take off his pants or do a cartwheel on top of the dugout or race the Oriole Bird for charity. Look around the division. There isn’t a single team that doesn’t have some very serious problems with its starting rotation. The Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays are the favorites (probably in that order) because they have a lot of hitting to balance out what almost everyone expects will be shaky pitching for all three teams. If the Orioles actually pitch, they have a shot at beating those teams consistently. Which means they have a shot at winning something this year. The AL East has become baseball’s most overrated division, simply because these are not teams built to win close, low-scoring games very frequently. Teams like the Tigers and Angels have an immediate upperhand on the AL East powers simply because they have the pitchers. Whatever team in the AL East winds up having a solid rotation will have a huge advantage, and if it’s like last year and nobody has a very good rotation, it’ll just be the team that has two guys they can rely on instead of one, like the Yankees with Mussina and Wang.
I hope you enjoyed my stunning insight on the Baltimore Orioles, and I’d like to thank you for reading, and thank the big cheeses at Rays Index for letting me get a word in on this fine site. We’re practically neighbors at this point, so teams like ours have to stick together.