Sep 5, 2012; Orioles bench coach John Russell (77) makes a change in the lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. .. Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Orioles 2012 Reflections: The Rotating Roster

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This is the 1st of 12 posts on the season past and is a personal reflection upon some of the really stupid and few brilliantly smart things I wrote since last winter in the BirdsWatcher column. These will post every other day at 3:00, allowing our other great writers prime times in the mornings and evenings. I’ll start today with the first of four posts on the dumb and dumber of things I wrote.

Writing about the Orioles roster and the many changes it involved, on May 25th I said, “Right now there is the need for the main guys in the middle of the lineup to really step up and carry the team. Wieters has to find a way out of this slump, and Nick, Adam and J.J. need to repeat timely hits.  As well, it would be great to get some cavalry support over the horizon with a little R&R – Reimold and Roberts – and the healthy return of Lindstrom and Britton. It really is amazing to have these sorts of names missing from the lineup and yet have a team winning at a rate of 60%… but it is not likely sustainable.”

And then after a difficult stretch of more losses than wins in mid July, I wrote: “This roster meltdown, and the resultant piling up of losses, is predictably discouraging for Orioles fans. Hey, I’d rather be blogging about the winning ways of that team and roster we saw in the first five weeks of the season! Being a baseball junkie, I am able to enjoy seeing the variety of players, but having to replace 14+ people is not going to yield a year-end success for a club most people predicted (without such roster losses) to be among the dregs of the league.”

Certainly one of the several great stories of the year involves the incredible way the Orioles where able to, in the capable hands of Buck Showalter, honestly win more games than anyone could have possibly imagined. The quick start to the season with a roster that was quite attractive turned within weeks to one where the Orioles appeared to have installed a rotating door on the clubhouse. Zach Britton and Brian Roberts did not break camp with the team, Nolan Reimold went down early in the season, and Matt Lindstrom was among the first of a nearly unprecedented number of players visiting the disabled list.

Yet over and over the Orioles found ways to win ballgames with cobbled-together lineups of odd names and replacements. In reflection on the season, the Orioles managed 93 wins without ever escaping the problem of rotating lineups and personnel. Though I call myself stupid for doubting, honestly, could anyone imagine how this could have been sustainable for a 162 game season? How could a team that, even if their original lineup remained healthy and intact, be any better than what was predicted of them – to be slightly improved, yet at the bottom of the league?

But it worked! It was more than just sustainable. It did produce a year-end success and a trip to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. And as such, it is an incredible storyline. I am not conversant enough with the comings and goings of the Oakland A’s to assert firmly that Bob Melvin was or was not more deserving than Buck Showalter, but I am surely conversant enough with the Orioles to assert that Showalter’s management was of an award-winning caliber.

So now, looking toward 2013 … are rotating rosters sustainable for another year? Well, it would seem that Duquette and Buck are better able to juggle such a scenario beyond most others. But the goal of a strong, healthy, consistent lineup is a worthy endeavor. My post from May (quoted above) spoke of the holes in the middle of the lineup. This remained an oft persistent problem … one that we now hear Duquette as targeting to fill with a possible acquisition of a new middle of the order bat.

Even if the rotating lineups were nerve-wracking for serious O’s fans, it was at the same time entertaining. But I think I’d rather not have quite so much of that order of entertainment, and I’d rather see a healthy and consistent order. Obviously a healthy Reimold and Roberts would go a long way toward such, even if it is admittedly a lot to hope for.

Twitter:  @OSayOrioles

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