Having written positively two days ago to start the year off on a high note, let me take you to the dark dungeons of my paranoid psyche. There is so much that can go wrong in professional baseball, and it does not take much imagination and worry to become a true “Debbie Downer” (defined by the Urban Dictionary as “A person with an incessant need to bring down the collective mood and general ambiance of a group-chill”).
Fueling my concerns are …
- That Buck Showalter will platoon Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth, and neither will produce well in that scenario. The beginning of the season last year – before Reimold was eliminated by injury – we caught a glimpse of what he could do if allowed a regular presence in the daily lineup. I always believed that his prior struggles were due to not being in the regular order. It strikes me that McLouth’s recent history has been much the same. I fear that platooning will guarantee dual mediocrity.
- That Dan Duquette will trade Chris Tillman. In my view, unless there is quite a return, this would be a disaster. The guy worked hard, figured out what he needed to do to be a consistently dominant pitcher, and he is a piece that now needs and deserves to stay. After all, this is what we wanted to see from the entire crew of young, up-and-comers; we just did not expect that Tillman would be the one to figure it out first.
- That Jason Hammel will not really recover from the knee injury. Okay… by way of disclosure, I have had the same surgery and condition for the past decade. What? You don’t think that’s apples to apples? You think that since he’s 27 years younger than me he’ll heal up better? Okay, I’ll try to not be offended … but while my head says yes, my knee says no.
- That Brian Roberts will get the 2nd base job, but that we will not recognize him. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think there is a much better person on the planet than Roberts, and it would be a great story to see him return to something like our memories recall. I am afraid that the combination of accumulated injuries, age, and time away all work against him being a better than average player. My fear is that it could begin well and end in a long and slow demise. If the Orioles could not cut the string with Kevin Gregg in his final contract year, what would it be like with Brian Roberts?
- That Manny Machado will have the sophomore slump fall upon him. I honestly do not expect this, as he did not look the least bit overwhelmed or uncomfortable out there … that his skills are simply beyond soph slumping. But, many others have fallen unexpectedly to this common phenomenon.
- That J.J. Hardy will not again hit like he did in 2011. I don’t understand the drop-off this past year. He himself, in his comments, seems baffled by it. By observation, he often seems to take the most hittable pitch in many at bats. It could be argued that if he was going to figure this out, he would have at some point in 2012. On the other hand, he simply could not be a better defensive shortstop.
- That none of the young gun starters ever really figure it out. Right here I am talking most specifically about Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Brian Matusz. There is no lack of talent; they all have the stuff that, if sustained, could be very special. I’ve long asserted that, for at least two of these three, the issues are above the neck more than below the brain. Matusz looked like an entirely new person in a relief role … could he embrace this? For all three, now is the time to make it happen.
- That the unusual clubhouse atmosphere of 2012 cannot be replicated. Most of the people who made this happen last year are returning this year – especially Buck, who sets the atmosphere for it all. Yet, at the same time, roster limitations make it impossible for all the friends and pals to make it together. Some well-liked guys are not going to be part of the picture.
- That anything less than 93 wins and the playoffs will be a return to the 15-year wilderness. The fan base was slow to believe in the genuine resurgence of the 2012 Orioles. Even into August and September, fans seemed to be waiting for the inevitable “other shoe to drop.” This same tone is evident even now in abundance on various online comment boards. Orioles fans are like a long-term abused wife once the beatings have ceased. It is going to take a long time to trust again.
I suppose it could be said that I’m sounding like the proverbial negative and downer Orioles fan. To that, I’d first say that maybe you didn’t read my article from two days ago. Beyond that, I don’t actually expect all of these things to happen. I don’t even expect most of them to happen. I guess I do expect at least a couple of them to transpire.
So what do you, our readers, think about this? Our numbers show that there are a lot of you out there, though you don’t talk much. How about making it a different new year in that regard for BirdsWatcher? What do you think?