First of all, would anyone agree with me that the idiom “standing pat” is totally stupid? What does it mean and where did it come from? We understand that it means to retain a current state of affairs, but nothing in my research tells me where it originated. It think it is an idiotic line, but, since everyone is using it about the Orioles’ off-season condition, being a people pleaser, I went along with the crowd.
But whatever you call this quiet off-season of few roster moves, it has been the #1 topic of Orioles cold weather conversation … and trepidation.
Psychologists say that a person is better able to handle the trauma of life if they are able to identify it and talk about it. So, let’s have a group session here. Picture yourself in a circle and saying, “Hi, my name is Orioles Fan Base, and I’m a chronic worrier. I’ve seen so much failure in my life, I’m always afraid it is going to happen again every spring. And a big piece of my security signed a contract in Ohio, the other big bad boys in my division are muscling up, and even though last year was (I sort of reluctantly have to admit) pretty good, I’m just terrified it can’t be repeated! I’m so worried that I have recurrent nightmares of wearing a paper bag over my head every time I put on an orange shirt.”
So, just how long did it take to build Rome? Founded about 750 B.C., it took something like 500 years to become a city like we think of it. Okay, so the Orioles have to be faster than that. But it takes some time to turn around a battleship.
Having 13 years ago picked up a floundering high school program (in the sport of cross country), I said at the beginning that there were four stages: to go from (1) participants to competitors, (2) from competitors to winners, (3) from winners to champions, and (4) from champions to a dynasty. Now 13 years later with three state titles, 52 varied championships, and 50 all-state runners, we’ve done it … but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
To become competitive, I knew we had to have more numbers of participants from which to develop top talent. Starting with about a dozen kids, we eventually had as many as 65. Dan Duquette has done the same – he has built depth into the system and added to the numbers of possible competitive pieces. And as we know from 2012, the team became more than just competitive. And though we all expected “the other shoe to drop” and a collapse to arrive, it never did.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop … in fact, that is what Orioles fans seem to continue to fear – demonstrating that the psychological condition has advanced beyond mere chronic worry to all-out paranoia!
Is there substance for paranoia or advanced worry in light of the quiet winter? I don’t really think so. Sure, for the right price I’d like to see Mike Morse or some other illusive “middle-of-the-order power bat” come to the Orioles. But honestly, this is not currently an empty cupboard!
A total of 41 players in the AL hit 20 or more homers in 2012. That is an average of three per team. But the Orioles had five such hitters, including top 10 guys Chris Davis (33) and Adam Jones (32). For reference, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols had 30 each. Okay, so, the Orioles lose the #32 guy in the league in Mark Reynolds (23 homers), but healthy Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis would have been in the 20+ category as well.
The Orioles were second in the AL in homers last year with 214. So if you subtract Reynold’s 23, you still have 191, which is well above the league average of 179. And then consider that Mark Reynold’s 538 plate appearances are going to be mostly filled by Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold (and to some extent Chris Davis also) …. Really?? It cannot be expected that at least 23 or more of those will end up with balls over the fence?
What I like about the current roster is that I believe it can be a lineup that will turn over more often, and that will afford the opportunity for the remaining power bats to get to the plate more frequently as well.
I’ve focused on the hitting in this column, because, as you might recall from reading my stuff over the last year or two, I believe this to be the greater problem than the pitching. As Steve Melewski wrote so well on MASNsports this past week, there is no reason to believe the bullpen cannot do again what they did last season. And as I’ve previously written, I believe the team really found something sustainable in Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and especially Chris Tillman. There is still hope of getting Joe Saunders signed – though, while creating even more of a crowd vying for starting roles, would probably be a good acquisition.
But again, if all the Orioles were attempting to do is put a one-time winner on the field for 2013, the quiet off-season would be an injustice. But the effort here is not to be a one-season wonder, but to build a continuously sustainable championship outfit. And I for one am glad that Duquette will be very cautious and judicious when making deals affecting the long-term assets already in the house.