One year ago at this time (a few days before Opening Day), O’s fans were almost dreading what they presumed was going to come. Not only were the Baltimore Orioles expected to produce another last place finish, but some were saying they’d be historically bad. On the day before Opening Day I wrote Birds Watcher’s “official” season preview, in which I predicted 74 wins for the O’s. However again, there were plenty of people who believed that the team would struggle to arrive at the prior year’s win total of 69. Needless to say, both my number and the 2011 number were blown out of the water.
However similarly, people are just a bit hesitant to predict good things for this franchise in 2013. To his credit, ESPN’s Buster Olney has gone out on a limb and predicted that the Orioles will win the AL East this year. I say “to his credit” not because he’s predicted the home team to finish first, however because as I said it’s going out on a limb. Toronto is obviously the sexy pick this year, and believe it or not I’ve even spoke to a few somewhat uninformed people who just assume that the New York Yankees will manage to find a way to win the division. (Speaking of them, if you’d like to see a sneak preview of the Orioles’ chief rival they’re playing their final Grapefruit League game this afternoon at 2 PM in Washington against the Nationals at Nationals Park.) Then there’s Tampa, who people (myself included) just assume will find a way to be in the mix. About the only team I haven’t heard predicted to finish first in the AL East this year is Boston.
But ultimately one year after all of the doomsday predictions Baltimore at the very least has a glimmer of hope about it’s baseball team. One might argue that they have more than just a glimmer of hope, and they’d probably be right…I used that term after saying “at the very least.” At best, they’re capable of contending for the AL East pennant. However what I haven’t heard is people predicting doom and gloom again; nobody’s said that they’re good for 69 wins at best or anything along those lines. That’s the difference that a year makes. I’ll come out with my official season prediction in terms of a win total on Monday in the season preview, but I would grant that suggesting that the Birds will improve year-over-year in terms of wins and losses might be a stretch. It’s obviously a possibility (and a decent one at that), however asking any team to improve on 93 wins is a stretch.
If there’s one thing that 2012 taught Orioles fans, it should be to look at the big picture. Previously people would count wins and hope that the math worked out so as to ensure that the team didn’t embarrass itself. However now the fans should turn their attention to the standings, and on day one at that. If they only produce 89 wins and they win the AL East, is anyone going to split hairs by saying “well technically they slipped year-over-year because they won five fewer games?” (Unfortunately we know that there’ll be a few people who say that!) So the difference in a year isn’t so much about predictions as it is mindsets. Get yourselves strapped in tightly folks, it’s almost time to roll.