The mid-Atlantic region has four franchises in both the NFL and MLB, all four of which went to the post season in 2012 (and one of which won a world championship). However both regional MLB teams failed to qualify this past season, and both NFL teams are struggling to stay above water. I suppose one of the problems with all four franchises in a sense hit me yesterday during the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ game in Cleveland yesterday. We hear a lot about in-game adjustments, be it in football, basketball, or baseball. However what about adjustments in-season, or better yet year-over-year adjustments?
The Ravens seem to think that they can run the same schemes that they ran in 2012. In a certain sense, the Baltimore Orioles spent the entire season thinking the same. However while I’m not going to say that this shows a lack of respect for one’s opponent, it does in a way come across as a bit eyebrow-raising. (For the record, keep in mind that no Buck Showalter-coached team is EVER not going to respect their opponents.) By this I mean that by assuming that what worked last year is going to work this year, you’re assuming that other teams aren’t going to adjust to you. Is that fair to assume in sports at this level? I would submit not.
Again, this is hardly a lack of respect for one’s opponent on the Orioles’ part. But especially when you have a season like the Birds posted in 2012, you have to assume that teams are going to study you in depth over the off season to best find ways to beat you and perhaps even to emulate you. (And in fact, we saw some other franchises such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh “come out of nowhere” in 2013.) Ultimately if the results are any indication the league adjusted just a bit to the Orioles in 2013, although the Birds still had more than a respectable season. The fact that they struggled so mightily against teams like Tampa and Seattle show that.
Thus the Orioles are now taxed with adjusting themselves to the league’s adjustments as they move into 2014. People might say that this year will be spent by teams adjusting to the likes of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and that might be a decent point. However the fact that the Orioles once again have three gold glovers won’t go lost on the competition. So teams will continually study the Orioles and try to adjust to what they’re doing, much like defenses have adjusted to Joe Flacco and Ray Rice in this NFL season.
This is not to say that things are fruitless for the O’s, because while other teams are adjusting to
them they still have some pretty smart baseball people in their midst to help them to adjust to the tricks of others. This partly explains how Joe Maddon and Tampa are consistently able to remain in the mix regardless of who’s on their team; their bag of tricks is just a bit different each year. (Incidentally Maddon is also shameless with some of the stunts he tries in games…much more shameless than I think Orioles fans would be comfortable with Showalter being.)
So just as Flacco’s passing game isn’t fooling people as it might have in 2012, teams were much more ready for what the Orioles and Showlater were throwing at them this year. As I said above, the O’s are now taxed with making adjustments of their own. Time will tell if they are able to do that.