Baltimore Orioles: Competing in the AL East


Today is a split-squad day for the Baltimore Orioles. The “B team” will travel to Tampa at 1 PM this afternoon to take on the New York Yankees, which the “A team” will stay back in Sarasota to play the Boston Red Sox tonight. Jake Arrieta is expected to start against New York, and Chris Tillman against Boston (followed by Zach Britton, who was scheduled to start yesterday’s game against Pittsburgh which was rained out). The night cap will be carried by WBAL-AM 1090 with Orioles’ radio network announcers Joe Angel and Fred Manfra on the call. However for the record, MLB Network will also be picking up NESN’s feed of the game (the Boston telecast) and thus be televising the game live. So consider it an extra chance to see the O’s on TV!

Many national analysts are predicting sinking things for these 2013 Orioles. The perception is that everything which happened last year was nothing more than dumb luck. Here’s the thing; those people might be right. 14 consecutive losing seasons and then suddenly having everything fall into place like that certainly does give off that impression. However here’s another piece of information you might find interesting: those people also might be wrong. The fact is that we don’t know, and we certainly aren’t going to find out for sure until we’re well into the regular season.

Courtesy of Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With that said, the Orioles are in a division with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Rays. The perception amongst those same national analysts seem to be that New York and Boston will be in the race simply because of the cities in front of the team names. Toronto obviously improved themselves on paper by leaps and bounds. And Tampa is expected to be competitive simply because Joe Maddon always seems to find a way regardless of who he is. Of those selections, I would accept the lattermost. Maddon certainly has a magic touch, and he’s found ways to win when he doesn’t have the horses of other franchises with whom he’s competing. However analysts are simply assuming that Boston’s John Lackey and David Ortiz will be their same old selves, and that NY will simply just find a way to win games (with an aging team). In Toronto’s case it’s also worth pointing out that the assumption is that many of the same guys who bore witness to the sinking ship that was the 2012 Miami Marlins will be rousing successes north of the border.

Yet it’s impossible for the O’s to replicate their success in one-run games, have a closer save 50+ games, have Adam Jones and Chris Davis hit 30+ home runs, etc. If anything, I would submit that the Orioles are the most proven team in the division at the moment. The fact is that there are a million ways to look at things, however we just don’t know what 2013 will look like until the regular season begins. The New York Yankees losing Curtis Granderson for ten weeks is definitely something that bodes well for the four other teams in the division. New York will now have to seek power for their lineup if they want to stay afloat in the division race. Having to search around to find power is not a position in which we’re used to seeing New York, so I suspect it should be an interesting spring and early regular season from that standpoint.

I suppose that in a nutshell the attitudes of most folks are that there’s no way that the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Jim Johnson, Wei-Yin Chen, et al, can repeat their 2012 performances. On the flip side, there’s no way that the other teams in the division won’t be vastly improved, thus clipping the wings of these young Birds. Again, let me state for the record that the people that are predicting a step backwards for the Orioles might just be right. We really don’t know at this point, especially given that three spring games tell us very little. However the might also be wrong.

Most people in and around Baltimore really don’t seem to know what to think or say in this regard. They want to believe that this team will compete like they did last year, but there still is that shadow of a doubt. But I would submit that the fans should take their cues from the players and coaches. While the Orioles are wary of coming across as overly confident or arrogant (which is more than can be said about some other teams who think the world of themselves), they do appear to believe in themselves. So while outsiders around the league and around the country ask why the Orioles think they can be competitive once again, the Orioles themselves are asking, “WHY NOT?!”