CHALK TALK NEWS
Mar 4, 2012 posted by Josh Angulo-Bartlett
Yes, I know their off-season decisions have made Vontaze Burfict’s combine performance look like he was RG3, but hear me out on this one. The easy thing to do is club a franchise that is coming off it’s 14th-straight losing season (2nd only to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4 major North American sports). A team that, despite needs at corner infield and starting pitching, decided to sell it’s dying fan-base a couple Asian imports and Wilson Benoit as off-season acquisitions.
And I understand that the man making these transactions (Dan Duquette) is like that 4 at the bar late in the evening that “needs” a ride home. Can you say best available? I just mean to say that the Orioles GM job wasn’t exactly hot enough for any up and coming GM’s to take as their first job. So instead, Mr. Angelos was forced to head down south on his GM draft board to convince another cheap, lapdog to boss around (see the above mentioned 4). But with all this negativity surrounding this floundering franchise, is there chance that the exceptions are so low this year that the Birds could actually make you feel as good as you did when Robert Andino knocked those chowder-heads out of the playoffs last year?
If you can put down your black and orange hate-colored glasses for just a minute I will tell you why that warm Natty Boh could taste ice cold come August. First, is there any chance the starting pitching could be worse than last season? Because Charm City’s pitching staff ranked dead last in the majors in team ERA at 4.83. They also had the fewest quality starts (55), which correlated in overuse of thin at best bullpen. One of the major disappointments, Brian Matusz, is much better than the 1-9-record and 10.69 ERA he posted last year. Working out with fitness guru Brady Anderson in Cali this past off-season, he has strengthen his core and according to many looks to be in much better shape than last year. He might start the season in AAA, but I expect to see him at Camden Yards no later than early May.
The other young starters with upside-Zach Britton and Chris Tillman-also struggled late in the season as they began to wear down. Tillman is the wild card for me. His stuff is #1-starter material, but if he could bring his skirt-chasing ability off the field onto the bump every 5th day, he could be Cy Young. Britton, on the other hand, came out on fire last year winning his first 6 of 7 games and was talked about as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate at one point. But he too wore down and by the end of the year was demoted to AAA as well. If all three of these potential building blocks realize their talent and slowly build up confidence, the Orioles could actually be in a really good position for years to come, for once. If not, it’s back to the same drawing board for P.A. and whatever GM he brings in next.
Of course pitching isn’t the only thing Orioles nation is concerned with this season. That because their highest paid player and supposed best run producer, Nick Markakis, has been a huge letdown the past two seasons. For a guy who’s salary is close to $11 million per, stats like .284 15 bombs and a pedestrian 73 RBI’s aren’t exactly Josh Hamilton type numbers. And yes I know he might be the best right fielder in the game defensively, but last time I checked players aren’t paid for their defense in baseball. If so, Ozzie Smith wouldn’t be grasping for a job in baseball like he is with the Cardinals this year. And please stop with the “he had no one in the lineup to protect him” bit, because it’s a flawed argument. Center fielder and soon to be an ex-Oriole, Adam Jones, has hit in front and behind him as did Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds (who hit 35 bombs last year). No more excuses for a player who’s not criticized enough in the local media-in my opinion- because of all his do-gooding off the field in the community. I’m all for charity work, but how about you concentrate on some philanthropy as the Orioles 3 hitter.
As a sports-talk consumer (#loser) I’ve heard many callers refer to the former Orioles GM as Andy Mac”Fail” in regards to his time within warehouse walls. And maybe some of his decisions have not worked out in the short term, but I think his long term vision is in motion behind some of his draft selections. The biggest one, Jesus in cleats, catcher Matt Weiters didn’t exactly go Mike Piazza in his first couple years offensively. But unlike a right fielder, catchers make their name defensively first and Weiters is already considered one of the best in baseball. And he might have holes in his big, looping swing, but with his great work ethic and commitment to the game he should improve offensively every year.
In addition to drafting Weiters, MacPhail fleeced the Mariners for Adam Jones, raped the Twins for shortstop JJ Hardy while drafting the likes of Matusz, Britton and Manny Machado. Machado and last years draft selection, P Dylan Bundy, were ranked #11, #12 overall best prospects by Baseball America. Add non-drafted free agent infielder Jonathan Schoop (currently ranked #83 overall) to MacPhail’s resume and you can see why I see a little light at the end of this 14-year dark tunnel. http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/organization-top-10-prospects/2012/2612770.htm.
Listen, I’m not trying to sell you a bag of oregano and telling you it’s some of Jamaica’s finest. Far from it. What I am asking you to do before you take the easy way out and ridicule this already beat-down franchise while pounding O-Bombs opening day at Pickles is to look just a bit deeper. Many of us who root for the Cartoon bird were overly optimistic before last year’s opener because of Buck and the way they ended the previous season. But they weren’t ready to make that jump last year and that was as evident as Camden Yards dwindling attendance figures. But sometimes young teams take a step backwards before they ascend forward and that’s is what I hoping we see this summer at the Yard!