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What 2014 Has in Store for the Baltimore Orioles and Their Fans

Christmas has passed, and we’re less than a week away from the new year. Most Major League Baseball teams are at or near the completion of their winter shopping, and are looking to make minor moves in the month-and-a-half before spring training.

Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles, a team who has the resources to make an impact move or two, but has only seemingly gotten worse on paper.

To many O’s fans, this has been an offseason from hell. After the promise of two-consecutive winning seasons, a fan base that had expected to see smart additions to a talented young core has only seen a few moves this winter. The team traded closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics in an obvious salary dump, signed relief pitcher Ryan Webb and traded infielder Danny Valencia to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder David Lough. While the acquisitions of Webb and Lough appear to be very solid, the team has yet to spend the money saved from dealing Johnson.

On top of that, they have let starter Scott Feldman, outfielder Nate McLouth and longtime fan favorite second baseman Brian Roberts sign elsewhere, not to mention the back-out of the Grant Balfour deal that is making the team look silly and less appealing to future free agents, given their history with that sort of thing (though to their credit, Balfour doesn’t look great in this situation either).

Despite this nightmare-ish offseason, 2014 will be a better year for O’s fans than 2013 was, and it can go two different ways.

Scenario One: Regardless of whether or not the team decides to actually spend a little money this winter and/or pull off a big trade, the team has the potential to pull off a playoff-bound season. Entering a new baseball season, any team can pull off the miracle run to the playoffs. That’s why the games are played on the field.

However, it wouldn’t be a miracle run for the Birds, who have some really good pieces already. A young veteran core made up of center fielder Adam Jones, first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters and shortstop J.J. Hardy could very easily lead the team to wins, as their defense is top-notch and their offense is above average. Add 21-year-old Manny Machado to the mix, and you have five very good players on the ball field for your team.

Right fielder Nick Markakis is looking to have a bounce-back year in 2014 as it’s a contract year for him, and Ryan Flaherty looks to finally be given a legit shot at second base. New acquisition Lough should be McLouth-esque in left, making for a solid lineup up and down. The team obviously needs OBP help after ranking 19th in baseball in that department in 2013, but their offense is certainly good enough to win some games as of now.

Chris Tillman is the O’s ace by default, and he looks to build on a very strong 2013 in which he went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA. Behind him, the team has solid options in Miguel Gonzalez, lefty Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris. Prospect Kevin Gausman will likely start the season at Triple-A, but could earn his way up to the bigs in a month or two and hopefully give the starting rotation a shot in the arm with quality pitching.

The bullpen needs work, but Webb will join Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter in holding the lead late in close games, while Brian Matusz (who could compete for a starting job in the spring) may return to being an effective left-hander out of the ‘pen.

So, it’s not all doom and gloom, O’s fans. The team was supposed to suck horribly going into 2012, and we all knew what happened then. While the O’s appear likely to regress next season unless they make some serious acquisition, it’s not out of the question to have the team improve and come together just like they did in 2012. The talent is certainly there. The question is whether there’s enough of it right now, and how will it grow in 2014.

Scenario Two: This is probably the scenario that Orioles fans expect to see in 2014, and it’s probably the more likely scenario. If the team fails to make any strong additions this winter, they could easily take a step back in 2014.

The rotation isn’t deep enough. The lineup lacks on-base ability. The bullpen is a bit of a mess, especially since Johnson was traded and lefty Troy Patton will have to serve a 25-game suspension at the start of the season. These things don’t bode well for a team hoping to compete in 2014 and beyond.

But see, the beyond is the key here. If the O’s take a step back in 2014, it could make ownership and the front office realize that they need to make some serious moves next offseason in order to compete, and they can’t just sit around and rely on the same team to perform better next season. When you factor in that Davis and Wieters are each signed through only 2015, it puts a bit more emphasis on the idea of “win now.” Honestly, that alone should be enough to influence the O’s brass to make some moves this winter, and it makes me wonder where their head really is.

If the team goes backwards in 2014, there will likely be a drop in attendance, which means a drop in money made with both tickets and concessions, as well a drop in merchandise sales. That may be enough to make the front office realize that the best way to make money with a sports franchise is to spend enough money to put a winning product on the field, influencing them to do just that next offseason.

The 2014 baseball season will be a very interesting one for the Orioles and their fans, and will likely greatly affect what happens with the franchise in terms of both the immediate and long-term future. This winter hasn’t been what any O’s fan had hoped for, but there is still time to improve the team, even if time is quickly running out.

Regardless of what happens, though, 2014 will end up being a better year for O’s fans than 2013 was, whether it be due to instant gratification or long-term influence. The 2013 season was one full of frustration for O’s fans, as a talented team finished with 85 wins and the last week of the season didn’t mean much.

Here’s to hoping the team makes some impact moves, and soon. Here’s to hoping that 2014 means more than 2013 did.

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Brian Roberts: Don’t Blame the Player, Blame the (Business) Game

Late last night, news broke from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that longtime Baltimore Orioles second baseman and fan-favorite Brian Roberts was “likely” to sign a deal with the New York Yankees.

This morning, his colleague Jon Paul Morosi reported the agreement: a one-year, $2 million deal.

Orioles fans, Brian Roberts will be wearing pinstripes in 2014. That’s the reality of the situation, and I know it’s quite upsetting for most of you, including myself.

But before we all jump down Roberts’ throat and refer to him as a “traitor,” let’s take a minute to analyze this situation.

The Yankees are a team that almost always finds a way into the playoffs, and Roberts has yet to appear in a playoff game in his entire career as he was injured during the playoff run the O’s had in 2012. The Yankees also offered him guaranteed money with the chance to earn more, as his $2 million deal includes incentives. They offered him playing time, as they have a vacancy at second base now that Robinson Cano is gone, while on the flip side, the O’s have about 700 second-base candidates competing for the starting job.

But more than anything, the Yankees offered Roberts interest, something the O’s failed to do at all this offseason.

I’m not going to get into whether resigning B-Rob would have been good or bad for the team, because it’s no longer about that as that’s not even a possibility anymore. I’ve seen enough bashing of Roberts by Orioles fans on Twitter to get my blood boiling. Many fans blame him for his departure to such a hated rival, calling him a “traitor” (at least Baltimore fans know how to spell), but that simply isn’t an accurate assessment of the situation.

Up until last week’s winter meetings, there had been no signs that the O’s reached out to their former longest-tenured franchise piece, according to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports. Kubatko stated that since O’s Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette was focused on adding starting pitching, a closer and a left fielder, he had “basically put second baseman Brian Roberts on the backburner.”

Steve Melewski of MASN Sports reported last week that the O’s don’t have a deal in place with Roberts, but that manager Buck Showalter would like to see him return to the club. In that same piece, Melewski has Duquette quoted as saying:

“Well, we’ve been working this week mostly on looking for a left-handed hitter and a DH and we’ve also been trying to add to our pitching staff, so that is something we can get to later on.”

“We are still open to (re-signing Roberts). Let’s see how out team shapes up and we’ll address that at an appropriate time.”

And Kubatko wrote today that the O’s had apparently reached out to Roberts’ agent last week, which is actually surprising news to me. The team didn’t sense that Roberts was prepared to sign anywhere quickly.

Seems like that’s how the O’s have felt about every free agent available this winter.

In this day and age, $2 million plus incentives is nothing in the baseball world. The Orioles were worried that Roberts would demand something more like $8 million on a one-year deal. So if they really wanted him back, they could have easily afforded him, as could any club in the MLB.

Evidently, the front office didn’t want him back badly enough. Or Kubatko is correct in saying that Duquette and Co. simply didn’t think Roberts would sign that quickly, in which case that would be unacceptable. If you’re a team’s general manager and you want to sign a player, you go out and pursue that player. Maybe Duquette was in fact focused on thinking about possibly offering potential deals to players to try to fill other holes on the roster.

To those fans who wanted B-Rob back in the orange and black, this is a slap in the face to you. The team did absolutely nothing to retain him, and the longest-tenured Oriole deserves better than one phone call to gauge his interest in returning. During the offseason, every deal and every hole to fill is a priority, not just the ones that a front office feels like focusing on at any given time.

Orioles fans, don’t blame B-Rob for his departure. The man is seemingly healthy for the first time in four years after having strung together 75 injury-free games during the second half of the 2013 season, and as he has yet to appear in a postseason game, the Yankees are a logical destination to make that dream a reality. The market for a 36-year-old injury-plagued second baseman can’t be too big, and when that’s what you are and you’re given a chance to play every day on an assumed contender, you snatch up that opportunity.

Especially when your former longtime employer hasn’t so much as asked you how much money you’re looking for this offseason, and the offseason is over a month-and-a-half old.

Instead, O’s fans, remember Roberts for being a bright spot during 14 years of losing, and for signing an extension and sticking with a losing team prior to the 2010 season. Obviously, Roberts didn’t truly earn said deal, but the commitment he had to the franchise as well as the commitment to the Baltimore community through all the charity work he does showed his deep passion for Baltimore and for the Orioles franchise.

If the O’s had offered the exact same deal to Roberts the Yankees did, Roberts likely would have stayed in Baltimore. Had the O’s offered almost any deal whatsoever to Roberts, he likely would have stayed. But the team didn’t, and they failed in that regard.

This one is entirely on the O’s front office. They didn’t do their job. Their failure to even negotiate with a fan favorite adds insult to an already frustrating offseason completely lacking developments, serious acquisitions and forward progress within the roster.

It’s time to start paying attention to the offseason, Duquette. It did start, a while ago. This is about more than losing Roberts, this is about losing nearly every target you’ve had this offseason.

You’re running a major league team. Act like it.

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Second-Half Predictions for Every Baltimore O’S Player

We’ve reached the midway point in the 2013 MLB season, and the Baltimore Orioles have provided plenty of intrigue during the first few months.

There have been plenty of surprises (Manny Machado’s doubles, Chris Davis’ home runs) and just as many disappointments (pitching struggles, injuries) throughout the season so far, as baseball often provides.

Heading into the second half, one interesting thing to keep an eye on will be whether or not players having strong years can keep that going as well as struggling players turning their years around.

Let’s take a look at how I think the second half of the season will treat every Orioles player.

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Baltimore Orioles: Grades for Every Player in May

The Baltimore Orioles have held strong in their division the entire season, staying just behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, even with starting pitching woes and bullpen implosions.

A lot of players are having strong seasons, such as Adam Jones, Nate McLouth and, of course, Chris Davis. If the team can get its pitching together, it could be a very scary opponent for any team.

Grading and assessing players’ performances over a determined time period is part of the life of a sports blogger. May has been quite an interesting month for O’s fans as the team has had some very high moments and some that are not so high.

Let’s take a look at how the O’s roster has performed over the month of May. I’ll only analyze the current 25-man roster and not every player who appeared in a game, since one of the team’s favorite pastimes is shuffling players between the majors and minors.

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Baltimore Orioles: Get Ready for an Exciting 6-Plus Months

Opening Day baseball is only a week away.

Let that sink in for a minute: There’s only seven days until we can watch our beloved Baltimore Orioles play meaningful baseball games once again.

When the Orioles open the season in Tampa Bay next Tuesday, I’ll be there. My dad and I are planning on making the drive from Orlando to attend our first Opening Day baseball game.

Of course, I’d much rather see an Opening Day at Camden Yards, being that it’s the best ballpark in baseball, but beggars can’t be choosers. When it comes down to it, attending a ballgame featuring your favorite team is one of the greatest things a fan can experience, regardless of the venue and the opponent.

Jason Hammel versus David Price. Needless to say, I’m assuming here, but that’s the safe bet for the starting pitching matchups at Tropicana Field on April 2nd. It should be a well-pitched game from both sides, and hopefully the Birds will be able to one-up the reigning AL Cy Young winner and begin their trek to win the division on a positive note.

That’s something else special about this season: The Baltimore Orioles are entering it as a legitimate threat to win the division, or at the very least, compete for a playoff spot.

After a surprising 93-win campaign in 2012 that included falling two games short of taking the division from the New York Yankees, beating the mighty Texas Rangers in the Wild Card Game and forcing a Game 5 with the Yanks in the ALDS, hopes are high in Birdland this time around.

Players like Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters are looking to build on strong seasons, while youngster Manny Machado plans on becoming an irreplaceable cog in the O’s machine. Pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman tried to force manager Buck Showalter‘s hand in spring training, and Gausman still hasn’t been ruled out of being included on the Opening Day roster.

There’s plenty of be excited about in Baltimore. The AL East is a division that seems to be largely balancing out, with the Yankees getting older and more injury-prone, the Boston Red Sox trying to bounce back from their worst season in 40 years, the Tampa Bay Rays always having to build from within on a low budget and lacking offensive pop and the Toronto Blue Jays having a lot to prove with some new, flashy acquisitions.

This is the opportune time for the O’s to capitalize on an unstable division, and if they play with the same heart that they did last season, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. A top bullpen in the game; a young starting rotation that’s deep and growing; a lineup that believes in their ability to stay in any ballgame against any top pitcher.

Showalter has completely changed the culture and mindset within the Orioles organization. This team believes in itself, and for the first time in a long time, the fans believe that the team can beat any opponent at any time.

It’s going to be a fun year in Birdland. It will be hard for the team to top the magic of the 2012 season unless they bring home a World Series trophy. And hey, that’s completely possible, so who knows what will happen.

All I know is that the season starts in one week. And that I’m going to be there. (Look for me on TV, won’t you? I’ll likely be out in the left field seats! You may see me when Wieters rips a homer that way.)

I’m stoked. It’s been a long offseason, but the wait is finally about to pay off.

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Baltimore Orioles: 6 Names O’s Fans Should Know Going into Spring Training

It seems as though the Baltimore Orioles 2013 roster will be nearly identical to the roster they had to end the 2012 season with.

Orioles’ brass appears to want to keep the team that won 93 games largely intact, and understandably so. With many key pieces in place, the Orioles are a team who needs only one or two additions to be pushed over the edge.

There’s no sense in messing with something that worked, and though the team does have some holes to fill, they have a strong foundation for success for years to come.

With that in mind, many of these players should be in the minds of Orioles fans, either for the contributions they could make to the team at the start of the year or as late-season call-ups.

O’s fans, remember these names for 2013.

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4 Reasons the Orioles Will Have the Best Defense in Baseball in 2013

After having the worst defense in baseball through the first half-plus of the baseball season in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles rebounded nicely to have the best defense in baseball for the final two months of the season.

Many things can contribute to the reasoning of the defensive turnaround for the O’s. But ultimately, it comes down to the players, and some of them came to be very impressive.

Good defense is necessary to winning. The Orioles understand this, and that’s why they’re going to make sure that they can make their good August and September play stretch through the whole year in 2013.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the O’s can have the best defense in baseball next season. They figure to enter 2013 with the same (or least a very similar) defense they had this past August and September.

The O’s will have a great defense in 2013. And here’s why.

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4 Reasons the Baltimore Orioles Are Good, Not Just Lucky

There’s been a constant general discussion among baseball fans nearly all season about one team in particular:

How are the Baltimore Orioles doing it?

Going into the beginning of the season, the Orioles, on paper, appeared to be headed for a season in which they would struggle to win more than 62 games.

Fast-forward to present day: The Birds are two wins from 90, leading the AL wild-card race and giving the New York Yankees a run for their money at staking a claim as the beast of the AL East.

No one could have called it. It defies logic. But it’s happening.

Here comes the next question: Are the Orioles actually a good team, or has it just been one of those years for them where EVERYTHING goes their way?

I believe they’re a good team. I believe they’ve turned the corner as a franchise. And here’s why.

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Reynolds, Showalter Ejections: Futher Proof MLB Umpiring Needs to Be Dealt With

This just disgusts me.

In a close game. In a meaningful game for the AL wild-card standings. The umps do yet again what they’ve been so good at doing for the last two and a half seasons:

Screw up royally.

It was the bottom of the fifth inning at Comerica Park. The Baltimore Orioles against the Detroit Tigers. And, well, this video will give you a better description of what happened. It’ll save me from butchering what actually happened with my naturally and genetically poor storytelling.

This whole incident to me is ridiculous. And for multiple reasons.

First baseman Mark Reynolds should never have been ejected.

The home-plate umpire shouldn’t have had the final ruling on a play at first base.

The runner should have been out.

In real time, from the standard camera angle from which every station shoots infield plays, it looked like Reynolds’ foot left the bag before he made that great play on third baseman Manny Machado’s throw, and that the Tigers really did have a case to argue for.

But slow it down on replay, and you can clearly see that the toe of Reynolds’ shoe is on the edge of the bag for a good second after he scoops that errant throw.

Of course, that’s a lot easier to see on replay than it is in a real-time environment, but what I don’t understand is why home-plate umpire Tim Timmons’ input was necessary, considering it was likely his input that reversed the call. First-base umpire Jeff Kellogg got the call right the first time. And he’s called the first-base ump for a reason. Let him make the call at his base, since he has the best view of what happened there. I guarantee you Timmons didn’t have half as good of a view as Kellogg did.

When was the last time you saw a call on a play at first base overturned, anyway?


On to Reynolds being ejected, that was just utter nonsense. He was ejected for chucking his glove at the ground in front of his feet, people. You can argue that the second-base ump tossed him for his language all you want, but players usually don’t get ejected from games for a foul mouth. And MASN color commentator and former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer seemed to think Reynolds was ejected for the glove throw, a claim that he made during the broadcast.

Going back to the “when was the last time” theme, when was the last time you saw a player get tossed for spiking his glove, and/or the use of a naughty word, for that matter? If a pitcher gives up a bomb in a close game, you almost always see him yell the mother of all swear words, and he stays in the game.

My point again.

Furthermore, why was one of the umpires allowed to touch Orioles manager Buck Showalter on the chest while he argued with them in order to hold him back? Showalter never touched one of them in an aggressive manner. All he did was slightly pat one on the side as he walked by to restrain one of his players, and that is very obviously more of a reflexive thing that nearly every human being does.

Correct me if I’m wrong, because I haven’t read the entire MLB rulebook, but I would imagine that umps aren’t allowed to touch players, coaches or a manager during an argument, considering that if a team’s manager or coach so much as accidentally grazes an ump’s chest with his own when arguing, he gets suspended for it.

If none of this happened, who knows where the momentum would have gone after that. The Orioles starter was forced to throw more pitches in the inning, and while that inning didn’t lose the Birds the game, the fact that any momentum or morale they might have had completely vanished after that fiasco did lose the game for them.

It seems as though some umpires in Major League Baseball feel like their power on the baseball diamond is unlimited. Baseball has been having that problem for years now. And it won’t go away unless it is addressed.

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Baltimore Orioles: 5 Players Who Need to Finish Strong

The Baltimore Orioles are having a nice surprise season right now, and, considering how many of their players are performing thus far, it’s justifiable to wonder just how on Earth they’re doing it.

For the Orioles, it would be greatly beneficial to have these guys break out and perform like they’re capable of. It would almost be as if the O’s did make a significant deadline deal to boost their team.

Plenty of guys on the team are deserving of making this list—which is strange to say, considering this team is a half game out of a wild-card spot—but I’m going to name those who are most important to the team at this point and/or are in a free-agent season and could use it for themselves, as well.

If any of these key cogs in the Orioles machine can step up their game over the final two months of the season, then the team could continue its fairy-tale season in an even bigger way.

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