Offseason Swap Series: Baltimore Orioles
By Matt Van Wormer
Now that we’re done with the American League Central, let’s move on to the East which could very well be the toughest division in baseball. The Baltimore Orioles have been a floundering organization since the Indians took them to the brink in the 1997 American League Championship Series. I asked Lauren Tilley of BirdsWatcher.com five questions about the Orioles and she has some great insight to the Baltimore ballclub. She has also asked me some questions about the Tribe and when I get those answered, we’ll be sure to get you connected with the link to that story. So, on to the Q&A!
DTTWLN? 1 – Buck Showalter brought some great signs of life to Baltimore at the end of the 2010 season that seemed to translate for awhile in 2011 as the Orioles flirted with .500 well into the month of June. What does Showalter have to do to really get this team moving in the right direction and back into contention in one of the toughest divisions in baseball?
I honestly have no clue. I think the reason he was so successful at the end of 2010 is because the team was hyped up and excited. They went out there and played the game they love and were excited about having a new manager. Then they started last season off really well and played a great September and half of August. At the end of the season, they knew they had nothing to play for so they just went out there and had fun. I think Showalter is so detail-oriented and micro-managing that he takes the fun out of it sometimes. Obviously the pitching needs to get better before anything can happen but I think he needs to just relax a little and encourage the guys to play hard all season.
DTTWLN? 2 – The Orioles finally found their new GM in Dan Duquette who has been out of the game for nine years. Is he the man to end the 14 year sub .500 streak that has plagued Baltimore since their trip to the playoffs in 1997? Where does he start?
This answer won’t be known for a couple years. I’m definitely relieved that they found a guy who has a ton of experience and the background in scouting, player development, and international markets. Those are the biggest needs for the O’s. However, I still see the Orioles having another 3-5 losing seasons before anything happens. The problem I have with Duquette is he is the same as the old GM, Andy MacPhail. He’s all about building pitchers and players from the minor league up. The Orioles minor league system is a disaster so this is necessary but four-fifths of the starting rotation from April of last season was homegrown by MacPhail and look how that turned out.
DTTWLN? 3 – Adam Jones has been a great constant for the Orioles during a relative inconsistent time for the team. Is he a guy that could be moved if the right offer comes along?
I think the Orioles will definitely entertain offers for Jones. It’s easy for fans to say “Ok, trade him if a great deal comes along. Like for a star pitcher or something.” For me, I’d be sad to see him go. I love him as a player but I do know that pitching is most important. Then again, the O’s don’t have anyone really to put in center. They have a few Triple-A guys but no one anywhere close to how good of a player Jones is. I guess my short answer is if we get a crazy deal for him (like the one we had when we traded for him) then yes. But I’ll take nothing less.
DTTWLN? 4 – Baltimore was right in the middle of the pack when it came to scoring runs on the season but were dead last in runs allowed, giving up 860 which averages to 5.31 runs per game. Will pitching be the highest off-season priority for the Orioles?
Absolutely. The organization would be absolutely idiotic if pitching wasn’t most important. Pitching is most important for every team every year because that’s how you win games. Just look at the Phillies (even though they were WS favorites all year long). The Orioles need pitching desperately. It is painful to watch them try and get through a series since the starters couldn’t last much past 5 innings and the bullpen was just getting burned out constantly.
DTTWLN? 5 – Best case scenario, what do you see the outcome of the 2012 season for your Baltimore Orioles?
I’m hoping for one pitcher who can keep his season ERA under 3.50 or even 3.00. I’m also looking for J.J. Hardy to have a consistent year. I know the Orioles won’t have a winning season or even get to .500 but a 10-win improvement would be marvelous. Most importantly, I’ll be watching the minor leaguers.
Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images