According to the Julian calendar, today is the 91st day of 2011. For those of us that follow baseball, we know that today is day 1. On Opening Day you often hear people say that ‘Hope springs eternal.’ Fans of the Baltimore Orioles have been beaten down and left without hope many times since the start of the 1998 season. Last year quite a few of us (certainly myself included) had true optimism for the first time in years, only to be crushed by a horrific 2 and 16 start.
Here again I am hopeful, and I do not believe it is just blind optimism speaking. Many words have been written about the Orioles’ 34-23 record (and 3.16 era) after Buck Showalter was hired last August. Less has been written about how the O’s were 37-37 (with a 4.13 era) in the last 74 games of 2010. As the season ended last fall, I wrote that I had a feeling the impending off-season would be different. I think the results show I was right.
The O’s have significantly upgraded at 3rd, SS, 1st, and LF. With Britton and Reimold (and to a lesser extent Bell and assorted vets), there is depth waiting in the wings that can help the team this year. I believe this team will score 115+ more runs than they did in 2010, and believe it is realistic for this team to compile a 4.20 era.
Some have been concerned about what they saw in spring training, but to me the only major takeaway is the general health of the roster. I saw nothing that should change the projections we had going into spring training for individual players, or the team in general. I asked 22 writers this winter to predict the Orioles’ 2011 win total. The average predicted win total was 78. I am sticking with the prediction I have had all winter: 83-79, and 4th place. Picking them to win 83 games means I think it is possible they play above that (88 wins probably being my ceiling) and think it is possible they could play below that (78 being my floor).
With the talent that has been assembled, this team absolutely should be considerably improved. I have been asked several times this off-season, who cares if the O’s improve, if they are not contending? I think a somewhat better question is who cares if the O’s improve, if the younger core does not perform better? To me the only way the O’s will significantly improve as I expect is if that younger core steps up. When I talk about that younger core, I am of course speaking of Markakis (27), Jones (25), Wieters (24), Matusz (24), Arrieta (25), Tillman (23), Britton (24), Bergesen (25). Plenty of questions in that list of players, but plenty of talent as well. 2011 will be significant in helping to determine exactly what you have out of that group. There are a number of issues that this franchise still has to address as a whole (International Scouting & Development for instance) but if this group of players does not perform; everything else becomes a moot argument. Individually I’m excited about each of them (to varying degrees); collectively I understand it is unlikely they all step up. Watching how things unfold will be fun.
In addition to the start of the Orioles season, this is also day 1 of the new Orioles Hangout. I have been a member of the OH community since 2001, when I first heard OH Publisher Tony Pente on local radio with Bob Haynie. I am appreciative of Tony for providing this opportunity to contribute to the site.
The tag-line for OH has always been ‘The Voice of the Fan.’ While I will not be cheering in the press box, I will not hide the fact that I am a fan of the Baltimore Orioles. I disagree with anyone that thinks you cannot be a fan and also provide impartial journalism. In addition to some of the excellent content found at MASN, The Sun, and MLB.com, there are quite a number of quality websites and blogs dedicated to Orioles coverage. As I have done this past week, I will continue to point out many of them.
While I respect many of these other sites, I do not think OH has to take a back seat to anyone. With roughly 9,000 registered members, this is a forum comprised of many differing viewpoints. The commonality between the posters is the overall depth of knowledge and willingness to discuss things intelligently and with respect. One of the things I like best about OH is that it seems to be the place where all Orioles coverage converges. I think the best discussions on the Orioles are held here.
My goal with Chris’ Corner is to provide content comparable (or better) to what you would find anywhere else. I’m looking forward to covering the O’s as a regular at Camden Yards this year, and it is my hope to initiate further discussion and dialogue through this blog. Let’s get this 2011 season started for both the O’s, and Orioles Hangout.
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