With the Orioles heading into the last few games of the spring, it’s usually that time of year for Orioles fans to start getting excited about the up coming season. So why am I not feeling that way this year?
Maybe it’s because I’m just plain busier than the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest lately. Not to bore you with my personal life but balancing house hunting, preparing for a move, laptop hunting, some college classes, the website administration and little things like finding time to eat and sleep has left little time to focus on an up coming baseball season. Oh, did I mention I’m heading to India for nine days? Maybe my busy schedule has dampened my preseason excitement?
Or, maybe it’s the fact our best player hasn’t looked like our best player since about June of last season? Maybe it’s because our old catcher just got moved back to designated hitter because he made Jay Gibbons look like a gold-glover at first base? Or maybe it’s the fact one of young guns we’re counting on to absorb the Mazzone magic looks a lot like the same guy as last year? Maybe it’s the fact our bullpen doesn’t appear to strike fear in anyone and even worse, has looked very hittable this spring. Perhaps it’s because Nick Markakis hasn’t started a game in three days and the thought of Kevin Millar starting opening day at 1st base while Jeff Conine patrols left field and Luis Matos or Corey Patterson in center field while Markakis patrols center field in Bowie makes my skin crawl?
Now maybe Miguel Tejada is just going through an early season slump, but after the second half of last year, the rumors circulating about the “B-12”, and the various sources saying he looks like he’s lost a step in the field (he step he can’t afford to lose) as well as looking sluggish with the bat, only the eternal optimist would not have any concern. Add to the fact that I picked him with my first pick in my fantasy league and I’m really getting concerned.
As for Javy Lopez, again, only the eternal optimist sees a good ending for this story. Here’s a guy who at 35-years old is no longer a good defensive catcher, but worse, it doesn’t appear he has the ability to easily adjust to his move to first base. Now sprinkle in the fact that he seems less than thrilled with Dhing, his .122 average this spring, along with a long history of catchers pretty much breaking down offensively by the mid-30s, and Lopez is a recipe for disaster this year. Oh, and add in the fact that Baseball Prospectus gives a player like Lopez a 43% of collapsing this season (worse among the Orioles most likely starters this year) and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we’re not ruing the day we didn’t move Lopez for a bag of balls this off season if to only rid ourselves of his contract.
Now I’m not too worried about Daniel Cabrera, especially since he looked so dominant in the World Baseball Classic, but haven’t we’ve seen this before. Cabrera wows the scouts, absolutely dominates at times only to turn around and show his inconsistency by forgetting where the plate is for a few starts. Although our friends at BP give him a 52% chance of improving on his 2005 season (that’s tops in the rotation) their 9-11, 4.64 prediction doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzy that improvement will be too significant. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never put too much credence into predictions, especially when a player of Cabrera’s talent could very well have that breakout season, but the last few starts are at least worthy of some concern. Let’s hope this is the dead arm period and Cabrera will be ready to have that breakout season we all hope for.
As for the bullpen, I’m excited about Chris Ray at closer and believe LaTroy Hawkins will be a solid setup guy. I’m glad to see Sendy Rleal make the team and Tim Byrdak seems to be a decent LOOGY. After that…well, Jim Brower hasn’t been good since 2004, Eric DuBose has yet to regain his pre surgery form that had us thinking he could be a big part of the Orioles staff after his 2003 season. And most likely John Halama will be another long guy although he may end up back at Ottawa if the O’s have to carry a third catcher thanks to the Lopez situation.
Now I realize this looks like a doom and gloom forecast, and I’ll admit I’m depressing myself writing it, but the God’s honest truth is we’re a team that needs a lot of things to bounce right for us to finish third or higher.
The good news is that Brian Roberts looks healthy and ready to pick up where he was before his injury. Bruce Chen and Erik Bedard look solid in the rotation, and Cabrera is the guy with ace potential. Rodrigo Lopez and Kris Benson are major league mid-rotation starters but unfortunately; Lopez doubles as the current “number one” starter.
All I know, if I get to India and check the internet and I read Markakis was reassigned to Bowie, one of the few reasons to be excited to watch this ball club will have disappeared. Let’s hope that Perlozzo and the Orioles do the right thing and give him earned place on the club. After that, let’s hope our current concerns end up being nothing more than pessimistic thinking and the Orioles end up the surprise of 2006.
Got a comment? You can always start a thread here and talk about it.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board
Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.