After reading through the message board there seems to be a debate between the “optimists” and “pessimists” on what type of team the Orioles are. The “optimists” want to blame the injuries while the “pessimists” point to a lack of depth and the fact only Brian Roberts can be considered a significant loss.
Now I normally tend to look at things on the positive side, but I have to be objective when it comes to the O’s. I can’t think like an orange and black-colored glasses wearing fan. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think people would stop caring what I wrote if I didn’t tell it like I see it, not how I want to see it.
Taking everything into consideration, I have hard time believing that people are blaming the Orioles injuries to players like David Newhan, Luis Matos, Tim Byrdak, and Javy Lopez as reasons why this team is in 4th place? Although each of these players certainly helped the O’s depth, only Lopez should have been counted on to be a major contributor this year and even that could have been questioned if historical evaluations were taken into consideration.
We're in fourth place because we are fourth place-constructed team in the AL East. Two of our starters should be in the bullpen (Rodrigo Lopez and Bruce Chen), one is wildly inconsistent (Daniel Cabrera), one a third or fourth starter on a good team (Kris Benson) and one has never pitched 200 innings in a season or even had an entire good season in the majors (Erik Bedard). We have no left-handed specialists and two guys (Kevin Millar and Jeff Conine) who should be nothing more than role players at this stage in their careers and not everyday players.
As for Javy Lopez, historically catchers have not made the transition well to other positions at his age so it should come as no surprise that Lopez was struggling even before his injury.
The only injuries that did hurt were Todd Williams injury early on (basically allowed Brower to come North although Rleal probably would have started the year in AAA instead) and of course Brian Roberts. Losing Roberts was a big loss because he's the only true leadoff hitter we have, but let's face it, even with him, we at best a .500 team, and that's with the starting pitchers pitching in best case scenarios. Miguel Tejada didn't even miss a game but had to DH, so I don't really look at his injury as a big loss, especially since it just meant less at bats for the dinged up Millar.
Now, does this mean the end is near and the organization is going nowhere? Absolutely not. I truly think the farm system is starting to produce talent and will continue to help the big club for years to come. But it's not going to be enough for this year. This was a stopgap year. If we can stay around .500 all year, I'll be very pleased because at least it's progress.
However, the one thing that's very clear when we play the better teams in the AL, and that’s the fact we don't have the talent or depth to compete game in and game out at that level.
With Nick Markakis, Erik Bedard, Chris Ray, Sendy Rleal, Brandon Fahey and Daniel Cabrera developing at the big league level and with Hayden Penn, Chris Britton, Jason Johnson and Adam Loewen not far behind, and with Nolan Reimold, Radhames Liz and Garrett Olson right behind them, we may be able to use this minor league depth (especially pitching) to get the Orioles back into contention soon.
So let’s enjoy the Orioles this year, but don’t expect too much. Let’s hope we see the core young players continue to improve and if that happens, we can call this year a success, even if we are looking up at the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays at year’s end.
Got a comment? You can always start a thread here and talk about it.
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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.