Baltimore has an exciting core of young players featuring outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones, a group of veteran leaders including former MVP Miguel Tejada, and some solid role players like journeyman Ty Wigginton.
The Orioles were supposed to climb their way out of the AL East’s cellar this season. Instead, they are having yet another miserable campaign.
At 24-52, the Orioles have become an afterthought in a division that features three of the best teams in baseball — the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
Baltimore was supposed to have a new and improved pitching staff to help it compete in the AL East this year. Kevin Millwood was brought in from Texas to bolster a rotation that featured some powerful young arms, including Brian Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie. Unfortunately, Millwood has gone just 2-8 with a 5.40 ERA in 17 starts for the Orioles.
On June 4, with an AL-worst 15-39 record, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley was fired and replaced by third base coach Juan Samuel. Lately, rumors have been swirling that the Orioles are interested in hiring former Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers skipper Buck Showalter to be the new manager.
But it’s not like there haven’t been any high moments for the Orioles this year. In fact, Red Sox fans shouldn’t forget a weekend in early May, when the O’s swept the Sox in three straight games down at Camden Yards. Baltimore is 5-4 against Boston on the season.
As Anthony Amobi at the Oriole Post tells us, all is not lost in Baltimore.
NESN.com: What positives can Orioles fans take from this season, one of the worst in team history? How much better would the O’s have been had Brian Roberts not gotten hurt so early in the season?
Anthony Amobi: Despite a season that has been fairly horrific, there are a few positives to take from 2010.
One, the bullpen has been much, much stronger as of late and Jason Berken — who struggled last year as a starter — has been nothing short of remarkable in a relief role. Alfredo Simon has also shown that he can be very much a viable member of the Oriole bullpen and may have a place in relief (he too was a starter and missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery).
Two, the offense that has struggled throughout the season has really picked up as of late. Adam Jones, who struggled big time in the first two months of the season, has turned it on as of late, hitting eight homers in the month of June. He’s driving the ball a lot and than has been and simply getting results.
He’s a major key to the lineup, and as he goes, the team probably does.
Three, Matt Wieters, too, has started to hit again, as has Miguel Tejada. Nick Markakis’s numbers power-wise are down, but he’s perhaps been their most consistent player at the plate and defensively throughout the 2010 season.
While all has been better in the past week or so, the Orioles will go only as far as the development of their young players. There's a lot of regression from them, and until they pick it up at the major league level, the Orioles will be more than likely stuck where they are.
As for Brian Roberts, I’d say that his not being in the lineup has been a killer for the Orioles. Until Corey Patterson was promoted from the minors, the team could not find any consistency, much less production from the leadoff spot.
As good as Patterson has been for Baltimore, Roberts is a past All-Star and is one of the better leadoff men in baseball. He’s been the table setter for years in the lineup and his combo of speed, occasional power, batting average and good eye is sorely missed this season.
I can say if Roberts was in the lineup throughout this season, the Orioles would not nearly be as bad as they have been.
NESN.com: What kind of manager do the Orioles need in order to right the ship in Baltimore? Is Buck Showalter the right man for the job?
A.A.: Watching the team over the past decade, it may be time for the Orioles to get a major league proven manager and stick with him for the long haul. The players — especially the younger ones — may need an authority figure to respond to and follow his program.
The Orioles for the past several years have tended to hire managers who don’t have deep managerial resumes.
Dave Trembley, the former Orioles manager who was fired in May, was hired for his experience with minor leaguers, but for some reason players didn’t respond to him on the field and of course, the win-loss record spoke for itself.
At this point, I do believe Buck Showalter may be the best option for manager of the Orioles. He’s got the experience with not only managing solid teams, but also playing a role in building them — especially with the Diamondbacks.
Showalter may not have won a World Series, but he seems to have an ability to get the most out of his players. While he allegedly had issues with some the teams he’s worked for at the end of his tenure, he’s got the credibility, resume and respect of many in the game.
NESN.com: What has impressed you so far about young lefty Brian Matusz? What does he need to work on?
A.A.: Despite his record this season, Brian Matusz has developed as best he can right now as a pitcher. He needs to pitch with more consistency, hit his spots better and avoid the ‘big inning’. At times, Brian throws too many pitches, but he’s been much, much better in his June outings.
The good thing about Matusz is that he seems to learn from his mistakes and can articulate them. That’s a sign of a very smart pitcher and someone who understands the game.
Honestly, he has suffered at times because of the Oriole offense; nevertheless, all things considered, I think he could be better, but isn’t horrible.
NESN.com: Alfredo Simon has come on to be a pretty reliable arm at the back end of the Orioles bullpen. Is he the closer of the future in Baltimore?
A.A.: Definitely, yes.
Simon’s got a nice arm and can get guys out. He struggled initially in some key situations, but as he’s gotten more comfortable as time has gone along.
With the early struggles of key offseason acquisition Mike Gonzalez (who is trying to come back from injury), Simon should be the man to close out games for now.
NESN.com: The Orioles are 5-4 against the Red Sox this year, including a three-game sweep of the Sox early in the season. Do the O’s see a series against Boston as one with added significance?
A.A.: Boston may need to win the series more than Baltimore does. Simply, the Red Sox need to keep pace in the American League East race and considering the injuries as of late, they need contributions from everyone.
The Orioles have been owned by the Red Sox for the past several seasons, so a series win would give them a ton of momentum and additional confidence heading towards the All-Star break.
Thanks again to Anthony Amobi from Oriole Post for his insight.