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And Now, Friends, It’s Baseball Season

Never mind the Super Bowl. Seriously. If you can muster any enthusiasm for a match between the Patriots and the Giants (which is to say between New York and Boston) then you have something going for you that I neither have nor want. If I’m rooting for anything it’s for one team to win 3-0, the next best thing to the game not happening at all.

But there’s good news. We are now in the heady territory where we start to pack up the Hot Stove and turn our attention in earnest to that most lovely moment when pitchers and catchers report. February 18th for the Orioles if you don’t already have it marked on the calendar.

I’ve been kind of hands-off this year with the Hot Stove because, to be honest, there hasn’t been much to say. I do appreciate that Duquette has made strides in the international market and I like that the team appears to have more depth than at any point in recent memory. The problem is that today — before anyone takes the field — there’s no clear logic to how the 2012 team will be significantly improved from the one that let us down in 2011.

Perhaps that’s not fair. There is actually a clear path to improvement, it’s just not necessarily a likely path.

If one or more of the young pitchers finally emerge, and if Markakis rebounds, and if guys like Hardy and Wieters stay strong, and if Reimold finally gets a chance and cashes in on it, and if…you get the idea. If a lot of things happen, this team could surprise a few people. Maybe even us.

It’s not even crazy to think those things might happen. But I was hoping — still am — for something this offseason that would help tip the scale. Shoring up the foundation is great but it only goes so far.

That said, it’s not even February yet. A lot can and will happen between now and Opening Day. Whatever those moves end up being, I’m starting to feel that familiar and welcome excitement about spring and the return of baseball. Because, truly, that’s a great thing no matter the win-loss expectations.

11 comments to And Now, Friends, It’s Baseball Season

  • Adam

    This will probably be the first Super Bowl since 1997 I won’t watch. Either Boston ends it’s ten-month title drought or New York puts yet another on the board. It’s a step below sickening.

    I’m thankful for the Orioles, because without them I probably would have taken the loss to the Patriots as the end of the world. My life of Orioles fandom is the reason why I’m perfectly comfortable in remembering this past Ravens season not as one of failure, but as one defined by the feeling of watching Joe Flacco strap on his helmet and leave it all on the field on that last drive or Ray Lewis’ speeches and statements at the end of the game. It made me proud to be a Baltimore fan.

    For all those “ifs,” 162 games means we’re going to have plenty of those kinds moments during the Orioles season. Even if he doesn’t come all the way back, Markakis is going to still gun a runner down at the plate in a way that makes me spill beer all over myself, AJ is still going to tap the Baltimore patch at least once when he crosses the plate after putting one in the bleachers, and Matt Wieters is gonna make more than a couple would-be base stealers look foolish. Let’s play ball.

  • neal s

    @ Adam: Good thoughts, man. I’d echo them all the way.

    This is, as I’ve said and as I’ll explain in more detail soon, the year where I go into the baseball season without any expectations. I intend to take it not only game-by-game but pitch-by-pitch when I can. I’m after something…not fully defined yet, but there for the taking.

    And if they win a few along the way? All the better.

  • Mike R

    “I’m starting to feel that familiar and welcome excitement about spring and the return of baseball. Because, truly, that’s a great thing no matter the win-loss expectations.”

    Well put Neal. I think we can all agree that expactations are at an extreme low, but not much beats warm weather, cold beer, the smell of Boog’s, clapping along to “Country Boy”, and taking in a ball game at the ol’ yard.

  • Ballmer Bruce

    I still enjoy watching the game just because of it’s inherent beauty. But it gets harder every year. I never watch any game involving the Yankees or Red Sox unless that game can result it them being knocked out of the playoffs.

  • Mike R

    Is anyone excited over the thought of Edwin Jackson? Is he not a reboot of Daniel Cabrera? Walks as many as he K’s, can throw a no hitter or get lit up like a Christmas tree.

    The fact that the Cardinals are letting him walk, and in turn are looking at Roy Oswalt, says to me let’s go after Roy Oswalt!

    Nah. Jackson will be on his 9th team in 9 years. Are the O’s really gonna give him a 3 year deal when after 1 year, like everyone else, they realize he’s more of a liability than an asset.

  • dan the man

    I just watched Moneyball last night which inspired me to watch the last Orioles game of the 2011 season and I am now decidedly excited for baseball again.

    There’s always some kind of “magical” story (excuse the eye-rolling term) even in a season of losing. I’m excited to see our rag tag group of extended friends, whether or not they win or lose.

    Fortunately, there’s at least some good story lines once again. I actually kind of really like what Duquette has been doing, even if there isn’t an obvious player or two that is poised to make the Orioles much better. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Orioles are talking about OBP on an organization-wide basis. For now, it’s talk, but it’s still the first time ever. Could we be stepping out of the dark ages philosophically?

    Anyway, there’s still the Cavalry, there’s the new Asian imports, there’s a full season of Chris Davis (who I think is interesting), there’s not Vlad grounding out at pitch #1 of each AB. I dig the Betemit signing, despite how it creates an obvious opening for the national media to point and laugh. I like the fact that there are a good 10 or so legitimate starting pitchers, none of whom are really Mitch Atkins or Chris Jakubauskas.

    I’m bullish on Nick Markakis and Jake Arrieta following their surgeries, and on Brady Anderson’s impact to the fitness of guys like Matusz. For the first time ever, we may be looking at finally giving Reimold a starting LF job.

    No one really gets how O’s fans can get excited, but to me it’s fairly easy each year around this time. That’s even knowing full well I will most likely be a beaten down man come July. But screw it. BASEBALL.

  • sci

    @ dan the man:
    Well said. I was very skeptical of the hiring of DD, and I am still a little worried about how he has basically reconstructed the FO team from his Boston days as if no time at all has passed. This has to be the oldest front office in the league, right? But he has undeniably cranked up the international focus, which I love, and he’s really honed in on improving depth overall, which was perhaps the biggest single problem over the past few years. There has simply not been enough ML quality depth at the top of the minors for a good long time. Now we’ve got about 10 rotation candidates (albeit of varying quality), which will make for some legit depth at AAA when someone gets hurt. I like that.

    I also think Markakis and Arrieta will have good years. I think they were both seriously bothered by these issues last year (and who really knows how long that had been bothering Nick?), so they are really poised for a bounceback. I also can’t wait to see what happens with Matusz. I have a weird feeling he’ll come back in a big way. If he does, that changes a whole lot for the future.

    We will still struggle to get to .500 this year, and I doubt we will get there, but I do feel some legitimate hope for the first time in awhile.

  • dan the man

    @ sci:
    On the “old guys” note, I think it could be that Duquette is surrounding himself with temporary, quality baseball guys that he’s familiar with and that, like him, have been out of the game for a little bit. It could be that some of them are here for a year to establish the Orioles’ international effort and then will re-retire, essentially. Amidst the old dudes are some quality not-so-old dudes, too, like Danny Haas and Mike Boulanger. Or Brady Anderson and Rick Peterson.

    I think it also says a lot about David Stockstill, who is now under both Fred Ferreira and Ray Poitevint. Maybe he’s unfireable under Angelos, but Duquette appears to at least be trying to bring quality guys in around him instead of letting him run the show.

    And there’s still some youth in Ned Rice, a former intern, and in the Analytics department.

    I think there’s a lot less false hope this year. It was too easy to get excited by the idea of Derreck Lee and Vlad having solid years around Luke Scott and Mark Reynolds. Brian Matusz was going to be great coming off of his excellent end to 2010, etc.

    My expectations are pretty low, but I’m also willing to give Duquette a full year to see what’s up. I just have this feeling that even though the team isn’t dramatically changed, things aren’t as “status quo” as they seem. There’s a lot of trade rumors and Dan hasn’t acted on anything big yet, but we’ll see.

    Can’t wait for those silly spring training reports and pictures of Buck pointing his fungo bat and Joe n Fred trying to figure out who’s replacing whom for the opponent. ahhhhhh

  • Andrew

    @ dan the man:
    It’s like 2003 up in here with all the OBP.

  • dan the man

    @ Andrew:
    Let’s shoot for 1997. .341 as a team and 1st place. While we’re at it: 3 starters over 210 IP and under 4.00 ERA. Damn!

  • dan the man

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/blog/bal-orioles-signing-of-17yearold-pitcher-draws-criticism-in-korea-20120131,0,4151213.story

    I’d just like to point out how awesome it is to even read an article like that related to the O’s. Korea is pissed that we’re signing its young talent? Hell yeah! Keep doing that. Except maybe in, like, the DR or Venezuela. But I’ll take it!