Nobody’s Picking the Orioles, and That’s OK By Me
Here’s where I could go through and link all of the various preseason prediction columns/articles I’ve read, but I’ll spare you all that clicking and make it simple: pretty much nobody thinks the Orioles have a chance to repeat their 2012 success. There might be a straggler or an outlier I haven’t seen, but for the most part every “knowledgable” sportswriter seems to think the O’s will spend 2013 more or less where they spent the 14 seasons before 2012.
The arguments are as well-worn as they are predictable.
“They didn’t do anything to improve in the offseason.”
“They can’t repeat their successes in close games.”
“The division’s too strong.”
“They played better last year than they really are.”
This is the time of year when making predictions is what baseball writers are paid to do so I can’t fault ’em for that. All the more reason to not bother calling out specific individuals. What I will say, though, is that the dominant narrative of “The O’s will fall back in 2013” says more about general lack of attention among those who ascribe to it (hey, they’re busy!) than it does about any real assessment of the team’s chances.
Let’s take the main points one-by-one.
Not enough offseason action. It’s true that Dan Duquette didn’t make any major moves. So? To presume that lack of action is failure is to presume that smartly standing pat isn’t a calculated move in itself. I can’t think of a single free agent I’m bummed we didn’t get. Can you? If so, why? Josh Hamilton is an overpaid head case and Zach Greinke is a pitcher, which by definition means that the back end of his contract will be a problem for the Dodgers. He’ll be 34 years old and making $24 million in 2018. Think about that.
Bottom line is that you should pretty much never award high-dollar, long-term deals to players past, say, 25 or 26. Look at the Yankees with Teixeira and Rodriguez. Examples abound.
Making a move isn’t the same thing as making a smart move.
They can’t repeat last season’s successes. It’s true that last year’s team had some crazy weird numbers. 29-9 in one run games, 16-2 in extra innings. 18-9 in August and 19-9 in September. Surely, those numbers are unlikely to repeat. And yet it’s also unlikely that a winning team bringing back its nucleus, including at least one potential superstar in his first full season (Manny Machado), will suddenly fall apart. Even 10 more losses than last year would leave them at 83-79. A collapse could happen, but it seems far from likely.
The division’s too strong. Yeah, the Blue Jays improved on paper. Winning the offseason doesn’t count. As for everyone else, I see the O’s as their equals at least. Not necessarily demonstrably better but by no means demonstrably worse.
They played better than they really are. This is really the crux of things, although not everyone comes out and says it. The idea is that last year was a fluke, and this year will be a correction.
Well, consider this: the correction doesn’t necessarily work on a year-to-year timeframe. What we are, in fact, potentially witnessing is the actual correction, which is that the O’s are on the upswing to correct for so many years of bad play. It’s hard to stay bad for as long as the O’s did, and they’ve been due to fix that for awhile. With a top-notch manager in place and a wealth of talent across the lineup, why would another year of +.500 ball be out of the question?
Answer: +.500 ball is not out of the question. Contending for the division and/or the playoffs is not out of the question.
Will it happen? Maybe not. But it’s not nearly as far-fetched as lazy observers from afar would like to suggest it is.
Spring training’s here, folks. Ain’t the beer cold?