Friday, February 29, 2008
30 Teams in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles
Welcome to FreezeFire's new series, 30 teams in 30 days. If you've got it available, play a song that makes you feel like you're on a road trip. I personally recommend Open Road by Bryan Adams. We'll start in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles
A look back: The Maryland Birds failed to win 70 games last year, but for the ninth time in 10 years, the Baltimore Orioles managed to finish in fourth ahead of the luckless Tampa Bay Rays. But the Orioles have acknowledged that they’re rebuilding, and have jettisoned some of their more recognizable pieces. That will make the Orioles better in the long run, but it will probably also make them the worst team in the AL East in 2008.
Positives on the field: Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora are still around, giving Baltimore two solid hitters. Ramon Hernandez is a decent catcher. Brian Roberts is a fine second baseman, but he’s likely to be moved any day now. That leaves the Orioles with several young players in the other spots, or several stopgap veterans. That’s not a way to win games, no matter how good Adam Jones is. Markakis may be asked to do too much, and could have a sub-par season as a result.
On the pitching side, Jeremy Guthrie is a fine starter, and Jamie Walker’s solid at the back of the bullpen. But Guthrie is no ace, and the Orioles won’t get Walker many opportunities. There are far too many questions for Baltimore.
Positives off the field: The Orioles are discussing moving their spring training operations to Vero Beach, Fla., once the Los Angeles Dodgers leave. That would make Baltimore’s spring training a required experience for an O’s fan, no matter how bad the Birds are.
Negatives: Where to begin? The Orioles’ projected rotation consists of Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Steve Trachsel and Hayden Penn. That could be a good rotation…someday. But that time is not this year. Guthrie is not an ace, Cabrera is a head case, Loewen and Penn are very young and Trachsel is on the back end of his career. There’s not much to like about Baltimore’s pitching.
On the hitting side, the four and five hitters are projected as Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff. That won’t win in the American League at any point in their careers. Dave Trembley will need time after the Orioles have decided to wave the white flag on 2008.
Outlook: Baltimore wasn’t going to compete in the AL East anyway, not with Boston as the defending champion, New York and Toronto coming back strong and Tampa Bay looking like it has improved. So it made sense for the Orioles to blow it up and start again. As long as this becomes a one-time thing that results in building and not becoming the Marlins, it will benefit Baltimore in the future. But this year will be painful for Baltimore. 100 losses is likely.
Projected finish: 5th in AL East. Season opener is March 31 at Camden Yards against Tampa Bay.
Spring base: Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The team plays almost all of its games on the East Coast of Florida.
Fan of the team?: Check out Camden Chat, an Orioles blog and fan community.
Come back tomorrow: Tomorrow we take a look at the team with the name change, the Tampa Bay Rays.
My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Bryan Adams.