Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Orioles Baseball at the All-Star Break: Huh?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Baltimore Orioles are a dreadful team. They were a dreadful team last year, the year before, the year before and keep going back to 1998 the beginning of the tailspin when they were only slightly below .500, but then came the plunge to the rock bottom. At 36 wins and 52 losses they’ll wind up at 66 and 96, worse than last year.

Can we really stand to see more articles like this one from The Baltimore Sun?,0,36730.story

Last year, they played historically bad baseball under Dave Trembley. He got the boot and some minor improvement was noted with Juan Samuel. Brian Roberts got healthy and Buck Showalter took control and they looked very good down the stretch. In the off-season they brought in J.J. Hardy, Derrick Lee, Mark Reynolds, and Vladmir Guerrero. With Matt Wieters and Adam Jones maturing, the line-up was supposed to be potent. Brian Roberts hasn’t played since sustaining a concussion in April, and without him, the offense has been miserable. However, teams generally don’t succeed when they’re down a few runs in the first inning.

The young crop of pitchers was supposed to show growth. They shrunk. Jeremy Guthrie plays the way he always does – lots of good stuff that’s consistently good enough to lose. These days, a 4.18 ERA should be good enough to win, but his record is 3-12, by far the worst losing percentage on the team. Jake Arrieta is the only starter among the young guns still in the rotation. Chris Tillman, Zack Britton, and Brian Matusz are back in the minors. At times the bullpen has been beyond disastrous

The team’s leadership is in the hands of Andy McPhail. Only a very small number of players still in the system are not his doing. The fellow built a championship team in Minnesota and developed a winning team in Chicago despite a dysfunctional ownership group. He appears to have had free reign in Baltimore – the results are terrible. Buck Showalter builds winners – while it’s still too soon to be too harsh on him this year – the best he can get out of the 2011 Orioles is the same kind of crap he was brought in to arrest.

Playing .500 baseball or perhaps a winning record looked in reach in April, now the challenge will be not to lose 90 games again. With the players added and Buck Showalter’s leadership “winning” was supposed to replace, “well, we tried.” How can Baltimore fans not believe losing has become hardwired into the DNA of this team’s makeup.

It’s bad baseball in Baltimore, and fans aren’t upset, because baseball fans are becoming a rare species in Crab Town. Fans can only take so much frustration and vent so much anger before they move on to other things. If the NFL lock out ends, soon sports fans will be focused on the Ravens and the IRL race coming to Baltimore Labor Day weekend.

Baltimore can still be an incredible baseball city. Orioles Park is still as appealing as any stadium in all of baseball. The city has a great history with names like Brooks, Frank, Boog, Jim, Eddie, and Cal not to mention the skipper, the Earl of Baltimore. How old does a boy have to be to remember cheering for a winning team in Baltimore?

It’s been fourteen years, so it’s safe to say, unless you graduated from high school, winning baseball is ancient history. It’s time to put that past behind us, but how much can the 2011 team improve on the miserable place where they stand now?

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