Can the Orioles Duplicate the 49ers?

| February 17, 2012 | 1 Comments

In 2010 the San Francisco 49ers were that hot young team in the NFL that some people, including ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, had picked to make the Super Bowl.  They where coming off an 8-8 2009 season and were expected by many people do be a dangerous team on the rise.  They started out 0-5, finished just 6-10 and their head coach Mike Singletary was fired.  The once proud San Francisco 49ers left their fans down and disappointed once again!

Sound familiar? Well it should!  Later that spring, the Orioles were the hot young team on the rise in MLB and expected by many to have their first winning season in 14 years.  Buck Showalter took over for the Birds in the second half of the 2010 season and, from that point on, they were the best team in baseball.

At the start of the 2011 season, there was a buzz around baseball that I hadn’t seen since the 90s.  But again the Orioles, once the most winning franchise in sports, left their fans down and disappointed.  They finished the season 69-93. The only joy was ruining the Boston Red Sox playoff bid after spending more than 300 million in the offseason.

In 2011 expectations were low for the San Francisco 49ers.  They had a new coach, Jim Harbaugh, but surely did not have the talent to compete in the NFL.  Well everyone was wrong!  The 2011 squad, with the addition of some new pieces, showed the talent that everyone thought they had before the start of the 2010 season.

Vernon Davis looked like a pro bowl TE, Michael Crabtree had a career year, Tedd Ginn looked closer to a first round pick, Alex Smith was efficient and the young offensive line started blocking.  On defense, NaVorro Bowman became one of the NFL’s premier tacklers, Patrick Willis cemented his status as one of the top MLBs in the NFL and free agents Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers exceeded expectations.

The 49ers defeated the “Dream Team” Eagles in week 4, prompting people to focus on how bad of a loss it was for Philadelphia and not that the 49ers were pretty good.  Led by Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers weren’t pretty good, they were great.  They grabbed the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs, after winning the NFC West and finishing 13-3.  Unfortunately, just like the Ravens, they missed the Super Bowl in heartbreaking fashion… tough day for the Harbaugh family.

I know it’s socially and politically irresponsible to say anything positive about the Orioles right now, but I think everyone should step back and take a closer look.  The reason we were so excited about the Orioles for 2011 was because of the talent of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Chris Tillman on the mound.  We also thought Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis were becoming three of the best complete players in the game.

Brian Matusz got hurt and never got on track, Jake Arrieta also got injured, Zach Britton was inconsistent but pretty good, and it was another lost season for Chris Tillman.  But the offense was pretty good, finishing 14th in MLB with 708 runs, 4th in MLB with 191 HRs and 11th in the MLB in batting average.  Everyone was excited about the acquisitions of Vlad Guerrero and Derrek Lee, but it was JJ Hardy who stole the show.  Hardy finished with 30 HRs and 80 RBIs in just 139 games.  The Orioles also traded Koji Uehara for talented young players Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis.

We didn’t make any splashes this offseason other than from the Japanese league, grabbing Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-yin Chen.  They also brought in Wilson Betemit who will likely see time at the corner infield spots and DH.  We didn’t make a serious run at Prince Fielder and we traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom… likely bullpen depth.

To say there are no expectations for this team would be an understatement.  But what if after training with Brady Anderson, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Tommy Hunter live up to their potential?  What if Jake Arieta and Zach Britton show consistency or one of these Japanese League guys turns out to be pretty good?  What if our offense gets just slightly better from last year?  What if players like Chris Davis and Nolan Reimold start as strong as they finished last year?  What if Brian Roberts plays?  What if a player like Machado, Schoop, Hoes, Avery or Klein makes a surprise rise to the majors?

I know there are a lot of “what ifs,” but only a few of them need to happen in order for this team to compete. This is a completely different team in a completely different sport, but the 49ers showed us that with a few changes a hot young team can live up to the hype just one year after they disappointed.  I’m not saying the Orioles will win the division or make the playoffs, but I am sure that they will be better than the fans and the media are making them out to to be.  We will see what happens, but you know where to turn to find the guy saying “I told you so,” when everyone says, “no one saw this coming.”



About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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