As Magical O’s Season Ends, Expectations for 2013 Will Be High

| October 18, 2012 | 0 Comments

For the first time in my life, Baltimore is officially a two-sport town.  Sure, the Ravens have been here since 1996, but for the first time both teams are good and the fans will expect both teams to compete for championships.

2012 was a no-doubt-about-it magical year for the Baltimore Orioles.  No one, other than yours truly, thought they had any chance of being competitive, but they surprised everyone and came within a couple runs of an appearance in the American League Championship Series. The Orioles magical year of 2012 was very reminiscent of Joe Flacco’s rookie year in 2008 when a “rebuilding” football team fell just short of a Super Bowl appearance.  Since the 2008, the expectations and pressure for the Baltimore Ravens have been very high and I expect the same for the Orioles next year and beyond.

Nothing beats that magical run when your team is proving everyone wrong – even when you are finally eliminated, people are still thrilled about the season and how much they overcame!  You are playing with house money, pressure is low and it’s a whole lot of fun.  Now when the Ravens fall anything short of a Super Bowl, people are devastated, angry and second guessing. I believe that the Orioles will soon experience the same pressure.

Maybe baseball is different and it will be different for the Orioles… after all,  it’s a game where failing three times out of 10 makes you an all-star and even the best hitters are helpless when a talented pitcher is on their game.  Comparatively when it comes to football, if Joe Flacco makes two bad throws in a game that will be what people talk about as opposed to the 20 good throws that were made.  Failure is accepted as a part of baseball, everything is magnified on the football field, but the bottom line is the Orioles will be expected to win.

The crowds will be much bigger next year as I’m sure they sold thousands of season ticket packages already from people trying to get early access to 2012 playoff tickets. Certainly the phone lines for next season’s tickets will also ring at a level they haven’t seen in about ten years.  The television ratings will be much higher, the bars will be more crowded and the Orioles will all of the sudden be a national media draw for the first time in this century.

Can the Orioles handle the expectations?  There is no reason to think they can’t.  This is a team that only got better throughout the 2012 season while more and more analysts told them they couldn’t keep it up.  This is a team that sustained injuries of players like Nick Markakis, Jason Hammel, Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold yet kept on trucking.  We know Buck Showalter is going to put his all into every game and every move and we know Dan Duquette won’t stop tinkering things and making moves until he feels things are just right.

So looking at the 2013 Baltimore Orioles, why should you be even more optimistic? Here are a few reasons: You have a five-man rotation and it appears the Orioles have more than 10 capable arms bidding to join the group.  One would think that Hammel, Chen, Tillman and Gonzelez have locked up the first four spots, leaving the likes of major league ready pitchers Zach Britton, Joe Saunders (if re-signed), Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta looking to grab that last spot.  Let’s also not forget about soaring prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, both of whom should both be ready at some point during 2013, and 2012 free agent signing Tsuyoshi Wada, who Dan Duquette has raved about in every radio appearance since the end of the season and who will return early in the season from Tommy John Surgery.

Bullpens arms are never a guarantee, but you have to be happy about what the Orioles are returning especially with the fall-off from the long line to enter their starting rotation.  Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day have proved themselves as two of the top relievers in baseball and players like Luis Ayala, Pedro Strop and Troy Patton were part of the best bullpen in baseball all year long.  Brian Matusz was terrific when moved to the bullpen, Tommy Hunter started throwing high 90s when he made the move and Steve Johnson excelled no matter when or where they pitched him.  We don’t know who will start the year in the pen, but we do know that it will be almost as competitive as making the starting rotation.

Offensively and defensively, the Orioles really only have three potential question marks and those come from the positions of LF, 2B and 1B.  At LF, Nate McLouth is a free agent and arguably may have been our MVP down the stretch run and in the playoffs.  But the Orioles will see the return of Nolan Reimold, Chris Davis will be without a position with the return of Markakis and two of our top MLB ready prospects are outfielders in Xavier Avery and LJ Hoes.  Should be an interesting decision, but I really hope to see McLouth back in 2013.

First base is a question mark because Mark Reynolds is owed an $11 million option, but both sides seem interested in resolving the issue and possibly an extension.  Second base is also very interesting because Brian Roberts will return, Ryan Flaherty showed improvement and the top offensive prospect in our system is 21-year-old Jonathan Schoop who could potentially be ready by mid-2013.  So the question becomes, do you bring in a big name that would block Schoop?

So obviously the Orioles will return the majority of their team and knowing Dan Duquette there will probably be several other pitchers thrown into the mix, though I doubt there will be a big splash.

Why am I confident the Orioles could be even better in 2013?  Players like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Nick Markakis are entering their prime and Manny Machado is showing the signs of being one of the rising stars in baseball.  I also think Mark Reynolds will have a better year at the plate now that he knows he has a position in the field that he plays really well.  When it comes to pitching, you have to feel confident in what we have coming back. I also think Zach Britton has a chance to live up to his top of the rotation potential with a healthy offseason.  And there is always the unknown of prospects like Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, LJ Hoes and Jonathan Schoop… can one make the quick rise like Machado?  It will be fun to find out.

Regardless of what happens, one thing is for sure: the expectations will be much greater for the 2013 Orioles.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, 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 [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
Filed in: Sports
×