Series Preview in Blog: Baltimore Orioles

This is the first of what will hopefully be many series preview posts. There are so many great Twins blogs out there (and someday when I finish my blogroll on the left they’ll be listed there), that I probably won’t be offering much in the way of analysis after the fact due to my lack of access to televised broadcasts of the games. Instead I hope these previews will offer a little glimpse into the other team’s psyche (or at least that of their fans).

Also, hopefully this will provide a starting point for some yet unnamed features of this little corner of the internet.

Minnesota Twins (0-0) vs. Baltimore Orioles (0-0)

The return of Nick Markakis

Ah, that new season smell. It’s about time we kicked this thing off, and what better way to start than three against the Orioles? The O’s have struggled early in this season, and have yet to record a victory, meanwhile it’s been months since the Twins lost a meaningful game. I’m doubly excited, as the opener is on ESPN2, so I’ll get to see Johan Santana pitch, which is something that you always appreciate no matter how many times you see it.

On to the Orioles:

“If you’re in that clubhouse and you don’t think this team is vastly different and vastly improved, you’re crazy.”
Orioles VP Jim Duquette

I started off with that quote becaus it illustrates the optimism surrounding the Orioles this season. A couple of season previews by Orioles’ sportswriters and bloggers follow this optimistic tone (after all it is spring!). And you have to like where they are coming from, they have some legitimate bats and some promising young arms (more on those later).

Their infield is familiar with Tejada, Mora, Roberts, and Chris Gomez/Kevin Millar. Jay Payton and Aubrey Huff were brought in for the outfield but Payton was starting to battle some hamstring issues toward the end of spring. So that leaves Markakis, Patterson, and Huff (or assorted others… by the way, Freddie Bynum? still a major league baseball player? weird). Ramon Hernandez will be their catcher, and they don’t have any real backup plan after that (Orioles fans were unanimous in their hope that Paul Bako would not see much playing time this year).

My favorite quote that I found from all this was one of the contributors to Camden Chat claiming that “I want to be more like Flavor Flav.” in his preview written for Ray’s Index, a Devil Ray’s blog. I like the preview, but I have to wonder about his choice of role model…

“I’m pretty confident in the job I’ve done this year, quite honestly. All of a sudden somebody wants to question a couple of things that happened recently and forgotten the other 100-whatever games we’ve played.”

– Manager Sam Perlozzo, defending himself from some criticism by holding up the Orioles’ .438 winning percentage in “the other 100-whatever games” they’ve played. (9/14/06)

Well it looks like that defense worked for Sam, he’s back again and he’s got a different challenge ahead of him this year.

All this optimism from Baltimore may seem a little out of place, given the team’s struggles in the last few years. One blogger remembers when it all started to go downhill. This article brings up an interesting fact which I have not attempted to verify in any way: The Orioles are the only team to outspend the Yankees for any season in the last 10 years. The O’s would not have been my first guess.

While we’re paging through history, here’s the top 40 Orioles of all time. Can’t ask for a much better top 5 than that.

As is the case with most teams at this point, a large amount of space is devoted to discussing the pitching staff. The rotation coming out of camp is as follows:

1. E. Bedard – Good year last year, (3.76 ERA, 196 IP 171/69 K/BB), the general consensus is that he’s the rock of this rotation.
2. D. Cabrera – Depends on who you ask, control is always an issue with him. He’s had a couple encouraging spring training starts, but you just never know.
3. J. Wright – No one seems quite sure why he’s here or what to expect, possibly one of Leo Mazzone’s guys from ATL? He’s consistently thrown a lot of pitches to get through not very many innings this spring.
4. A. Loewen – Good stuff that hasn’t quite come together. Will he be in the rotation all year?
5. S. Trachsel – Picked up to replace Kris Benson when his shoulder acted up. He has looked awful in Spring Training, but it doesn’t seem like there is anyone ready to step in from the farm system. Hayden Penn would be the odds on favorite to replace him, but he has run afoul of the brass for various reasons. There is also Jeremy Guthrie, who’s 28 and hasn’t sniffed the majors yet, one blog described him as “not even quite a flameout since he never had any flame.”

A couple of interviews at Camden Chat with Clay Davenport and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus shed a little bit of light on pitchers, prospects, and especially commenter’s feelings on Cabrera and Loewen. For a piece that’s decidedly on the sunny side of the Cabrera spectrum, this article predicts he’ll have 17 wins by the end of the season.

In addition to the focus on their current pitchers, several people also have a message for a certain former Oriole who isn’t currently slated to pitch in this series against his old team. I like that the guys at Roar from 34 make a point of letting us know that they don’t discuss Anna Benson. And I’m willing to count that as a point in their favor.

UPDATE: An article in the Baltimore Sun about Nick Markakis’ background.

OTHER ORIOLE BLOGS:

http://blogs.baltimoresun.com/sports_custom_roch/
http://oriolepost.blogspot.com/
http://dempseysarmy.blogspot.com/

This is all a work in progress, so please leave any comments you may have about it (too long, too short, too boring, surely you have a better picture of Markakis, whatever), or email me (ray.r.felix-at-gmail.com). Any and all correspondence is appreciated.

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