Heath Bintliff: Why I'm enjoying this team

This is going to sound strange after the last three games, but I'm going to say it anyway.

I like this team.

Sure, the Orioles have their flaws. Yes, I would probably have slightly different personnel on the roster if I were the general manager, but all in all, I like this team.

Here are a few reasons why:

I like the homegrown rotation. This rotation has had and will continue to have growing pains. But it's virtually all homegrown talent. When's the last time the Orioles could say that? And even the one guy who didn't come up through the organization, Jeremy Guthrie, was a waiver claim with just 37 big league innings when he became and Oriole, so as far as I'm concerned, he's half homegrown. Jake Arrieta is showing that he might be better than anyone expected. Zach Britton is sailing through his rookie season. Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen have had their ups and downs, but I'll take their growing pains over a retread like Adam Eaton, Steve Trachsel, Rich Hill or even Kevin Millwood. And Brian Matusz is soon to return. It's a serviceable rotation with real potential to get lots better.

I like J.J. Hardy, who even while struggling with the bat for the past week is leaps and bounds better than any shortstop we've had since the early days of Miguel Tejada. I like that Adam Jones appears to be taking big steps forward at the plate and is becoming the hitter many predicted him to be. I like that Matt Wieters has become one of the top defensive catchers in the game while he continues his steady progress with his bat. I still love to watch Nick Markakis hit, even as he battles his way out of a slump. I even like Mark Reynolds (don't throw things at me; he's hitting much better with a .742 OPS for the month of May).

I like that guys like Nolan Reimold, Ryan Adams, Brandon Snyder and Troy Patton (briefly, anyway) are getting a chance to play, regardless of the circumstances.

And I like that even with the offense struggling, young arms in the rotation finding their way and most of the bullpen being unreliable, this team is still just four games under .500. It could be way, way worse.

After last night, here are the upcoming teams the O's will have series with: Nats, Royals, A's, Mariners, Jays, A's, Rays, Jays, Nats, Pirates.That's more than a month of baseball and only one series against a top team in the American East. I'm still not sold that this team is a winner, but that stretch of games should give Baltimore a fighting chance to be at .500 by the end of June.

Maybe it's 13 years of losing that has lowered my standards. Maybe it's because I've seen far, far worse from this team (including last season). But this team does not make me despair. It gives me hope.

Heath Bintliff blogs about the Orioles at Dempsey's Army. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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