Greetings, MASNsports.com readers. On behalf of the Fansided Network and our great staff of writers at Birds Watcher, it's an honor to be back with you for the 2013 season. With the season beginning in earnest tomorrow afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla., the big lingering question regarding the Orioles is whether or not they can repeat their successes from 2012.
Before getting into that question, it's worth mentioning as a disclaimer that we have no clue what wild cards (is the use of that term possibly a harbinger of what's to come?) will be in store for the team this coming season. We don't know what injury problems the O's will have, who will step up in place of injured players, etc. That all makes a difference. All analysts agree that the American League East is the toughest division to predict this year, given the composition of the division from top to bottom. So is there anything that could separate the men from the boys?
I would submit that the Orioles have a leg up on the competition in at least one major area: the dugout. Buck Showalter finished second in the AL Manager of the Year voting for 2012; while the case for Bob Melvin was equally strong, many people in Baltimore felt that Showalter got somewhat cheated. And perhaps justifiably so, given the Orioles' expectations going into last year. Let's never forget that these are the "Fighting Showalters."
In past years, when the Orioles would get down early in games, we'd see them simply fold up and go home. Granted, they probably didn't have the manpower at the time to fight back, but they also didn't have the heart. Showalter brought that to the organization, and we saw it on display last season in the multiple one-run wins, the various dramatic victories and the overall attitude of the club.
We began to hear about how they played to the final out so often that Orioles fans themselves started to laugh a bit when the issue came up. Even in that final loss to New York in the playoffs last year, the O's managed to get the tying run on base in the ninth. That attitude itself is as Baltimorean as ESSKAY hot dogs and Natty Boh. Just ask the defenders of Fort McHenry in 1814 - did they give up?
It's not about just not giving up, but perhaps more generally it's about having an attitude of professionalism about yourself each day when you come to the ballpark. That's what Showalter brought to this franchise in August 2010. We saw it simmer a bit in 2011 and come out in full force that September, only to really blossom in 2012. While holding players accountable for themselves on the field, Showalter has also created a family-like environment in the clubhouse. The guys feel like they belong and they actually want to be there together.
Do these qualities in and of themselves equal world championships? Absolutely not. However, they lay a good foundation, and the rest is up to the players.
Obviously, the team in the AL East everyone is watching is the Toronto Blue Jays. Admittedly, it's tough to pick against them with the wholesale upgrades they made in the offseason. However, almost every national analyst I've heard talk about them mentions that their success is contingent on guys meshing well together in the clubhouse. Again, the O's already have a leg up on the competition in that regard, something that is attributable to Showalter.
I'm not sure that anyone could replicate the ride on which the Orioles took Baltimore in 2012. In saying that, I mean that if the same scenarios unfolded in the next six months, it would be much more expected than it was last year. However, it was only unexpected on the part of the fans; the team knew what it was capable of doing. And that's all because of William Nathaniel Showalter.
This spring, summer and, hopefully, autumn, Orioles fans will all consider themselves citizens of 2110 Eutaw Street, they'll all take trips into the Camden Yards bleachers with Adam Jones and Chris Davis home run balls, and they'll all block the plate along with Matt Wieters. While 2012 is now in the past, it's up to the players to make 2013 just as memorable. However, as the season begins, let the mantra be the same: In Buck we trust.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.