Domenic Vadala: Are Orioles the best team in AL East?

I spoke last night with a friend of mine who’s one of these people who takes and analyzes everything literally. I might also throw in that this guy is not in any way, shape or form, a baseball person. His opinion of baseball is that the pitcher throws, and the batter hits and runs. According to him it’s that simple. Luckily we all know better.

In fairness, when this person mentioned that he watched yesterday’s series finale with Boston, he said that he was impressed with the Orioles. I obviously concurred, and I told him that I felt the Orioles were the best team in the American League East. Again, being a literal interpreter, he said that Boston was the better team since their record was better.

Let’s face it: In some cases, records do in fact matter. In 2009, the Orioles swept the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park over a weekend. The Phillies would go on to fall to the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic that year. So were the 2009 Orioles better than the Phillies since they swept them? To be blunt, no, they weren’t.

However, that’s comparing apples and oranges to the Orioles and Red Sox, who just completed a four-game series at Camden Yards in which the O’s won three games. In my friend’s view, Boston is still 1 1/2 games ahead of the Orioles, therefore they’re a better team. So does that mean that if the O’s win two in Detroit and Boston loses their next two, the Orioles are suddenly then a better team?

When teams are stacked as close together as the AL East teams are, records don’t indicate who’s a better team. If you look at both teams, top to bottom, Boston might have an advantage at second base and left field (only because the Orioles are platooning in left, for the most part). Having said that, I do think Boston’s rotation is more solid than that of the Orioles, but I think we found out this weekend that the Orioles bullpen is still one of the best in baseball if used right.

I would also give Boston an edge at DH - assuming that we’re talking about pure hitting skill. David Ortiz will probably go down as one of the best hitters in baseball history, but I saw something out of him yesterday that really frosted me. Ortiz went 0-for-4, but he never touched first base once. I only counted once where Ortiz actually started his slow trot to first base. However once the ball was caught or fielded, he’d stop (if he started at all) and walk back to the dugout - slowly. I understand that he’s older and that he’s trying to avoid injury. However, it’s one thing not to run a ball out; it’s another not to run at all. That type of thing would never stand in Baltimore. In my opinion, it shows a lack of heart and a lack of respect for your opponents and teammates.

The same can be said of John Lackey, who won Boston’s lone game in the series. When Dustin Pedroia committed an error in Saturday’s game, MASN replays caught Lackey throwing his arms up in frustration. That type of thing really strikes me, and it strikes me hard. I’m cut from the mold of “you never throw a teammate under the bus.” While Lackey didn’t call anyone out in public or anything along those lines, his body language told us all that we needed to know.

My point here is not to bash the Red Sox, because I feel that they have a lot on which to hang their hats in 2013. However, I feel that the Orioles currently have a slightly better team on the field, and as a result of the fact that they hustle, play the game the right way, and don’t call each other out, they’re a better sum-of-the-parts unit than the Red Sox.

Manny Machado potentially cost Miguel Gonzalez eight or nine pitches yesterday when he committed an error at the hot corner. You didn’t see Gonzalez indicate his disappointment in any way. The same is true with the entire team in the wake of Alexi Casilla’s baserunning blunder Saturday. Mutual respect brings a team closer together and makes them more of a team. However, if you ask my friend, he’ll tell you that the records will always tell you who’s better. But as a student of the game and a student of sports overall, I think I know just a little bit better.

Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of’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 but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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