Well the title says it. It's going to be another battle with the big boys of the East. The Yanks and the Red Sox are loaded, and it's going to be bloody before it's over. As usual, as I see all my friends and O's fans this time of year, they want to know what I think about the club. What are our chances?
Others might say "Oh no, here we go again," but as most of you know, I am the eternal optimist. I see what the Orioles are capable of doing and always expect that there will be changes that catch everyone by surprise. Put aside the obvious in this division when you look at the teams on paper. You may not see a comparison, but I do. Realistically, depth and defense are our dilemma. Can we survive it? Of course! How? Stay healthy and focus. Easily said - not as easily done.
Health has been an issue for as long as I can remember. Keeping a solid lineup in there consistently enough to develop a confident chemistry that will spur the images of Orioles Magic hasn't been easy.
Depth is having that awaiting talent on the bench and in the bullpen that can come in and make miracles happen. The Terry Crowleys, Jim Dwyers, John Lowensteins, and Sammy Stewarts were guys like that who provided O's fans and this organization with unbelievable feats.
Focus is understanding how important it is to play every game like it's your last one. Make no mistakes; make the routine plays; save outs for the pitcher; stay connected to everyone around you; play together; watch everything your opponent does; out-work them; out-hustle them, never give up and never give in.
Let's take a look now at what we do have to look forward to and what the team has to build on for the season.
I see our outfield as potentially the best in the Majors. All four players are the full package. Markakis, Jones, Reimold and Pie have the highest ceiling of any team in baseball. I see possibly 400 RBIs total (if all stay healthy). And the defense is going to be the best the Orioles have ever had.
Eventually, I see Nolan Reimold as the first to hit 40 HRs - with Jones hot on his tail. Nick will be Nick - solid as a rock. Pie is the interesting one. As Simon Cowell would say on American Idol, "He doesn't even know how good he is." Pie has the speed to be a top base stealer, enough power to be a factor, and based on his improving offensive mechanics and knowledge of the game, he can be the biggest surprise in all of baseball.
Now for a little personal touch. I think it's possible to see Pie as a future leadoff hitter here because of his potential to have a very high OBP (a lot of infield hits).
I'm not discarding Roberts at al, but I do very much like Roberts' veteran ability to hit with men on base as a potentially better no. 3 hitter - with a stronger HRish Markakis getting better pitches to hit with Roberts in front and Tejada/Wieters behind.
Wieters will have a huge hill to climb with all the attention that he gets. Along with his tremendous physical talents, I wouldn't worry about him though. His ceiling is so high, but even better, his mental capabilities can more than handle anything he has to endure.
I'm getting long winded by now, but next week we'll talk more about our pitching, and based on catching so many great ones, what I think about our future on the mound.
Let me just say what I have always said about a few: When I first met Matusz in A-ball last year, I told him he could pitch in the ML right then, and he proved me right. Bergesen, I've said, could be one of the best sinkerball pitchers in the game - right again. Play some defense behind them and they will win big. Hope I'm right again.
By the way, I might add - and obviously it doesn't take a genius to figure it out - It's great to be back and I look forward to hearing from all of you this season.