Nick Markakis: “I want to be here for the good times”

Orioles fans have head to deal with 14 consecutive years of losing. No players have had to deal with all that losing, but Nick Markakis has been a part of the organization for the last nine seasons.

Markakis was a first-round draft pick in 2003. How has the losing impacted him and his career?

“This is where I started, this is the team that drafted me and brought me through the minors,” Markakis said. “I’m completing my sixth year now (in the majors). I’ve been here through the tough times, I’ve been here through a lot of tough times. That’s part of committing to an organization like that.

“But I see the future, I see what’s coming and what we have. We are not too far away. I want to be here for the good times.”

Markakis said his take on the O’s 69-win season is probably the same as yours.

“Probably just like everybody else’s. It’s had its ups and downs. But we’ve added some pieces here towards the end and it’s only going to help us in the long run. They made some good trades, got some good guys and it’s a building block for next year.” he said.

Markakis hit .284 this year with 31 doubles, 15 homers, 73 RBIs and a .756 OPS. He played in at least 160 games for the fourth time in the last five years and the one season that he came up short of that he played 157 games in 2008.

Despite all the losing he’s experienced, he said it’s not difficult to stay upbeat.

“That’s probably the easy part, always being positive. I’ve had the opportunity to play with some really good teammates and really good baseball players. Guys like (Miguel) Tejada. That guy over there, (Vladimir) Guerrero. He’s unbelievable to watch how he approaches the game, before the game, after the game. He’s the best. I played with (Aubrey) Huff. You learn something new every year and staying positive is the number one thing. You can’t get down on yourself,” he said.

After a brutally slow start, Markakis put up better stats later in the year. He had an OPS of just .561 in April and .708 in May, but over the last four months, it was .830, .805, .776 and .845.

He averaged one double every 33.4 at-bats before the All-Star break and one every 13.7 at-bats after.

“Statistics, they are just a number. To be honest, statistics is the last thing on my mind. We have a lot of other things around here to worry about besides people’s statistics,” Markakis said.

“Hitting-wise, we can compete with anybody. We have a good lineup. Just a few things we need to figure out. Our young pitchers know what it takes to pitch up here now. They’ve seen it. They’ve had a reality check. It should motivate them to get things going next year. They’ve got the talent and potential. All the bumps in the road are out of the way hopefully and we’ll now see their true talent.”

So does he believe that pitching is the club’s top offseason priority?

“Pitching and defense, that’s what baseball is. If you’ve got good pitching and defense and an offense that can score some runs in certain situations, that’s what baseball is all about. It starts with pitching and defense and everything else is just a bonus,” he said.

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