If anyone out there who reads this has known me for long enough they will most likely be shocked at the words that they are about to read: I am at a loss for words.
I, James Clayton Baker, have run out of things to say. Honestly, it has been difficult to write this winter. Since my last post, which ironically was one of the most popular posts I have ever made, the Orioles had a quiet offseason, spring training has begun, Baltimore experienced a useless un-snowy winter, my life as an educator continued to roll along, and I discovered the importance of the Oxford comma.
More importantly, I just haven't felt compelled to write recently. Yes, life has certainly gotten in the way and duties both personal and professional will always take precedence over that which is essentially a hobby. I never hoped to spin these internet ramblings into any sort paid gig or new career. Of course if the corporate hivemind over at MASN WANTED to give me my own weekly call in show – well I'm all ears. No, I started this on a whim in college and as I typed those words I just realized that was seven years ago. Which is probably the true source of my lack of production; how many times have I written essentially the same article over the last seven years?
Every year about this time I usually jot off some sort of missive defending the Orioles. The article would go on to say while they are most likely to finish in the bottom half of the division things could happen, things could not happen, things could change and the planets could align and the Orioles could do better. Different year, the same article. The names change, the numbers change but it is essentially the same thing.
I was hoping after the Orioles magical 2012 campaign that I might actually be able to write another type of article, I might not actually have to defend the Orioles. But no, of course. No one really believes the Orioles will do it again. And of course, they most likely won't with 29 one-run games. But that does not mean that they won't be a good team. The baseball world still does not believe the Orioles stand a chance. The projections are all awful, the pundits dismiss the team and the sabermetricians line up to pick apart any hope for a solid 2013.
They are all right, all the math work and it is not worth arguing numbers. Numbers always carry a certain amount of truth with them. Sure they can be picked, grouped, and presented in certain ways to advance a desired narrative. That might be cherry picking, that might be annoying, but it doesn't make it entirely untrue. The Orioles will not win that many one-run games; they will not win that many extra-inning games, and the bullpen will most likely not be as historically good as it was last year.
All of these things are undoubtedly true. But that doesn't mean that this team won't be good. I agree with manager Buck Showalter, no team gets that lucky over the course of an entire season. The 2012 Orioles played the game correctly, were managed brilliantly and found a way to win more often than not. And please let us just stop with this harebrained notion that the Orioles got every break. They lost Nick Markakis for 1/3 of the season, including September and all of the playoffs. They had injuries to key members of their starting rotation and Mark Reynolds definitely did not hit the 40 homer runs he was supposed to. So, no Virginia, not everything went perfectly well for the Orioles in 2012.
The Orioles' prospects in 2013 seem pretty solid. The Yankees are old, injured, old, declining, old, filled with holes, and of course old. The Red Sox will likely be better now that human loss-machine Bobby Valentine is gone and the Dodgers did them the single biggest solid in the history of baseball. The Rays will pitch effectively but their offense is going to be in real trouble. Then there are the Jays, the new darlings of the MLB. They have effectively cashed in their minor leagues to bring this team together – and we know how well that has worked out for the Sox, Angels, and Dodgers so far.
The AL East is in a very rare situation where literally every team can be part of a legitimate narrative that puts them in first place in September, at the same time there is a narrative that exists that puts every team in last place in September. If nothing else, the AL East should be quite the brawl all year. Adding to that the fact that there is a very real possibility that both wild cards could be coming out of the AL west due to the fact that the Houston Astros have decided to redefine the notion of futility.
I don't know what the next season will hold for the Orioles, all I do know is that it will prove to be interesting. I am looking forward to spending time at the ballpark again. I am looking forward to cheering for this team. I am looking forward to seeing "Wild Card 2012" stenciled somewhere in the park. I don't care how the Orioles got where they went in 2012, it happened and it can never be taken away. As for 2013, I hope the various organs of the baseball media complex continue to doubt this team I believe it fuels them. 2013 may no compare to 2012 but it will give me something to write about, that is for sure.