Friday is Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles. It is also the 20th anniversary of one of the best stadiums in all of baseball. Right hander Jake Arrieta will be on the mound for the O’s as they face off against the Minnesota Twins and look to improve upon the 69-93 record they managed in 2011.
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The one great thing about the spring is that hope is in the air, even for a team like Baltimore, a team that has been in last place each of the last four seasons, and has not finished over .500 since they went 98-64 back in 1997, but let’s not harp on the negatives…although I would greatly appreciate if you didn’t ask for the positives.
There are a few positives. The Orioles will kick off their 2012 season by presenting Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters the Gold Gloves they earned in 2011—the first for each of them. Center fielder Adam Jones snagged a Gold Glove in 2009, and before that you have to go back to 1999, when Mike Mussina received one and quickly decamped for the New York Yankees.
To help fans think about better times, the Orioles will have former pitcher Rick Sutcliffe throw out the first pitch to Orioles Hall of Fame catcher Chris Hoiles. Sutcliffe was the first Orioles pitcher to step on the hill at Camden Yards back in 1992, and he did so in style by throwing a five hit shutout as Baltimore won 2-0 over the Cleveland Indians. Singing the National Anthem is tenor Rolando Sanz, and if he can come anywhere close to the job Richard Troxell does when he sings the Anthem, then we should all be in for a treat.
Baltimore finished the spring with an 11-13 record, and so far, they seem ready, or at least about as ready as an Oriole team could be. Adam Jones had a monster spring, hitting .321 with four home runs and 12 runs batted in while Endy Chavez led all hitters with a .444 average.
The Orioles pitching doesn’t look too shabby right now. Brian Matusz threw a team high 24.2 innings and had a very good ERA of 3.65 while striking out 22 and walking only three—but there is some concern there, as the lefty gave up a lot of hits, with enemy batters hitting .293 against him.
Newly acquired Jason Hammel looked good as well, posting a 3.18 ERA and striking out 17 hitters in 17 innings.
As for their outlook for 2012, well, let’s just say I’d have a better shot of dating Scarlett Johansson than the O’s do winning the AL East, but crazier things have happened. Seriously though, Scarlett, I’m free this weekend if you want to do dinner.
The AL East is tough, but whatever you do, though, please don’t give the excuse, “Well, they play in the AL East, there’s no way they can win.” Try telling that to the Tampa Bay Rays. Many people questioned Peter Angelos bringing in Dan Duquette to run baseball operations (and let’s be honest, I think we all have the right to question anything he does) but personally, I’m a fan of Double D, and I think he will do a great job in Baltimore, but let’s temper our expectations. Rome wasn’t built overnight, although something tells me they would have had a lot more to show for 15 years of work than the O’s have had for their last decade and a half. If only the Orioles had been maintained as well as Camden Yards.
As for a prediction for this year, .500 is a dream, and a long shot at that. Almost as nice as hanging out with the afore mentioned Ms. Johansson. But hey, Scarlett, I know a great place to get some crabcakes with plenty of beer on tap. Give me a call.
by Andy Mindzak