It’s been 11 full seasons since the Baltimore Orioles last finished with a plus .500 record and we all remember what happened that year.
In 2009, it’s going to take more than Jeffrey Maier to end the 11 season losing streak. The additions of Cesar Izturis, Felix Pie, Rich Hill, Ty Wigginton and others should help, as the Orioles have brought in better pieces than they’ve lost. There still is no big free agent signee or blockbuster deal to move the Orioles back into AL East contention, but topping 68 wins shouldn’t be a major obstacle.
As mentioned, the O’s front office has been busy bringing in some help to the AL East’s worst team last year. Wigginton, Izturis and Gregg Zaun should be impact help at least in the sense of keeping the ship heading the right direction. Then you add
Wieters is viewed by many as the odds-on favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year, so long as he gets ample playing time for the 09 O’s, Wieters could be a big help. Of course Baltimore management must decide whether or not throwing the rookie into the fire-waters of the AL East in a sure-bet 5th place finish is really worth it this year. (Trivia question: Who was the last Oriole to win Rookie of the Year? Answer later)
The pitching staff is as much of a question mark as it was last year. Jeremy Guthrie is expected to be a solid #1, although he may not even be a #2 anywhere else in the division. He’s likely followed up by Koji Uehera, Chris Waters, Rich Hill and Radhames Liz. Barring a couple of breakout seasons by some of these guys, the O’s bullpen is going to have a lot of innings to eat in 2009. Throw in the question of who closes (Chris Ray or George Sherrill) and this staff is going to be pieced together throughout the year.
The last time the Orioles had an 11 season losing streak, it ended with a 76-76 record prior to having two more losing seasons to make a disturbing 14 seasons of .500 or lower baseball (1946-1959: 1946-1953 as the St. Louis Browns). Knowing who the Orioles compete against in the AL East, it’s not out of the question to believe 3 more losing seasons are ahead before seeing some real positives.
Gregg Olson played just six seasons in Baltimore before becoming a game-used batting practice pitcher for Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Houston, Minnesota, Kansas City (again), Arizona and Los Angeles before retiring in 2001. In his six years in Baltimore, Olson was an All-Star quality closer, earning 160 saves in five full seasons. Here’s to hoping Wieters ends up with a career more inline with Baltimore’s 1982 ROY, some guy named Ripken.
The Bottom Line
Orioles fans know it’s an uphill battle and even a couple more wins plus solid performances by Wieters and the pitching staff could go a long way in determining what the Baltimore brass does next offseason as far as bringing in some higher-paid talent. Another losing season is all but etched in stone, but inching closer to 80 wins even in this division could be a fun hope based on this team pulling some kind of feat like either Florida team did last year.
Even with the upgrades at SS, 3B and P, the O’s won’t win more than 70 games this year. It looks more like a repeat performance with better numbers to back it up.
68-92; 5th place AL East.
Photos: Jeffrey Maier (photobucket); Matt Wieters (MLB.com); Gregg Olson (photobucket)