A new baseball season dawns, and it all feels so different for the Orioles and their fans this time around.
Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., today, but this time the O’s are coming off a 93-win season in which they made it to the American League Division Series.
They probably won’t duplicate the astounding 2012 numbers they put up in extra-inning games (16-2) and one-run games (29-9). But this is a club with a solid everyday lineup and a terrific bullpen. And if the starting pitching holds up – I know, you can say that about every team – the Orioles should contend again for the AL East title.
I criticized executive vice-president Dan Duquette last month for not doing enough in the offseason to strengthen the team and capitalize on the renewed energy of their fan base. And I still think he should have gone after a power bat and a first baseman -- better yet, a slugging first baseman -- in his relentless quest to again sign “under-valued assets,” which translates to “players off the scrap heap who might help us.”
But it’s hard to argue with Duquette’s success in mining the scrap heap last season. And apparently the Orioles are comfortable going into the new season with Adam Jones (32 home runs, 82 RBIs in 2012), Matt Wieters (23 HR, 83 RBIs) and Chris Davis (33 HR, 85 RBIs) in the 4, 5, 6 holes in the batting order.
But you can’t tell me a team with the Orioles’ money couldn’t have added even more pop to the lineup and positioned itself even better to compete in a rugged division.
Now we’ll see how Davis does at first base, too. The plan is to work him there for an entire spring training and hope he plays better than he did last season, when he often struggled and looked hesitant. But Davis came to the Orioles with the rep of being an above-average first baseman, so maybe he’ll revert back to form and that won’t be a problem.
The point is, the Orioles had a chance in the offseason to address both the hole in the middle of their lineup and the first base issues and they didn’t. So at least for now, they have to live with the consequences.
You just hope none of it comes back to haunt them.