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The cartoon bird will look better if the Orioles win

A week after Dan Duquette was named executive vice president of baseball operations, the Orioles on Tuesday announced the addition of an oversized Oriole for the 2012 season. Unfortunately, it was not Prince Fielder.

The Orioles are bringing back the cartoon bird, which was thought to be extinct after the team went with an ornithologically-correct oriole instead of the cartoon logo on their caps after the ill-fated 1988 season. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters rocked the cartoon bird on his catching helmet in 2011. Now it’s no longer a throwback.

The team also revealed alternative orange home jerseys, its special Camden Yards 20th anniversary patch and other subtle details that Orioles beat reporter and fashion critic Dan Connolly wrote about in this story.

I love talking about sports uniforms as much as the next guy -- as evidenced by the not one, but two stories on the Maryland-Notre Dame “Ugly Bowl” that ran in the paper last week -- but I can’t take off my cynic’s hat just because the Orioles dusted off the cartoon bird and will be sporting orange for Saturday home games.

“Any time you make a change, you have an element of detractors that are cynical as far as why a change is made,” Orioles director of communications Greg Bader told Connolly. “But there is nothing behind the change other than a desire to provide fans with a look that we think they like and a look that the ballclub is proud of.”

This is a good P.R. move for sure, though it will look better if the Orioles bring back their winning ways, too.

I said the same thing a couple of years ago when the team announced it would be putting “Baltimore” back on its road grays. I’ll admit now that I didn’t fully understand the history there. I was new on the Baltimore sports scene and didn’t realize how much it meant for older fans who didn’t care for the club’s attempt to be a “regional” team. But my point was that the uniform change was a temporary distraction from reality.

I also understand now how refreshing that temporary distraction can be during a decade and a half of losing.

But the Orioles have serious work to do this winter, and hopefully this isn’t the last major announcement they make in the next few months. Duquette has already said that it is unlikely the Orioles will be serious players for Fielder and the other top free agents on the market. As much as I would like to see him bring in a big-ticket player to throw the fans a bone -- one bigger than new caps -- it’s probably the smart way to go.

Somehow, though, Duquette has to make the on-field product better in 2012 so folks will be in the stands at Camden Yards to appreciate the team’s new threads. After that, the former Montreal and Boston G.M. can turn his focus to the biggest challenge: stocking the farm system with talent and develop prospects into assets.

If Duquette can do that, maybe the Orioles will celebrate a winning season before their next wardrobe change.

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