Two consecutive last-place finishes in the American League East. Regression from 68-93 to 64-98. The worst team in the league. The third-worst team in the majors. Twelve straight losing seasons. Twelve straight stinkin’, forgettable seasons!
The Orioles play in the last of the 2010 season openers Tuesday night at Tampa Bay. Its 25-man roster was finalized on Saturday. Here’s my take on it (everyday starters in CAPS).
Starting Pitchers (in rotation order): Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergeson, David Hernandez – I am optimistic about the back three of the rotation. Bergeson needs to stay healthy; after a line drive to the shin ended his season prematurely last July 30, he nearly got maimed by his own ballclub trying to film one of its television commercials in early-December. The only starter that frustrates the crap out of me is “Bug” Guthrie. His inactivity during last year’s World Baseball Classic turned him into a pitching eunuch, and his addiction to giving up walks continued into this spring. I call him “Bug” because he’s a dead ringer for Lux’s boyfriend in The CW series Life Unexpected. Strangely the character’s name is Bobby Guthrie! Having Millwood & Guthrie atop the rotation does take some of the pressure off the three youngsters. Opening the season on Tuesday as opposed to Monday also helps.
Bullpen: Matt Albers, Jason Berken, Mark Hendrickson, Cla Meredith, Will Ohman, Jim Johnson (setup), Mike Gonzalez (closer) – THOU SHALL NOT WALK BATTERS! During the last twelve campaigns, the bullpen has helped opposing teams form moving conga lines around the basepaths. Unfortunately this year’s first version looks like mystery meat; we just don’t know what we’re getting. JJ returns to setup duty after failing miserably as a closer. Will “Damien the” Ohman gives me the creeps. If there’s one thing I’m sick & tired of is seeing the Orioles persist in picking up Cubs rejects.
Catchers: MATT WIETERS, Craig Tatum – I’m loving what I’m seeing here. Wieters still needs to work on preventing wild pitches & passed balls from getting by him. Tatum is an upgrade from Chad Moeller, who was absolutely incapable of throwing out opposing baserunners.
Outfielders: FELIX PIE, ADAM JONES, NICK MARKAKIS, Nolan Reimold, Luke Scott – Jones needs to stay healthy. Other than that, he & Markakis are a good foundation for the outfield. Reimold’s left Achilles tendon problems helped Pie earn his starting spot after the latter batted .342 with a .419 on-base percentage this spring. If Pie is to stay in the lineup, he cannot afford to revert to boneheaded defensive blunders and recklessly undisciplined swinging at the plate. I still much prefer Reimold. I love it when he plays in a rage. A streaky bat prevents “Gunner” Scott from being a starter, but he hasn’t embarrassed himself. A good player off the bench.
Infielders: GARRETT ATKINS, BRIAN ROBERTS, MIGUEL TEJADA, CESAR IZTURIS, Julio Lugo, Ty Wigginton – Atkins is a good situational hitter who will do well at first. Beyond that, the left & middle sides of the infield are the worst in the majors. Tejada, a B-12 addict with credibility issues, will look like Matthew Perry doing his best impression of Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure. Both Roberts & Izturis lost too many games for the Orioles by constantly committing mental mistakes that gave opposing teams extra outs with which to work. Lugo is better than Izturis, so why is he not starting? Robert Andino was designated for assignment on Saturday, but I expect another team to claim him off waivers. When that happens, the mistake is going to come back and bite The Good Guys in the buttocks. Wigginton played second better than Roberts this spring, so why is he not starting? One infield position Wigginton should never play is at first, where he has proven to be utterly useless. Reimold took grounders at first on Sunday; a possible shift to the new position has “success” written all over it…just as long as Pie can do his job properly in left.
Conclusion: Never mind Evil Inc., the Boston Baddies & the Rays. How can the Orioles expect to leap over the Blue Jays in the standings if they can’t beat them? They haven’t had a winning record against “The Bad Birds” since 2004 (11-8). It’s been 40-52 ever since. That’s the first barometer of Orioles progress at which I’ll be looking. Hate to state the obvious, but it’s going to be another long season again. It won’t be long until Trembley is relieved of his duties.