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Playing Pepper 2009: Baltimore Orioles

Posted on February 9, 2009 at 11:30 AM
Filed Under: Baltimore Orioles | Playing Pepper
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posed them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

When I think of the Orioles, I often think of the line from George Will's masterpiece Men At Work.

"The jalopy that left St. Louis turned into a Rolls Royce."

There's no doubt that the Orioles have had much more success in Baltimore than they ever did being the Browns in St. Louis.  That said, it was 1997 the last time they made the playoffs and, in the increasingly difficult AL East, there's not necessarily a break in the clouds coming.

I posed some questions to Anthony from Oriole Post and this is what he had to say about the coming year and playing against the big boys.

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C70: Will Brian Roberts finish the year in Baltimore?

OP: Good question.

If this was before Christmas, I would have said he would be traded--now the answer is no.  In the past few weeks, Brian has shown a willingness to stay in Baltimore as his representation and the Oriole front office along with Andy McPhail are actively working to extend his deal.

Roberts has said that he would not be willing to have contract discussions after a certain point in Spring Training to focus on baseball.  Considering the market for players and the economy, Brian may find it in his best interest to stay in Baltimore.

He's a popular face among fans and is highly regarded in the community, so seeing him traded would be a tremendous blow to many.

His trade value right now is not as high as it was in 2008; therefore, I think he will start with the Orioles.

I am betting that he will remain in Baltimore, but if he's not inked to a deal by Opening Day, I think the scenario changes.

C70: What's the general fanbase opinion of Peter Angelos?

OP: Right now, it's not good.

Of course, since the team has not had a winning record in 11 years, he's being beat up--deserved or not.  The Orioles have been plagued by bad drafts, poor player development and free agents that have not worked out.  However, since he's the owner and the man at the helm of the team, he gets the blame.

Many have also felt that Angelos has meddled in many deals that might have helped the team and, combined with everything else, he's seen as a pariah and will go down as killing baseball in Baltimore.

For that perception to change, the Orioles need to win, plain and simple.  Bringing in Andy MacPhail to run the team has been a step in the right direction.

C70: What are the expectations of fans, given the division in which the Orioles play?

OP:  I can't speak for everyone, but I want to see improvement and commitment to a plan. No one expects Baltimore to contend, and most are realistic--it may be a while before the team finally turns the corner.

Right now, the Orioles have to look up at the Yankees, Red Sox, the Jays--who seem to hang around the .500 mark all year--and the AL Champions, the Rays.  Although some have not seen a lot of benefits to the moves that Baltimore has made in the offseason, I think things are headed in the right direction.

Anything can happen in baseball, but it would be a fantasy to expect them to compete in that division.  Most are expecting a last place finish, but Markakis and Roberts should be solid, and we need Huff and Mora to maintain their form from '08.  Also, can Jones develop even more, and is Pie the real thing?

The offense was in the middle of scoring in the AL last season, but the biggest concern is the starting pitching by far.

The rotation may be the most important storyline heading into the season as only two men--Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara--are penciled in.  Everyone else, from Rich Hill (from the Cubs) to Mark Hendrickson to Radhames Liz, will probably have to compete for a job as a starter.  The bullpen should be fine if Chris Ray and Danys Baez can bounce back from injury, if Jamie Walker can be effective as a lefty, and if George Sherrill can be a stopper.

Eyes will also be on James Johnson to see if he can avoid the sophomore slump.

How Baltimore does down the road will depend on how the young talent--specifically Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and a handful of others--develop over time.  If they reach the majors, we might have a realistic view as to how MacPhail has done in his Baltimore tenure.

C70: Will Matt Wieters be the Opening Day catcher and, if so, what should we expect from him in 2009?

OP: Unless Matt Wieters is the next coming of Babe Ruth, no.  The Orioles seem to want him to start off in the minors, get comfortable calling a game, and get his feet wet in Triple-A before he comes to Baltimore.

It's a foregone conclusion he'll be an Oriole in 2009, but the team signed veteran Gregg Zaun to probably be the starting catcher for Opening Day, but when Wieters comes up, he'll be his mentor.

Pretty much all of baseball knows that Wieters is a special talent and, barring injury, people will be looking forward to seeing him in his major league debut.

C70: What was the general fan opinion of the Felix Pie trade?

OP: Overwhelmingly positive.  Pie, I felt, did not get a fair shake in Chicago (it's not the place for on-the-job training, anyway) and being that he was out of minor league options, they moved on from him and MacPhail swooped in and took him.  Everything on Pie will hinge on whether he can hit major league pitching; however, he's a gifted athlete and will help give the Orioles one of the best defensive outfields in the league.

The Orioles will let him play as much as he can.  Unless he is abysmal, I think you'll see him in the lineup often.

Thanks to Anthony for the great answers.  It's got to be tough sometimes to get out to Camden Yards (can you believe it's been 17 years since that place opened?) and see a team that is going to struggle just to see .500.  It sounds like there is some help in the pipeline, though, and the young birds may be fun to watch over the next few years.

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