Baltimore Orioles a playoff contender? Why not?

If you’re an “older” Orioles fan, you probably remember the 1988 Orioles season. It started with a cataclysmic failure, beginning with an MLB-worst, 21-straight losses. The Orioles went on to finish 54-107, ending the season with a .335 winning percentage, an all-time franchise worst. And to make matters worse, their owner died in August that season.

Now, why would someone dig up past history that could possibly kick Orioles fans while they are down? To remember what happened in 1989. That Orioles season is remembered as the “why not?” year or the team of the “comeback kids.” The O’s rebounded from their dismal efforts in ’88 to finish 87-75 and were only a couple of games away from making the playoffs.

I bring this up today to ask the familiar question once more: Why not?

Maybe I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid, but I feel the Orioles have a legitimate shot at being a contender in the very short future. With a solid core of positional players such as J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, and a plethora of young arms, this team has potential to pull off a season like they had in 1989 or like the Rays had in 2008. That, or maybe our owner just needs to die so we can have a better season (just kidding).

The offense is a much more powerful threat than most people think. Hardy, Jones, Wieters, and Reynolds combined for 114 HRs last year. All four of these men are under the age of 30 and have tremendous upside. I also project a huge year out of Nolan Reimold, whom manager Buck Showalter has already voiced his opinion on wanting Reimold to be the team’s everyday left fielder. Last season in 87 games, Remiold batted .247 with 13 HRs and 45 RBIs (and scored the winning run during the last game of the season to eliminate the Red Sox from playoff contention). With increased playing time this year, Reimold should deliver a larger contribution and an increase in power numbers. Along with the continued growth of Weiters and Jones, this Orioles offense is poised for another strong showing.

The fate of this team, again, lies in the hands of its young arms. When Showalter took over the team in July of 2010, the Orioles had the worst record in MLB at 32-73. In the teams last 57 games, they finished with an AL best, 34-23. The reason for this surge was the increase performance by the young pitchers, such as Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.

This Orioles team is right on the brink of bringing back the glory days to Baltimore, where the beautiful Camden Yards will be at max-capacity and won’t be filled with Yankee and Red Sox fans.

If our young staff avoids another injury-plagued year like last year, and pitch like their showing at the end of 2010, this team will be in the hunt for October.

It’s been 14 seasons. I’m ready for some wins.

And I’ll ask again. Why not?

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