It’s been over a decade since the “Oriole Way” would lead us into spring. Baltimore has had a Super Bowl Champion, NCAA National Basketball Title, and this year will host the Baltimore Grand Prix. Baseball on the other hand, has been a lost and almost forgotten frustration.
Finally, now in 2011, baseball, more importantly the Orioles, are bringing the spring season into Baltimore. It actually has gotten to the point in this town, that trying to explain the Orioles past success to anyone under 20 years old was a complete waste of time. Baltimore, in the past ten or so years has bred more Yankee and Red Sox fans than Oriole fans. Now, with an NFL lockout looming, and the Terps heading to the NIT, Oriole baseball is both relevant and exciting.
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After a strong finish to the 2010 season, going 34-23 on young arms, and with a proven winner, Buck Showalter now steering the ship the Orioles caught the cities attention. All eyes were then on ownership and GM Andy MacPhail to deliver a successful off-season. They delivered big, with the addition of slugger Derrick Lee, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and with hard hitting (strikeout king) Mark Reynolds at third, a new look infield would be in place for now healthy second baseman Brian Roberts. They added Jeremy Accardo who had 30 saves in ’07, Kevin Gregg who had 37 saves last season with Toronto, and finalized returning closer Koji’s contract to sure up the bullpen. In addition to the returning young starters, MacPhail signed 2 time All Star and career 3.13 era starter Justin Duchscherer to a 1 year low risk contract. Duchscherer has issues staying healthy, but his upside is worth the small guarantee in the incentive heavy contract. To finish it all off, on Feb 4th they added a bat, not just any bat, career .318 hitter and perfect for the 4 spot, Vlad Guerrero. The front office came through big time, not just for the fans though, but for Buck as well. What incentive would there be for him to stay if management isn’t going to write some checks to improve their chances in the toughest division in Major League Baseball.
Now with spring training under way, and Grapefruit League games breaking in a brand new stadium, it really feels like the Orioles matter to Baltimore again. For once the predominate colors in this town are black and orange, and even though the team has to live up to expectations, watching the Orioles work towards an 82 win season will be pretty exciting for this long frustrated baseball loving city.