Baltimore Orioles Opening Day – The Hope of Spring


Apr 5, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles players and coaches line up before the game against the Minnesota Twins on opening day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

There is only one explanation as to how it can snow one day at the end of March with a howling cold wind, and then turn to the mid 60s the next day. Yes, the opening day of baseball season – the best day of the year.

Some people actually like winter and cold and snow and ice. I know it is true, but I’ll never understand it. As a child, I remember the first warmer days of spring and taking my baseball glove to school as the revival of hope that, yes, I was no longer locked up in a house! If you think about it, any weather that prevents playing baseball is bad weather! (Although truthfully, some of the coldest days of my life have been on a baseball field early in the season. I remember pitching in a college game in northern Pennsylvania and being unable to see my right fielder for several minutes – since he was completely engulfed in a white-out snow squall!)

Yes, spring is a season of hope and new life. Everyone begins with a record of 0-0 and all things seem possible. And with the Baltimore Orioles opening day, hopes are renewed again. Is it reasonable to have hope? I certainly think so. Could the Orioles actually win the AL East? Yes, it is possible, even if we admit that it is a tough thing to do in the best division in the game. Could they finish dead last in the AL East? I suppose it is possible, though less likely than the former – but maybe so many things could go wrong that it happens.

But hope is reasonable, no matter what the naysayers and alleged baseball experts around the country write about the Orioles. Dissing the Birds is an annual rite of spring – almost like sightings of the first robins in the yard. It will happen.

From just two years ago this week, at the beginning of a season where the Orioles finished 93-69, here are three samples of well-known baseball prognosticators’ pre-season writings about that Baltimore team …

–        The Orioles are such a bungled mess that we haven’t called them anything other than the OriLOLes for months.

–        The Orioles are still a directionless team with less-than-competent management and a meddling owner. Things may not get better for a long, long time.

–        The lowly Baltimore Orioles are firmly entrenched in the basement of the division and are hopeless. It’ll be at least a decade before they are able to come out.

Can you believe that? These are guys who got paid to write that stuff. So, after two very good seasons, it is certainly reasonable to at least project the Orioles as a serious contender, in spite of the continuous drivel about the weakness of the starting rotation.

Let me put it this way for you. There is no doubt that this 2013 team is an upgrade over the past two years. If we take the last 350 regular season games from the end of August of 2011 to the end of last year, here would be the results …

Tampa Bay     198-152

New York       194-156

Baltimore        192-158

Boston             173-177

Toronto           160-190

That is encouraging, and it is not something most baseball fans would expect to see – particularly that the New York Yankees have only won two more games than the Orioles over the past 350 regular season contests.

As more proof as to how far the Orioles have come, let’s compare this year’s opening lineup with that of just four years ago in 2010 (I have to take a guess on the exact lineup at the time that I write this).

PitcherKevin MillwoodChris Tillman
CatcherMatt WietersMatt Wieters
First BaseGarrett AtkinsChris Davis
Second BaseBrian RobertsJonathan Schoop
Third BaseMiguel TejadaRyan Flaherty
ShortstopCesar IzturisJ.J. Hardy
Left FieldFelix PieNelson Cruz
Center FieldAdam JonesAdam Jones
Right FieldNick MarkakisNick Markakis
Designated HitterLuke ScottDelmon Young

I am guessing on Schoop being in the lineup at second base, though I suppose he could be put at third with Steve Lombardozzi at second in light of Jon Lester pitching. Schoop would be the first rookie second baseman for the Orioles since Rich Dauer in 1977, and the youngest rookie starting the opener since some guy wearing #8 started at shortstop in 1982.

Lester is 15-3 lifetime against the Orioles, though the Birds got to him pretty good last year. And Nelson Cruz is 10-for-22 with two homers against him. Delmon Young is only 7-for-34 with no extra-base hits, and Steve Pearce is 1-for-8 … so yes, Lester is tough. Yet again, Matt Wieters is 15-for-48 (.341).

Play ball!