Baltimore Orioles Thanksgiving: Fewer Turkeys in the Yard


Sep 16, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles clinch the AL East championship after a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Jays 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

For a lot of years with the Baltimore Orioles, the honest fan knew that though there were some fine players on the field, frankly a lot of the positions were being filled by retreads and wannabes until such time as the hope-to-bes came up through the minors. Unfortunately, many of those alleged “cavalrymen just over the horizon” turned out to be donkey-riding reinforcements who were shooting water pistols and spitballs (like out of a straw, not like the kind thrown by Preacher Roe or Gaylord Perry!).

And it wasn’t just the players on the field, there was a palpable sense in interviews with managers and coaches that they really had no idea what to do to make their diverse rosters into any sort of winning outfit.

But that has all changed, and on this Thanksgiving Day, tying together the spirit of the day with the greatest of sports, Orioles fans can be thankful that the turkeys are pretty much gone from the Orioles lineups and rosters and coaching staff. We’ll let those former turkeys remain nameless, but we can be thankful for the following legitimate elements of the 96-win 2014 Baltimore Orioles …

A Legitimate Closer – Most of you reading this are more recent to our blog’s growing following and have probably not been around long enough to remember my regular distaste and rants about the entire notion of needing a “closer.”  It is great to have a closer if you have a legitimate ninth-inning guy who can be counted upon 90% or more of the time to get the job done. I believe there are single digit numbers of such players in MLB each year, and trying to designate one pitcher as such when there really isn’t one on your roster is a prescription for regular disasters. The Orioles have a legit closer in Zach Britton.

A Legitimate Rotation – After years and years of having to turn to what Showalter called “the next man standing,” the Orioles in 2014 had a legitimate regular rotation. Throw out one start by McFarland, and the O’s only used six starters – all six of which are presumably (apart from a trade) returning in 2015. The Orioles gave up a total of 593 runs this past year. The last time they allowed less than even 700 runs was in the playoffs year of 1997, yielding 681. This is quite a dramatic accomplishment that accrues especially to the starters, though also to the great success of the bullpen.

A Legitimate Defense – Though it was not as good as 2013, which was an all-time record year for a baseball team’s defense, the Orioles are characterized by their ability to catch the ball and minimize damage. When one watches most of the O’s games over the course of a season and sees the lack of defensive prowess that is common to so many other teams, the abilities of the Baltimore fielders are more greatly appreciated.

A Legitimate Manager – I have joined with every other regular Orioles columnist is singing the praises of Buck Showalter. The 2014 Manager of the Year’s record now with the Orioles is a combined total of 377-328 (.535), but if you take out the transitional year of 2011 (69-93) his record his 308-235 (.567). But more than simply the final numbers, it is clear that Buck is a superior baseball guy than those who came before him in Baltimore; and he is a match for anyone across the field in the opposite dugout.

A Legitimate Offensive Threat – Though the Orioles are often a one-dimensional team of power hitters, it is a formidable offence in any game. They are never out of it, and the opposition can never really relax with a lead. The O’s have become like the Yankees in the sense that, though they may not win every game that they trail going into the final inning, they are almost certain to put someone on base and make a run at it. There is little break anywhere in any Baltimore lineup.

A Legitimate Winning Team – Prior to finishing two games back in 2012 and making the playoffs as a wildcard team, until that point in the 21st century the Baltimore Orioles were averaging a final finish of 29 games out of first place! It is so terribly difficult for fans in two other east coast cities to come to grips with the fact that the Baltimore Orioles are every bit as good, and likely better, than their high-priced teams and franchises. But it is true.

Putting all of this together as an Orioles fan, there is much to be thankful for, and much to anticipate.