Orioles Seek To Make Impression In A Football Town
BALTIMORE (AP) — That other team in Baltimore can’t catch a break.
The Orioles on Saturday held an event designed to create a buzz about the club before spring training begins next month.
Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been much worse. Not only was city awash in purple on the eve of the Ravens’ appearance in the AFC championship game, but it also snowed overnight.
In spite of all this, thousands of fans crowded the Baltimore Convention Center to listen to the Orioles’ front-office personnel and players speak optimistically about a franchise mired in a run of 14 straight losing seasons.
During the offseason, Dan Duquette, the new executive vice president of baseball operations, bolstered the starting rotation with Wei-yin Chen of Taiwan and Tsuyoshi Wada of Japan. He also added depth in the outfield and infield.
And he isn’t done yet.
“We’re going to continue to look for additional on-base capability and some more pitching,” Duquette said. “But I like the core. I like the way our team is coming along, and certainly we’re going to look to add between now and when we open.”
Duquette understands that it’s going to take a winner to draw some attention away from the Ravens, but he appreciated the enthusiastic greeting he received from the fans Saturday and was impressed by the size of the throng.
“I’m heartened that we have so many people here today,” he said. “I’m really encouraged by our fans. They’ve told me, ‘Give us some hope’ and `Give us a good team,’ and that’s what we’re going to do this year.”
A Massachusetts native, Duquette worked for the Red Sox before being fired in 2002. Asked who he was rooting for in Sunday’s AFC showdown between the Ravens and New England Patriots, he wisely answered, “It’s going to be a great game, isn’t it?”
Manager Buck Showalter has been at the helm for 1 1/2 years and has not yet been able to pull the Orioles out of last place in the AL East. He made no guarantees for this season, but likes the makeup of the team compared to what it was in September.
“It’s always a work in progress, but I look at the upgrades we’ve made in the 40-man roster in about 10 or 15 spots,” he said. “I really like what we’ve done in the international market. And there a bunch of things still going on that we’ll continue to kick the tires on.”
The Orioles have an opening at designated hitter, a job Vladimir Guerrero held last season. Guerrero hasn’t been invited back, and Luke Scott left for Tampa Bay. If the Orioles don’t get anyone else, Showalter wouldn’t blink.
“If the right guy rears his head, we’ll go there,” he said. “But I like where we are. I look at that as almost an asset. It allows us to move people around and stay healthy.”
In 2010, the Orioles finished 34-23 under Showalter and entered 2011 with hopes of making a run at a playoff spot or, at worse, a winning record. That didn’t happen, but Baltimore did go 15-13 in September, and Showalter feels that trend can continue.
“I was thinking about it coming in today, with the snow last night and the perception of the team,” he said. “I kind of like where we are from a mentality standpoint. I’m trying to relay that to the fans today. I knew last year, even though we finished strong, our pitching still had to go through more of the process.
“This year — I don’t want to beat the drums too much — but I kind of like where we are mentally. I think some of it feeds off September, but more importantly, I think the sense of urgency that has to happen for us to compete is there.”
Showalter is an avid football fan, and he was more than ready to offer his take on the Ravens-Patriots matchup.
“I think the Ravens got a chance,” he said. “I don’t think (the Patriots) are going run up and down the field. The first series will be big.”
The Ravens are huge in Baltimore right now, but perhaps there will come a day soon when orange and black becomes the color of choice.
“I was driving around the city last night before the snow came and it was all purple. It was pretty cool,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “It’s humbling seeing all these people here. It just shows the city is loyal.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)