Rob Long: Opening Day
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This year mark’s the 60th year anniversary of a family member. A family member who’s been there for as long as I can remember. The Baltimore Orioles have been with this community through the good and the bad. Not really the good and the bad of the community but the good and the bad of the organization.
The Orioles have been an American League postseason mainstay back in the late 60s and early 70s. The team won on pitching and defense but also had a potent offense that featured bats like Frank and Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell. The arms featured guys Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson and Dave McNally. I heard about those teams, but I was too young to remember them.
I remember watching the O’s in the 1979 World Series. That was the time I fell in love with them and with baseball in general. The Baltimore Orioles were hard nosed and pressured teams with great pitching and the three-run home run. Not only did they have stars like Lee May, Ken Singleton, Palmer and the up and coming Eddie Murray. They had guys like Mike Flanagan who won 23 games that year and was named American League Cy Young award winner. Steve Stone would win the Cy Young award in 1990 with a 25-7 record.
The O’s were my team and I love everything about them. I love the platoon system they had in left field. I loved the combination of Rick Dempsey and Joe Nolan behind the plate during the 1983 World Series run. I thought it was fitting that a career .233 hitter in Dempsey won the Series MVP award for what he did with his bat. That’s so Baltimore Orioles like. “Everyday there’s a different star. That’s the magic of Orioles baseball.”
Sure, the organization fell on hard times, but even the mighty New York Yankees failed to make it to the playoffs for 13 consecutive years. Maybe they did not bottom out like the O’s, but fan loyalty was tested during that time. That’s what it felt like in Baltimore after a wire to wire first place season in 1997. The team just seemed to fall off in 1998. Guys like Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar’s days were numbered and that was the beginning of the end as we then knew it. Other teams started spending money and the O’s couldn’t keep up.
The franchise has seemingly rebounded. Guys like Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Chris Tillman seem to be at the front of this rebirth of Oriole Magic. The team seems to be willing to spend money now and hopefully that can keep players like Davis, J J Hardy and Matt Wieters from leaving town. The Birds made the playoffs in 2012 and missed it with a winning season in 2013.
Now, they’ve gone out and added some weapons to an already deep line up for manager Buck Showalter. There seems to be mixed opinions on Ubaldo Jimenez’s value, but he was one of the top free agent pitchers available and the club signed him.
There’s lots of uncertainty surrounding the 2014 season, but not like the uncertainty of say 2003. You know this club will contend, we just aren’t sure where that contention will lead. The American League East is deep and teams like Tampa Bay and the defending World Series champs Boston have better than solid rotations. In fact, their rotations are flat out good. The O’s can mash with anyone on baseball but will the pitching hold up? That’s the million dollar, or multi-million dollar question on the table. They have at least 162 games to answer that question.
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