Tuesday afternoon in the top of the seventh inning, Brian Roberts singled up the middle against Jake McGee. Which led to this soliloquy from Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne:
Buck Showalter's been asked over and over, "How come the organization didn't make more changes? Why didn't you do more?"
Well, his answer to that -- and he gave me this today -- he said, "What do you mean, we haven't made changes? Brian Roberts didn't play last year. Nolan Reimold was out for 145 games. Manny Machado missed 111 because he wasn't called up. Nate McLouth was out 106 of them." He says, "If you look at the players that we have, who we're gonna be playing this year, there's a significant difference on what this team is, compared to last year. It's just that it didn't come through trades, or free-agent acquisitions."
That's his answer, as to why didn't you make changes. "We did," he said.
Jim Palmer did follow up with all the caveats, which are essentially that Roberts is 35, Reimold's 29 and has never put in a full major-league season, and that Machado's very young and hasn't yet proved he can hit major-league pitching.
While Thorne was recounting his conversation with Showalter, the screen showed a graphic listing everyone above and the games they missed, along with Taylor Teagarden, Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Nick Markakis, and Troy Patton. Again, though, one might reasonably wonder how much those guys will contribute even if they are generally healthy. Among all of these fellows, only Markakis seems like a potential All-Star.
What Palmer also said, and I agree with him, is that all those guys are basically irrelevant if the starting pitchers don't outperform their projections. As Thorne noted, "You are asking some pitchers who don't have great histories at the major-league level to perform in an ongoing positive way this year, and I think that's one of the reasons the Orioles have stockpiled pitchers at the minor-league level."
Which is great, but (again) the stockpiling is particularly useful only if you've got two or three guys who will pitch particularly well. The stockpiled guys probably won't do real well, so they're essentially at hand in case you need to replace your No. 4 and 5 guys at some point. Which you probably will, which is why it's nice to have six or seven or eight major-league starting pitchers on your 40-man roster.
Bottom line, last season the Orioles finished ninth in the American League in runs scored, and eighth in runs allowed; in both areas, they essentially were average. Which made them an average team, other than (yes, the all-important) wins and losses. But when you have an average team and don't really do anything over the winter, a lot of reasonable people will predict an average sort of season. Especially if you're counting on guys like Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold to play better than they've played in quite some time.
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