Monday, April 4, 2011

From the Other Side: Baltimore Orioles

As we start the second series of the year, it's time for another installment of From the Other Side. Today I'm happy to have the insight of Anthony Amobi from Oriole Post. He was kind enough to answer my questions so please check out his blog and his Twitter page.

1. What are your thoughts on Buck Showalter and what he brings to the Orioles?
Anthony: He had a considerable aura over the Orioles over final two months of the 2010 season. Think of it, the Orioles were a horrible team – close to being historically so, until Showalter showed up. Now, even though Showalter had pretty much the same talent that both deposed managers Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel had; however, I think he shook up the players -- to an extent. Really, while Showalter’s record with the Orioles was impressive, the team's play could be attributed to some of the players performing well above their norms, a healthy roster - the return of Brian Roberts, Koji Uehara (very critical), Gonzalez - in addition, to the starting pitching performing much better halted a train wreck. Also, the batters seemed to have a plan at the plate and hit much better in the clutch, plus in key situations in game. In addition, a lot of base running gaffes we saw under Trembley and Samuel seemed to decrease greatly under Showalter. They looked prepared to play games after August and the record shows that. It’s safe to say right now that Buck Showalter is the public and yes, marketing face for the Orioles.
2. What are your expectations for the Orioles this year?
Anthony:  Basically, I want them to starting winning and take a team that has been a punching bag and a joke into a formidable squad. Now, the Orioles are still doing a quite a good amount of rebuilding. I’m not picking the Orioles to end up the World Series, much less win their division; however, most feel that they will be better by at least five or ten games and perhaps even a few games over .500. I think they will win 78 games; however, if all breaks their way and a few guys have career years, they could finish above .500 and certainly make life miserable for their rivals in the American League East. More than likely, they'll challenge for fourth place -- if all goes miraculously well, perhaps third place.
3. What is the perception of the Tigers in the Orioles community?
Anthony:  I can’t speak for the Orioles community, but will do so on my own behalf. I think the Tigers are a team that can contend in the American League Central. It looks they have some very good talent – Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander – and some up-and-comers. Right now, I tab the Tigers to finish third in the American League Central behind the Chicago White Sox (second) and the Twins (first). I certainly think the Tigers are a team that will finish above .500; however, they may not have the tools to take it all. We shall see, right?
4. Which player (on either or both teams) doesn't get a lot of press attention but is a crucial part of the team's performance?
Anthony: I don’t know the Detroit squad well, but obviously the key for you doing well is if Miguel Cabrera can keep his demons under control. I’m not one to criticize to denigrate anyone, but he’s best on the field when his life is under control and they sky is the limit for him with his talents. He’s a leader on that team and he needs to show it by example. He’s a Hall of Fame talent and the Tigers need him; however, it’s up to him to stay away from his vices. Hopefully, the organization is giving him the help he needs. As for the Orioles, my eyes are on Matt Wieters. Many have called him a bust; however, I disagree with that assertion. Before we all forget, 2010 was Matt’s first full season in the majors. He’s only 24 and it would have probably been impossible to live up the advance billing that was given to him before he even had his first-major-league-at-bat. Of course, Wieters’ production in the minor leagues has not translated to the majors and everyone expected him to be a hybrid of Joe Mauer and Johnny Bench; however, he cannot be classified as a failure despite his struggles in 2010. He showed flashes of brilliance in ’09 after a June call-up, but took a huge step back. Wieters did finish up the year strong last season and let’s not forget he had to learn, guide a pitching staff, plus deal with a horrendous four-month stretch of losing before Showalter came to the Orioles. He simply needs more time to develop his hitting game and his offensive output will take time to flourish. Hopefully with an Oriole lineup this upcoming season stacked with proven veterans, mainstays, and some excellent young talent, he’ll start to hit and develop.
5. Finally, any random predictions for this season that you'd like to offer?
Anthony: There’s a lot I can say, but this may be main key for the Orioles to finally get over the hump and become contenders. The new offensive additions are nice; however, how the Orioles do this season will depend greatly on the starting pitching – especially out of the young arms in the rotation. If these guys can’t go at least six innings, or worse throw 80, 90, 100 pitches even before the fifth inning – over even sooner – they will put the Orioles in a hole. It won’t matter if the Orioles score four or more runs a game, the losing seasons will continue unless the mound performances by the young pitchers improve. I will also say that the organization really needs some of its young stars, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and a lesser extent, Felix Pie to step up and take their games to another level. If they can do that, anything can happen and the road for Baltimore will be bright.
Again, thank you to Anthony for his time.  

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