The 2013 Major League Baseball season has ended, with the Boston Red Sox beating the St. Louis Cardinals, to claim the World Series.
As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, this did not have me sleeping well last night.
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After 15 years of failure, 2012 was extremely enjoyable for O’s fans everywhere. A year that I’ll always have good memories about. Ultimately though, no title was claimed. It was the San Francisco Giants who got the parade and celebrated a Championship. For the O’s, the Giants are as random/irrelevant as you get. With San Francisco playing in the National League West; 3,000 miles from Baltimore; there are no feelings of animosity for that organization. There are no feelings at all.
It is different when a team comes out of your own Division, and wins it all. It is different when Boston has now won their 3rd title in 9 years, equaling the amount of World Championships the Orioles organization has in their entirety.
A lot of what we write here at Baltimore Sports and Life is more analytical in-nature. This piece is not. It’s not an examination of how the O’s and Red Sox compare as organizations, or looks at the questions that await the O’s this Winter. It’s more just plain visceral sickness to seeing Boston again celebrate, and the desire to see Baltimore be able to do the same.
In 2012, Boston won 69 games. Last Winter, the headlines in the AL East (and MLB in-general) were the loud moves being made by the Toronto Blue Jays. As Opening Day ’13 commenced, it was the Jays who entered the year as the declared winner of the off-season, and the prohibitive favorite of many. The Red Sox’s moves to add Napoli, Victorino, Gomes, Drew, Dempster, and Uehara went relatively unnoticed by most. Those additions, coupled with a return to health from some other players, propelled the Red Sox to 97 wins during ’13, and this latest title.
The ‘lesson’ I take from that, is that this is another reminder that you do not have to make the splashiest moves. You have to build a team. Boston’s 2012 team never got past their September 2011 collapse. There were numerous well documented reports of their clubhouse being filled with guys who lacked great character. I’m someone who often believes intangibles are over-rated. In general I believe talent fosters winning, and winning breeds a good clubhouse. The main reason the above mentioned positional players were acquired by the Red Sox last Winter is that they were looking for on-field improvements (particularly on-base %); but I have to acknowledge this was also an obvious group of grinders. Players who love the game. Competitive guys who did not give away at-bats. I’m not suggesting you target players of lower talent, because of intangibles. I’m mainly suggesting that there are moves to be made below the headlines which can help address weaknesses of the roster. I’m also suggesting that when deciding between players of comparable talent, that intangibles being part of the total evaluation makes some sense.
So, what is the conclusion here? For me, it is rather simple. The Orioles 2013 season ended September 29th. That means the O’s have been able to focus on 2014 for an entire Month, while Boston has had their attention diverted more to the immediate present. Hopefully the O’s will be able to use that to an advantage. The starting point for the O’s is 16 games better than where Boston’s Front Office began last Winter. Between now and when Pitchers and Catchers report next February; I don’t care about the O’s winning the Winter. What I care about is seeing the O’s address the issues they (and everyone else) have identified as needing to be improved.
Perceptions can be flawed (see the expectations and results of both Toronto and Boston this year), but some perceptions are accurate. The American League East is going to remain extremely competitive. I’m going to continue the mantra I’ve been using lately. There is a core of existing talent the O’s can win with, but they need help. It is on the O’s Front Office and their Ownership to go augment the roster. Boston is celebrating their 3rd Title in 9 years. Baltimore does what?