In driving around the Baltimore area today I was listening to various sportstalk shows, many of which were decrying yet another disappointing Orioles' season. The issue isn't talent, skill, or even team chemistry in my opinion. We know that this team can be good because we've seen it. Looking back to last season, many of these guys played good solid baseball in the final two months of the season. However in a year which was fairly hurky-jerky to begin with, that was a stretch in which the O's were simply more hurky than jerky. Unlike some people, I don't really believe that the Orioles have poor talent or even poor scouting. The issue is consistency. We've seen them play really well, and then turn around and play poorly. We're at a point now where the starting pitching appears to be solidifying, yet now suddenly the bats have gone away again.
So dose that mean the team chemistry is poor? Do guys just not care? I've heard numerous stories about the quality of the chemistry in the Orioles' clubhouse, so while I don't know for sure what everyone's opinion of everyone else truly is, that doesn't appear to be an issue. However perhaps there is a team chemistry problem, albeit in a different manner. There's an issue with chemistry in that the team is different on a daily basis. Hold on, wasn't that the case last year as well? Let's look at the facts; in 2010 Brian Roberts and Felix Pie were injured early in the season, which made for offensive woes early on. I'm not even going to go through the laundry list of guys that went to the DL along with those two, however needless to say that in a year where the Orioles were supposed to have better depth most of that depth ended up on the field. This year the O's have once again lost Roberts for an elongated period of time, Matusz was injured, Tilman never really recovered from his injury last year, and now Luke Scott is back on the DL after being gone for a couple of weeks. (And that's the short end of the story with regard to injuries.)
There's your inconsistency folks. How can you be consistent with a different lineup seemingly every night? Boston's been able to do it, and Tampa was supposed to take a big step backwards this year because of the players they lost. If anything they're better now. So why can't the Orioles do that? At the beginning of the season our expectations came with the disclaimer or caveat that if they stay healthy...things might go well. As we know, they didn't stay healthy, nor did they last year. Roberts' absence propels Robert Andino (and Blake Davis) into the starting second baseman's spot, which sends J.J. Hardy to the top of the order. Remember at the beginning of the season when Hardy was getting on base and Roberts was singling him home? With Hardy now at the top of the order that's not longer happening. Robert Andino isn't consistent enough in the #9 slot to get on base to allow that to continue happening. Don't forget that Derrek Lee spent some time on the DL earlier this year as well, which made it more difficult for the top of the lineup without Lee's support in the five hole. And now of course Vladimir Guerrero's on the DL after being hit in that Boston series.
As I said, everything had to be perfect in terms of health for this to be the year everyone thought it could be. (And just as a side note to those who think this is over...there's a lot of baseball left to play.) Perhaps this is the Orioles' fault for allowing themselves to be in a situation where they could have no injuries. Roberts and Lee have been plaqued by injuries the past few years, and there were also plenty of vets on the team that could have potentially been hurt. However how do you then explain Brian Matusz's injury to start the year? Chris Tilman was hurt last season and many people believe he hasn't yet bounced back from that. It's just a vicious cycle that never seems to cease. In case you were wondering, I never really answered my rhetorical question above of why Boston could fill in for injuries but the Orioles struggled to do so. In my assesment, the O's are victims of their own plan. Andy MacPhail said that he wanted to grow the arms and buy the bats. However in being so pitcher-centric in the draft (with the exception of guys like Matt Wieters and Manny Machado) over time, the Birds don't have the guns in the minors to truly fill in for Brian Roberts among others. How the rest of the season plays out is beyond me, however if the Orioles can somehow find some consistency, it might be be so horrible.