Matt Albers played for the Orioles for three seasons (2008-2010), and with limited success. His ERA was consistently in the 3-5 run range, and it seemed as if he was perpetually nursing a sore shoulder. When he would enter games out of the bullpen, often times the O's might have a slim lead or be trailing; it seemed like Albers would generally compound whatever problem the Orioles found themselves in at that moment. Needless to say, when he was released by the team after last season most Oriole fans weren't exactly crying. Furthermore when he was signed by the Red Sox, most fans probably got a chuckle because why would a winning team like Boston want anything to do with Albers? As if apparently often the case, the joke's on the Orioles. While Albers did spend some time on the DL this year, he's having a good season with the Sox. He has an ERA of 2.29 coming out of the Boston pen, and he's making outs. While Albers is far from an A-List reliever, he's become a reliable option to which Boston can turn in games.
Have you noticed this kind of trend with players over time? To drive the point home even further, how often have we seen this in reverse where a decent player comes to Baltimore and struggles? (Vladimir Guerrero comes to mind.) First off, I do think that there's an aspect of luck involved in that. As an example, Justin Duchscherer was signed by the Orioles to be their fifth starter and he hasn't seen the field due to injuries. However when Albers would run in from the 'pen with the Orioles, the attitude would almost be "...we would like to think that you have a halfway decent shot at potentially getting some outs in the game. Go get 'em...if you can." When you play for the Red Sox they bring you in because they see something in you which tells them you can contribute. So when Terry Francona calls on Albers, he's doing so because he knows he can make outs.
This would indicate that there's a bit more psychology involved in sports than I'm comfortable admitting. However maybe there's something to this. There's a school of thought which says that if you keep expectations low you're going to get low results. I'm not willing to say that this makes 100% of the difference because that would mean that a little league team could beat a major league ballclub if they simply believed in themselves. However the challenge for a franchise like the Orioles is to drive home that the expectation is to win. Many guys come into the organization and figure that it doesn't really matter if you lose because that's been the status quo here for a long time. If you're able to win, that's gravy in a sense. Buck Showalter is trying to change that mentality. The fact that numerous guys in the "calvary" have been sent back to Norfolk should indicate that Buck means business. However this doesn't happen overnight; it takes time.
In Matt Albers' case, perhaps his trip to the DL also did him some good. As I said, when he was an Oriole he seemed to have an oft-injured shoulder. Yet it was seemingly never bad enough to DL him, and the O's couldn't really afford to lose a reliever. When Boston shut him down for awhile he bounced back much stronger. He bounced back so strong in fact, that he was able to find it within himself to taunt the Orioles mercilessly a couple of weeks ago, which led up to the bench-clearing brawl with Kevin Gregg and David Ortiz. So while Albers was able to make a quick transition from hoping he could throw strikes to actually doing it, he also transitioned quickly into the arrogance that often comes with teams like Boston. There's something to be said for having a winning attitude, believing in yourself, and having others believe in you. There's also something to be said for having character.