Last year at this time Buck Showalter was about to coach his first game as manager of the Baltimore Orioles. As we remember, the fighting Showalters and/or the Buck-O's were a resounding success for the final two months of last season, winning 60% of their games. That gave a lot of fans optimism going into this season, but to date that optimism hasn't been realized on the field. One year later, the Orioles are a year older and pretty much in the same spot. So first off, why is that? It's easy enough to sit there and say that they need to play better. However you have to dig a little deeper than that and realize that there's a bit more than meets the eye.
2010 was marred by injuries all over the place. However the O's got a lot of pieces back right as Showalter came aboard last year. This doesn't dim what Showalter and the Orioles accomplished during those two months; quite to the contrary in fact. If anything, it's a testament to what this team can truly be. Fast-forward to this year, and you see that in those first few weeks of the season the Orioles were far from perfect, however they weren't getting blown out of the water like we see now either. They had issues hitting with RISP, however not to the point that they were letting their opponents off the hook after loading the bases with no outs in an inning. There was somewhat of an upwards trend to the team at that point; then the injuries hit. The Orioles have been without Brian Roberts since May 13th. Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen struggled, which made you wonder if they had totally healed from their injuries. Brian Matusz returned from injury only to be sent back down to triple-A which again makes you wonder if he wasn't rushed back. Ultimately a certain pall came over the club, which probably caused them to push harder which caused some of the mental errors that we've seen of late.
So the second question is where do the Orioles go from here for the remainder of 2011? If you're at all familiar with me or my writing, you know that I don't throw in the towel on a season until the last out of the last day, at which point the countdown begins for spring training. However I do think that the O's have an opprotunity at this point to see who stays and who goes for next year. Don't disregard the trade that the Orioles just made, sending Koji Uehara to Texas and getting Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter in return. Davis may well be the first baseman for whom the Orioles have been looking in terms of today and the future. One question that now comes up is does that mean the O's won't go after Prince Fielder? Whether or not they're truly a contender to get Fielder is another story, however keep in mind that Boston and New York are already set at first base. Davis does have decent power numbers, so he could very well be a decent prospect for the future at that position. I suspect that Mark Reynolds will not be back as the third baseman, so the Orioles might consider giving Josh Bell a good look there for the next two months to see what he can do at this point.
Ultimately, these are still regular season games and the Orioles should be trying to win them with the personnel they have. I highly doubt that we'll see the resolution of various injuries such as that of Brian Roberts before the end of the season, so that is what it is. Speaking of trades, the O's can still deal guys through waivers until the end of the month. I wouldn't be surprised to see Vladimir Guerrero dealt to someone at some point, yielding the Orioles some prospects here and there. That would free up the DH role, potentially for Mark Reynolds if they want to give Bell an extended look at third. As for the above-mentioned Tommy Hunter, I'll be very interested to see him get into the rotation. It seems that the young "calvary" of pitchers has all either failed or flailed in the wind at one time, which has been a big part of the problem. If the Orioles think Davis can truly be a first baseman of the future, perhaps they get really active this off season in the free agent pitcher department.