The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. Each week, I hope to chat with one of them in a regular feature called Blogger on Blogger. This week, I exchanged emails with Joe Polek, who blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report.
MV: How important do you think it is that the Orioles get off to a good start like they did a year ago?
JP: It’s Opening Day and the Orioles need a big win. They have won their last two Opening Days, 10 of their last 12 and overall are 64-42 when Opening Day is in April. It’s crucial for the Orioles to get off to a great start to their season. The team needs it to boost their confidence early on and the fans need it to show that last year wasn’t a fluke. They need a good start to keep the stadium packed in the first half of the season.
MV: What are your thoughts on Brian Roberts hitting ninth for now?
JP: Like Ravens fans say, “In Ozzie We Trust.” Well, until Buck gives us a reason not to trust him, Orioles fans must say “In Buck We Trust.” He wants to give Brian Roberts a confidence boost and not have him worry about leading off, as he gets back into playing every day again. Plus, the way Nick Markakis played in the lead-off spot last year, why not leave him there?
MV: The Orioles have a lot of pitching depth, but do you have faith in the starting rotation to stay afloat in the A.L. East?
JP: The Orioles’ pitching stayed afloat last year, not only in the A.L. East but also in the American League, so there is no reason to think that with a year of playoff experience and maturity that they can’t compete with the best of them. But once again, not only do I trust in Buck, but until he proves otherwise, I’m trusting the method to Dan Duquette’s madness. Plus, there are great expectations for Jason Hammel this year. After the first half that he had last year, I am hoping for great things for him as the ace of the staff.
MV: Who is one Orioles player you think will have a much better year than expected? And which player might disappoint?
JP: Besides Adam Jones, we don’t have a real MVP-type player on this team. But that’s what I love. Every guy in that lineup can hit 20-plus homers this year and that makes this team dangerous. Any team can have a power guy batting cleanup, but to have guys batting seventh and ninth today that could put up 25 homers is impressive. I sure hope that no one disappoints, but if Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold (and Markakis) can’t stay healthy, that will surely be disappointing. But I think if there’s a place that might disappoint, it’ll be the bullpen. They were so lights-out last season that it’ll be hard to live up to those expectations again this year.
MV: How many wins will it take for the Orioles to get back to the playoffs? And do you think they will get there?
JP: The A.L. East is the most unpredictable division in baseball. For years, it was the most predictable. But now who knows? The Blue Jays look great on paper, but will that translate? The Yankees look terrible, but they have the money to always be a threat. The Rays have the best pitching staff in baseball and are always tough. I hate the Red Sox so it’s hard for me to be neutral enough to say anything nice about them, but they can’t be as bad as last year, can they? I think everyone in the A.L. East could be above .500, which would be really something to see. If so, it’ll be a hard division to pull out. I didn’t think the O’s would win 90 games last year and they did. So I say the O’s win 91 games and win the AL East by one game over Toronto and three games over Tampa.
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