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Springtime Storylines: Can Dan Duquette lead the Orioles out of the wildnerness?

Apr 3, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT

Dan Duquette AP

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The Baltimore Orioles.

The Big Question: Can Dan Duquette lead the Orioles out of the wilderness?

This is not one of those previews in which we say “if everything breaks right …” because there’s no way this team is challenging for a playoff spot. If you believe otherwise, look, I love your optimism, but this is not the place for you, ok?

No, the real question is how long it will be until the O’s are not the easy pick for last place, and that depends on one man right now: Dan Duquette, the Orioles new general manager.

Duquette hasn’t held a GM job in a decade. And he wasn’t at the top of Peter Angelos’ list this winter. But those aren’t the biggest issues because Duquette is bright and had a lot of success in his past life. No, at the moment the real issue is how free of a hand he has to do what needs to be done to fix this team. Specifically, overhaul the player development system that has been profoundly lacking in recent years.  There have been some changes so far, mostly a reshuffling of scouting operations and a commitment to Latin America that improves upon past efforts.

Ultimately, though, what has felled this organization is Peter Angelos and his impatience. It took years for the Orioles to slide from one of the best organizations in professional sports to where they are now. Will Angelos grant Duquette the time necessary to fix all of that damage, or will there be another GM and another plan in three years?

So what else is going on?

  • As Matthew noted yesterday, the fact that Jake Arrieta got the Opening Day start is special.  He had a 5.05 ERA in 22 starts last year, then had elbow surgery. This spring, he has a 6.14 ERA in his four starts. That’s the ace. It’s also evidence of just how thin the Orioles pitching is this year.
  • The book on this team of late has been “promise in the lineup, problems with the rotation.” But let’s be honest here: Nick Markakis has regressed since his breakout in 2008. Adam Jones has still not broken out like people keep thinking he will and despite hitting 37 homers, Mark Reynolds is actually kind of a scrub when you balance his power out with his atrocious defense. The position players here are still OK I suppose, but it’s only a strength compared to the pitching, not an absolute one.
  • Let’s be more optimistic: Manny Machado is one of the best prospects in the game. And, as a shortstop, can be the guy who anchors a team for years to come. He doesn’t turn 20 until July and he already more than held his own in single-A.  He is hope for the future, O’s fans.
  • More optimistic on the major league level: Matt Weiters broke out last year, hitting 22 homers and winning a Gold Glove. There’s likely even more where that came from. He’s good, everyone.

So how are they gonna do?

Ain’t gonna lie: they’re a last place team. And there’s not a lot of immediate hope for them to be better.  More likely: the season is dominated with trade talk involving Adam Jones, a Manny Machado Watch and a lot of games where the O’s give up, like 11 runs.

Wish I had more for you, people. But it’s gonna take Dan Duquette a while to sort this all out.

  1. Old Gator - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    No.

    But having said that, let me put in a plug for the new Cowboy Junkies CD, The Wilderness, out of which there is no sustainable aesthetic reason to want to be led.

  2. thinman61 - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Not much hope for the Orioles as long as Angelos is the owner.

    • APBA Guy - Apr 3, 2012 at 4:16 PM

      I have to disagree with you thinman. There is NO hope as long as Angelos is the owner.

  3. mybrunoblog - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Peter Angelo’s has single handedly destroyed the Orioles franchise. IS there a worse owner in baseball? O’s fans just need to wait for the day he unloads the team.

    • baseballisboring - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      According to him, it’s he day he dies…ugh

      • randomdigits - Apr 3, 2012 at 8:05 PM

        His sons are supposed to be even worse.

  4. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Is Dan Duquette filing paperwork with the league office to get them out of the AL East? If so, maybe.

  5. drewsylvania - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Even if it were possible for Dan Duquette to lead this team out of the wilderness, Angelos wouldn’t let him.

  6. dowhatifeellike - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Duquette will have the freedom to do whatever he wants, as long as it doesn’t cost more. So, nothing.

    • drewsylvania - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Actually, Angelos has had no problem spending in the past. It’s who he spends on that’s the problem.

  7. rockthered1286 - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    So we’re going to declare that Angelos is impatient? Seriously? Not the fact that he’s indecisive, takes zero initiative in FA or hiring new personel (waited until weeks into FA to bring Duquette on board) refuses to even consider upgrading any position on this team, and quite frankly is stuck in the 1990’s payscale mentality where’s he refuses to do anything but low ball offers to players so that he can say to the O’s fans “see? I tried!” If there is ONE issue with this team is Angelos. He is by far the most hated man in the Baltimore area. I truly don’t believe there is a single person in this area who can even tolerate Angelos. Hell, even the homeless around the stadium with their change cups hate him as they continue to see contributions decrease with the drop in attendance.

    That being said, I love what Weiters is becoming, Jones still has upside to grow, Markakis is make or break this year, Reynolds will be better this year no doubt (lost weight and last year was an outlier in his poor D) and with a healthier Arrieta and Matusz, I’m thinking we’ll be right around last years numbers, if not a few games above it. There’s a lot more fight in this team than years past, and I think it’ll show.

    • drewsylvania - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      That’s a lot of ifs. The team might be competitive in, say, the NL Central, but not in the AL East.

      • DJ MC - Apr 3, 2012 at 6:24 PM

        That depends on your definition of competitive. This team can easily end the season with 74-75 wins and enough answers to questions to make offseason moves with the goal of fielding a contender next season. They could also finish in the mid-60s and be ready to sell off everyone but Wieters and start again. But at least there’s a better chance of the former result than the latter this season than in past years.

  8. Loose Changeup - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Not one mention of Brian Roberts shooting for “Comeback Player of the Year.”

    Your argument is invalid.

  9. bmoreballers - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Manny machado Isn’t as good as this post makes him out to be

  10. Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Would I be overdramatic to assert this team could be historically bad?

    • DJ MC - Apr 3, 2012 at 3:55 PM

      Yes. To the point of open mockery.

      The Orioles saw their worst-case scenario last season with the pitching, but managed to have a league-average offense despite missing Luke Scott and Brian Roberts for most of the season and getting nothing from Vlad Guerrero and Derrek Lee. They won 69 games.

      To be historically bad (say, 105 losses or more) they would need a second complete failure from the pitching staff and a complete failure from the offense. Essentially, the 2001 club (which was 13th in runs scored and ninth in runs allowed and lost 63 games), only worse.

      The pitching on this team isn’t going to be as bad as seems on the surface. Arrieta had a better spring than his ERA suggests. Matusz can be bad and still better than last year (and he looks like he’s on his way back to his 2010 level, at least). Chen and Wada are unknowns in America with really good numbers in Japan. Hammel is another Guthrie. Hunter is talented and appears to be at worst an innings-eater. Even Chris Tillman will be waiting in AAA looking like he has turned the corner back into a prospect.

      This group certainly won’t be great, but they can be average as a group with some breakout performances. They could easily also crater, but no one really wants to talk about that Opening Week.

      • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Apr 4, 2012 at 10:39 AM

        “They could easily also crater, but no one really wants to talk about that Opening Week.”

        When I read a sentence like this, it makes me wonder why you’d say the thought that a team could (operative word) be historically bad should be subject to mockery at all. If a team has to maximize every bit of its talent just to be average, I don’t know why it’s so far-fetched to believe it could have equally bad luck and go down as one of the worst ever.

  11. going4iton4th - Apr 3, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    I’ll just echo everyone’s opinion on here and throw in how much you have to feel for Orioles fans. I mean They are excellent and loyal fans—Peter Angelos makes Donald Sterling look like Jerry Buss. When was the last time the Oriole farm system produced a good top of the rotation starter?

    • DJ MC - Apr 3, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      No. Peter Angelos is a terrible owner of a baseball team. Donald Sterling is a terrible human being who is also a terrible owner.

      There is a huge difference.

  12. randomdigits - Apr 3, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    Jake starting opening day is more about matching him up with a not good Twins team and Pavano then it is about being team “ace”. Buck would rather give him an easier first start and pitch the other guys against the Yankees.

    Same level of health a #1 gets maybe 2 more starts then a #4.

  13. wj4122 - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:55 AM

    There was a worst owner and his name was McCourt. But hopefully something will happen that will help restore this historic franchise! My advice get a new owner….but that is easier said then done.

    • randomdigits - Apr 4, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      The sad truth is McCourt left the dodgers in a better position then the O’s are right now.

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