How The Opposition Views The Orioles – Red Sox

The FanBall network is full of good bloggers, and one of the interesting things we thought we could do is have each blogger of one of the teams in the AL East answer a few questions about each other team. So I sent out my list of 9 queries about the Orioles, and I’ll be posting the various responses in a five part series (with the thoughts of another O’s fan at the end).

Today we have Darryl Johnston, who covers the Boston Red Sox at Sox Tea Party.

(I’ve included any additional comments I may have had in italics.)

(1) How good is Matt Wieters? (Can you put it in the form of a Matt Wieters Fact?)

Upon Matt Wieters’ birth, Baseball-Reference set his HOF likeliness to YES.

When Wieters’ career was over, fans came back to and laughed at how low the expectations ended up being.

Scott Boras hired Matt Wieters as his agent.

MLB forces Matt Wieters to play with his eyes closed because when they are open it’s not fair.

Since there is no professional level above Major League Baseball, Matt Wieters will never be challenged.

The baseball team in Baltimore will now be referred to as the ‘Baltimore Wieters’ after the state of Maryland changed the name of the state bird.

Comment: Now these are some Facts. I’m going to have to add at least a couple of them to the site.

(2) How good you you think Matt Wieters will really be?

I want him to be really good because of the hype. It would be awesome for a ‘Matt Wieters story’ to unfold matching the expectations. If the AL East were to develop a new villain, it could easily be Wieters. How much would Baltimore fans like to have a player that the rest of the world is ‘sick of’?

Rays fans would get sick of him pretty easily I’m sure if he started hitting bombs in Tampa and stealing wins away. Everything right now with Wieters is novelty and fun, but that could easily change if the hype becomes a reality. The daydreaming would quickly be over.

Take a weekend series at Fenway as an example. Could you imagine how quickly he would be hated in Boston if he made a name for himself at Fenway Park? Let’s give him a storyline of the following:

Wieters hits a game-winning double in the 10th inning on Friday, hits two home runs into the bullpen on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Massachusetts and then glove-mashes Kevin Youkilis in the face on Sunday afternoon for Youkilis continuously jawing at his pitcher.

That’s a not unreal scenario and suddenly Red Sox fans would be like ‘F that guy!” I would imagine that would take a very sarcastic turn with an influx of new ‘fact’ submissions from New England.

I would love to see Wieters revolutionize the catcher position in a way that kids would want to play that position in little league. It wouldn’t just be sticking the fat kid behind the plate anymore. Kids would want to call games and hit home runs, just like Matt Wieters. He would be revered in Baltimore and the rest of the world would be split between jealousy and admiration. President Obama would utilize him for World Affairs.

Since we know this is going to happen anyway, I’m just stating the obvious about Matt Wieters.

Comment: That would be awesome, and I’m glad Darryl has already moved to the “acceptance” stage.

(3) After a somewhat down 2009, how well do you think Nick Markakis will bounce back and at what level do you think he’ll produce in the coming years?

His plate approach seemed to shift last year – less line drive, more flyballs, yet not more home runs? I think Nick Markakis is an incredibly solid 1st round pick and he doesn’t get the same media love-shower because he is ‘just really good’ at a lot of things. He will never hit 40 light-tower home runs or captivate an ESPN audience, but he will hit .295 with 100 runs and 100 RBI.

If he keeps the plate approach he tried out in 2009, I think he is going to suffer. If he reverts to seasons prior to that and accepts who he is as a hitter, then I think you will see a nice steady and solid line through age 30.

Fans will always want him to hit 30 HRs, but I don’t he ever will — and I hope he doesn’t try.

Comment: Agreed.

(4) Which young Orioles position player do you like most? (If Wieters/Markakis, who’s #2?)

Markakis and Wieters get all of the attention, so I am going to go a different way. I really like both Michael Aubrey and Nolan Reimold.

Reimold is the kid fans should watch if they want to see an Orioles outfielder with some power upside. He has good contact skills and a nice walk rate, plus he legitimately has 40 HR upside. Now, maybe that power gets to that 40-HR level or maybe he just hangs out around 30 HRs, but either way, Reimold might be the guy everyone wants Markakis to be.

Aubrey is not exactly young player, but was a big prospect in 2003. The fact that he flashed some of that potential when called up to Baltimore late last season shows he still has the ability to produce at the big leagues. It will be interesting to see if he can keep the fire lit. He naturally has a flyball swing, but has predominantly been a contact hitter with little pop. It’s in there though. There is a player there, you can see it. I also don’t trust Garrett Atkins as far as I can throw him, so I’m keeping an eye on Aubrey at first base.

Comment: I’m not quite as high on either guy as Darryl is, but I like what he’s saying. Hard to see Aubrey getting all that much of a chance this year though.

(5) Which young Orioles starter do you like most?

Well, if I say the name ‘Billy Butler’ you should instantly know the pitcher I am about to reference. Last year Butler ended Brian Bergesen’s season shortly after the All-Star break when he drilled him in the shin with a line drive.

Up until that point, Bergesen was having a nice rookie season. He is not overpowering, but he has great control and keeps the ball on the ground. Mark Buerhle made a nice career with this formula. I can see Bergesen with a nice, quiet 2010 campaign carrying an ERA south of 4.00 and double-digit wins.

Brian Matusz is probably the gem of the rotation, but I like Bergesen’s quiet and effective approach. He could be a sneaky guy in that rotation.

(6) What are your thoughts on the Orioles’ off-season, including their acquisitions (Millwood, Atkins, Tejada, Gonzalez) and any moves they should have made but didn’t?

I am not a fan of Miguel Tejada. It’s not that he is a bad move for the Orioles, I just don’t like him, and never have since the Red Sox played Oakland in the 2003 ALDS. How I end up with him every year on my fantasy teams is baffling.

Tejada will probably get a nice uptick in power by moving over to play third base. It’s kind of like what happened when Texas moved Michael Young away from shortstop last year. I would expect Tejada to relax a little and hit for more power. The biggest drawback though is that he will be facing AL East pitching all year and the division is loaded.

I don’t know much about the money involved or what the O’s had to offer up on the market, but I think they would have been better served adding Randy Wolf or taking a flyer on Rich Harden to add to Kevin Millwood. Millwood will eat up innings, but I think Baltimore is going to need a couple more #2-type starters if they aren’t going to sign an ace. There’s no competing in this division without pitching.

Comment: I don’t see how going from SS to 3B effects Tejada offensively – especially in the positive direction. Agree on Harden over Millwood though, as I said at the time of the trade. Wolf probably would have been a bad call, given that it would have taken over 3/$30 M – possibly a fair bit over – to sign him. Don’t think he’s worth that.

(7) Are the Orioles going to get out of the cellar this year, and how good of a chance do they have of breaking their streak of losing seasons?

I don’t think either happens this year unless Matt Wieters takes over baseball immediately. The team lacks enough of everything to imagine them winning 81+ games. I have them penciled in at 75 wins and last place in the vision. Sorry, O’s fans.

(8) Do the Orioles scare you for 2011? 2012?

I wouldn’t say they scare me, but the Orioles do have some pitching prospects widely-expected to be good or even great at the major league level.

If all things click and they are lead by a great manager (See 2008 Tampa Bay Rays), then they could certainly be a force in two seasons.

(9) More generally; does something need to be done with division restructuring, given that (for example) there’s a fair chance that the 3rd best team in baseball will miss the playoffs in 2010?

I don’t think so. I think it all revolves around New York and their resources. Boston has a ton of cash now after spending years crying foul and playing poor. But in Major League Baseball, there is little chance of competing over the course of 10 or 20 years without a balance between your farm system and a lot of revenue.

$100 million+ is the benchmark I think of to run an organization in the modern day American League. That does not mean that you can just go out on a spending spree and expect that to be the winning formula though. The division itself now is a function of New York. Whoever is around them needs to have big money and a big development system to stay in stride with their abundant resources.

I would prefer a hard cap rather than restructuring. Let’s see baseball development and organizational skills at the forefront of the game rather than disproportionate spending from the biggest cities in America.

Thanks very much to Darryl for participating. He had some interesting things to say, it seems like he has some appreciation for the talent the O’s are building up.