The All-Star break is coming at an opportune time for the Baltimore Orioles as they will have a chance to lick their wounds and try to build on some of their recent successes.
Granted, with the worst record in baseball there hasn’t been a lot to of positive moments, but the team has recently shown a penchant for late inning comebacks that could be something to help carry them grow some momentum through the remainder of the season.
Since reaching 50 losses before 20 victories, the Orioles have shown a little more life over the last couple weeks. While their season-best four game winning streak did include three wins over the Nationals, Baltimore did come back to post wins in games that they certainly would have lost earlier this season.
Even their win over the division leading Texas Rangers in the first of a four game series leading up to the All-Star break was the result of an unexpected late-game comeback.
Baltimore looked defeated early in the game as Texas scored four early runs and led 4-1 entering the seventh inning. However, Felix Pie illustrated how much he was missed during his long injury layoff by opening the seventh with a home run. The Birds scored another run in that inning and then three in the eighth to steal a victory from the Rangers.
Of course for every step forward is another step to the side or backwards. After winning five of six games, the O’s won only one of their next seven games before the comeback win over Texas.
Given the fact that Baltimore hasn’t posted a winning season since 1997 and has been known in recent years for a late season collapse, it would be very easy for them to pack it in and go through the motions over the final three months of the season.
However, early indications are that the O’s recognize that while it hasn’t been a fun year, they still have a chance to salvage some respect and start building for 2011.
It is time for the future leaders of the team to emerge and get the team focused on having a successful second half to the season. Sure there is no chance to reach the playoffs and probably not even .500, but if they can use their recent late-game successes as a springboard they might be able to relight a spark that has been dormant for more than a decade.
While the first half of the year has been a disappointment for young prospects such as catcher Matt Wieters, there is still time to turn things around.
No Baltimore prospect in recent memory has endured the pressure buildup of Wieters. He seemed ready to live up to his billing during a great rookie season, but has not built on that success in 2010. After a hot April, he struggled in May and June, but has showed some signs of a turnaround in July with hits in five of his first six games.
Other than Wieters, the two brightest young players on the team are outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Both have had their struggles in 2010, but are starting to return to previous form.
Markakis is hitting over .300, but has missed the table setting of injured leadoff man Brian Roberts as he has only 30 RBIs and seems destined for a career low in that department.
The O’s tried to insert Jones into the leadoff spot after Roberts was injured, but he was not suited for the role. It has taken him time to get his groove back, but has started to find the pop in his bat and also leads the team in runs scored.
Another player expected to be a standout in 2010 was second year outfielder Nolan Reimold. After his productive rookie season, some envisioned Reimold joining Jones and Markakis to create one of the best outfield combos in baseball.
Unfortunately, Reimold got off to a horrid start and was back in the minors by May. Expect him to get another chance before the end of the season and this time look for him to return to his rookie form.
While the rest of baseball has seen a pitching resurgence, the Orioles have not been so fortunate. With a win in relief against Texas, David Hernandez is now the team leader with four victories.
It is likely that this team that once produced at least one 20-game winner for 12 straight seasons could be without a 10-game winner in 2010.
Much has been made of the plethora of talented young pitchers in the Baltimore organization, but every one of the pitchers has had some deficiency revealed at the major league level and will need time before they are ready to fulfill expectations.
It would make sense for team president Andy MacPhail to quickly pull the trigger on hiring a new manager to give him time to evaluate the team and start setting the tone for 2011. However, MacPhail has been methodical throughout his three-year rebuilding effort and so far has shown no desire to rush into a managerial hire.
The O’s are already out of it for 2010, but for a team that has been in a rebuilding mode for several years 2011 has started and how the O’s play over the final three months of 2010 will likely have a big impact on their performance for 2011.
Instead of taking a step back for every step forward, now is the time for the Birds to begin their march back to respectability.