Only 23 more days

We’ve got 23 days til Spring Training. It’s the time of year where my hope springs eternal.

Last year at this time, I was full of optimism and that of course was dashed.

Why was it dashed?

Rodrigo Lopez and Bruce Chen were bad on an epic scale.

The bullpen was equally as bad.

Javy Lopez was not very good.

Jay Gibbons got hurt…again.

Stopgaps in the rotation weren’t good (Russ Ortiz anyone?)

Left Field (Brandon Fahey, Niner, Ed Rodgers, Fernando Tatis, Luis Terrero and on and on and on).

Why do I feel better about this season?

Chen, Ortiz, and Lopez are gone.  I think in the end Jaret Wright basically equals Rodrigo Lopez of the years before 2006. Wright had a snazzy season in Atlanta with Leo Mazzone and maybe he catches that lightning in a bottle again. For the record, I say he goes for a Bensonesque season of 12-10 and a 4.78 era. He’ll miss a few starts too.

The bullpen got dealt with. Goodbye to the John Halamas, Julio Manons, Jim Browers and LaTroy Hawkins and hello to the big money boys. Chad Bradford, Jamie Walker, Danys Baez, and Scott Williamson are now added to the pen to work in front of Chris Ray. We’ve got two spots left in the pen, so odds are we got Todd Williams back and either Hayden Penn or Kurt Birkins will be the long relief. The pen will obvious be much better and it’ll make a difference in the win total. Too many times last season I saw Todd Williams, who was overworked last season, give up an eighth inning lead. You can substitute the name with Julio Manon, Hawkins, Ortiz, Chen etc.

Javy Lopez is gone. In the end, he proved to be a bad signing. But those happen sometimes.

Jay Gibbons, for the time being, is healthy. He’ll be seeing a great deal of time at DH and maybe some time at first. The big deal is that he’s out of the outfield, where his defense was never golden and where injuries happen much easier. I still think he’ll miss games at some point, but the risk of injury is much less at DH.

The rotation is pretty solid. Bedard, Cabrera, Benson, Loewen, and Wright. My fear is that someone will be the Lopez/Chen of 2007. I think Wright has the best odds for that. 

Left Field is better. Fahey will be at Norfolk playing shortstop where he belongs. Aubrery Huff and Jay Payton will be much better than anything we had last season.

In short, the Orioles have had a solid offseason. We didn’t get a Carlos Lee or Alfonso Soraino but we have to get back to respectibility before we can realistically think about signing the big name free agents.

I think this will finally be the year we get back above .500.

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