The Year of the Bird

Now that the Ravens have been literally ‘kicked’ out of the playoffs, it is only natural that Baltimore’s sports attention shifts to baseball, with pitchers and catchers due to report to Sarasota in less than three weeks.

I don’t know about you, but I get pretty jazzed up over the start of spring training every year. It is a time when baseball fans everywhere get to think big and dream the improbable. In Baltimore, where we have suffered 14 consecutive losing seasons, we wonder if our young arms can rebound from a mostly disastrous 2011. We wonder about new GM Dan Duquette. We wonder if this might just be the Year of our Birds.

After listening to Buck Showalter and Brady Anderson at an event at SportsLegendsMuseum the other night, and then again to Scott McGregor at a stop on the Hot Stove baseball banquet over the weekend, I have reason to believe it just may be.

Brady, who was recently appointed as a special assistant to Mr. Duquette, has been working this off-season with a handful of players on conditioning and strength. He says the exercise has gone well, especially with Brian Matusz, who never recovered from an early season injury lat year and wound up going 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA! Brady thinks things will be different for the young left-hander this season, and I trust Brady.

I trust our manager, too. Buck Showalter knows the game, knows his team, and on top of that is a full-fledged history buff. He is more than aware of the proud tradition of Baltimore Orioles baseball, and seems hell bent on restoring that tradition. At Legends, Buck told us that while Dan Duquette may not have any blockbuster moves under his belt thus far, he has created better depth throughout the system, while at the same time acquiring enough arms to create a legitimate competition for the five starting rotation spots.

Finally, there was something Scott McGregor said at the Oldtimers Baseball banquet on Sunday that, quite frankly, I had forgotten about. Scott recalled that at the end of last season, mid-way through September, to be exact, the Orioles competition pretty much was all contenders, and we won four series and tied one!

So if we could consistently beat New York, Boston, TampaBay, Detroit and California, powerhouses all, as they were all vying for playoff berths, then why can’t we carry that over into 2012! And as much as we wanted Prince Fielder or some other big-time slugger right in the middle of our every day, we all know that it is pitching, pitching, pitching that will make or break this year’s Orioles.

My guess…this will be the Year of the Bird!

See you out there!

Mike Gibbons

Mike Gibbons is the executive director for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.