The Baltimore Orioles have had a decent start to this season, despite being dwarfed by the success of the extremely stacked American League East division which also includes the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays. They currently have a 36-34 solid winning record, which puts them in 4th place in their division and seventh in the league. This is all despite trading superstars Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard for younger, but still unproven talent. Young outfielder and slugger, Nick Markakis, leads the way in batting this season with a solid 12 home runs and 32 runs batted in. Veteran first-baseman Kevin Millar has also had a great season thus far with 11 home runs and 36 runs batted in. The Orioles look to improve upon this average start towards a playoff berth and possibly an American League pennant if they pick up the pace after the All-Star break. Tickets are selling slow until the Orioles prove that they can make it in this competitive division.
The Baltimore Orioles had a long tradition
of being a part of the dogfight that the Yankees and Red Sox
call the AL east, but in recent years the Orioles have been finding
themselves in the basement watching the dogfight go on somewhere
else. In the past three seasons the Orioles averaged a whopping
33 games out of first place. Despite all of this, Oriole fan
still comes in full force. In a series against the hated Yankees,
a hurricane pressed down on the Baltimore area forcing the game
to be moved to a very rare morning first pitch. Baltimore showed
up 29,093 strong all with some sort of rain blocking device with
them. But there is light at the end of the tunnel for this franchise,
they invested $9 million dollars into four players looking to
turn around the franchise.
The Orioles picked up former AL MVP shortstop Miguel
Tejada, all star catcher Javy Lopez, 500 home run hitting first
baseman Rafael Palmeiro, and starting pitcher Sidney Ponson.
The front office also brought in manager Lee Mazzilli to pump
some new life into this very young team.
At the top of the line-up the Orioles will showcase their speedsters. Second
baseman Brian Roberts broke into the starting lineup at the beginning of this
season after Jerry Hairston broke his right ring finger. Roberts has been a huge
spark for the Orioles batting .305 with 7 stolen bases during the first month
of the season batting in the lead-off spot. Behind him is third baseman Melvin
Mora who is such a valuable hitter that he played multiple positions in the 2002
campaign. The heart of the lineup is the reason that the Orioles will make the
AL East more than a two horse race. Tejada, Palmeiro, and Lopez provide a type
of power that had never been present in Camden Yards. The Orioles round out the
rest of the lineup with right fielder Jay Gibbons, center fielder Luis Matos,
left fielder Larry Bigbie and Hairston as the designated hitter.
The Orioles pitching staff is rich with young arms, with only 3 pitchers over
the age of 28. The Baltimore ace is Sidney Ponson, who the Orioles brought back
after trading him away to the San Francisco Giants in 2002. Kurt Ainsworth, Eric
DuBose, Matt Riley, and Erik Bedard round out the starting rotation for the Orioles.
The bullpen is a very inexperienced, yet very talented group. Jorge Julio is
the man they turn to for closing out games. Julio converted 36 of his 44 save
opportunities and possessed a 4.38 ERA pitching against very talented AL East
hitters. Converted starter Rodrigo Lopez looks to be the main man to eat up the
middle innings before Julio takes the hill.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards has played home to the
Orioles since 1992. Camden Yards is a new ball bark trapped
in old ball park architecture. The architects drew much of
their inspiration from older stadiums like Fenway Park and
Ebbets field. Camden Yards was also ranked the number two stadium
in all the major league by ESPN’s Page 2 “Ballpark Tour.” Each stadium was ranked on
everything from architecture to quality of the hot dogs and PA system.
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