OK, before I hit the hay after playing nerdy video games to get my mind off of that outlandish loss, I wanted to run through the lineup. I seriously feel like, in all sincerity, Baltimore's lineup has major problems and does not deserve to be called "this Murderer's Row, of sorts" by Gary Miller, unless he's talking about how I envision them murdering lots of rallies throughout the season.
But quickly: What was Jay Gibbons doing? What on earth was Jay Gibbons doing? Why did Mazzilli leave Kline in to face Byrnes? I know Kline was fantastic last season, but Byrnes hit .344/.406/.599 against lefties last year. You can point to the fact that if Kline gets Byrnes out, he's got Chavez next, and that is in itself enough of a reason to not put Julio in to face Byrnes.
I'm not big on bullpen overmanagement, but with two on in a 1-1 game, this is where you start getting picky about matchups. Have Julio face Byrnes and bring in Parrish to face Chavez if Julio gets the out. If you walk Chavez against Julio to load the bases, Hatteberg pinch-hits for Kielty. Still, I'll take my chances with Julio v. Hattie over Kline v. Lefty-Killer Byrnes or even Julio v. Chavez, I guess. Maximize your chance to keep the game tied.
But this is all lined up on Gibbons' remarkably boneheaded play. A little leaguer wouldn't have done that, or if he had, his teammates would've called him a dumb SOB after the game and not talked to him at the next practice. He might've been so badly insulted that he would end up quitting the team. Now do I advocate the insulting of children? No, but kids are mean, that's a fact of life. And anyway, as I said, a little leaguer wouldn't have done that to begin with. If you get that out on Kotsay, you walk Byrnes with the base open and you're at Kline v. Chavez. That's fine.
And Matos' ridiculous non-fielding of the hopper in center was really inconsequential, since Chavez was scoring either way on that hit, but it just made the unraveling seem that much worse. Poor Steve Kline. Poor us.
So, right, the lineup. Brian Roberts didn't hit lefties last year, but he was better than Palmeiro at least. Mora has started off ice cold and I think there's a very real chance he regresses to very human numbers this season after his two monstrous years in '03 and '04. Tejada is not a world-beater; a valuable piece of a team, yes, but he's not Manny Ramirez at the plate or anything.
Sosa and Palmeiro are both aging rapidly and the first three games I've noticed both of them do not have the bat speed right now. Javy Lopez is due for the catcher's decline. Gibbons is simply not anywhere near as good of a hitter as some people seem to believe. I think he's treated kindly by O's fans in particular because of that 100 RBI season on that hideous 2003 team; basically, outside of an injury-filled season from Mora and Sidney Ponson's career year, we had nothing to cheer for that year. The guy that led the team in RBI was a natural rooting point.
But Gibbons isn't a special hitter at all. He seems to have 20-25 HR potential, little plate discipline, and he's injury-prone. And obviously, the spring news that he was a sub-standard first baseman were not a lie. This guy might make Mike Piazza look like a solid first baseman if he keeps this up.
Then you're left with Bigbie, who is at best a fair corner outfielder, and Matos, who just doesn't inspire confidence in me, partially because he's another guy that gets hurt, and partially because outside of his glove and decent speed, I don't see him as a valuable player really. He'd make a fine defensive replacement and pinch-runner. I'm not about to give up on him just yet or anything, and I hope for the best from all these guys, but I'm not crazy.
So the lineup is centered on three guys that hit last year (Mora, Tejada, Lopez), two old guys whose numbers are going down in a hurry (Sosa, Palmeiro), a sparkplug leadoff guy (Roberts) and a bottom of the order that is quite bottom of the order-ish.
Compare Gibbons, Bigbie and Matos (or sub Surhoff and/or Newhan in for any of them) to what the Red Sox and Yankees have in the 7-8-9 spots and I'll show you a big difference. Neither of those teams have spectacular hitters in those spots, but they are better than what we have.
Why am I going on about how suspicious this lineup is? Well, look, five runs in three games. Yes, Oakland can pitch, but when you spend an offseason talking about how potent a lineup is (and I'm now including the front office in this criticism as well), you might want to get better results than that. We've hit two home runs thus far, and they were Luis Matos and Brian Bob. Our power guys, and in particular the dreadfully nauseating Sosa-Palmeiro-Lopez section of the order, have the potential to leave us hanging in a bad, bad way.
All this talk of if everything goes right, we'll win 90. Problem is, it's a lot less likely than everything going wrong. The team is pretty old and most of these guys aren't getting any better. I don't even think Tejada is getting any better, though I believe we can rely on him to be a positive contributor for the length of his contract.
Everything goes wrong, and this team is going to struggle for 70 wins. The pitching looks good so far besides Cabrera, but the offense we were told we could count on has been abysmal.
I hate to be negative after just three games, but I'm tired of losing. I think we're all tired of losing, tired of pipe dream fantasies about this club and a continued wasting of resources in some desperate and futile attempt at contending, while the farm system rots and we trade prospect-types for Jason Grimsley and Ramon Nivar.
God knows I love the Baltimore Orioles, and I will cheer for them if they're 27-2 or 2-27, if they're about to clinch the division or if they're just trying to finish the season off respectably and not lose 100 games, but the attempts at winning now are really bad for our sanity and for the future of this team. At some point, the Red Sox and/or Yankees will stumble, and someone will be in line to move in. Right now, I wouldn't bet on it being us. Right now, I'd actually place a small bet on the Devil Rays in a few years making a run, as they languish without a batch of very former All-Stars and work on moving in the young players a piece at a time.
Maybe I'm just frustrated with two straight losses. Maybe I'm just sick of reading about this fantastic lineup when anyone could see the huge flaws in it, and know it's only going to lead to heartbreak for so many of us, when this team is really not a whole lot better than the ones before it, and is simply a different shade of also-ran.
Damn it, let's sweep the stinkin' Yankees and get this train on the tracks. Let's win 90. Let's do a lot of things, and let's start doing them.