When the calendar turns to January 1st, regular people use the new year as an opportunity to take stock of their lives, and maybe jettison some things that aren't working, or add a new routine or two for self-improvement's sake. We usually get back where we started by mid-February, but that's beside the point, isn't it?
Opening Day is New Years Day for ballplayers. I think it's a good chance for a thought exercise, where I project my own hopes and fears onto the 2013 squad in resolution format. These resolutions are things that the team can work on and, to some degree, control - more specific and achievable than just "Brian Roberts resolves not to get hurt" or "Brian Matusz resolves to fulfill his potential."
Buck Showalter resolves to play Wilson Betemit as a left-handed DH only. Some versatile ballplayers are described as swiss army knives. If the analogy holds, Betemit is more like a machete - good as a blunt instrument, but not adaptable to everyday household uses. Orioles fans shouldn't have to see Betemit put on a glove in anything short of a dire emergency, and he shouldn't bat against a lefty unless the bench is pretty thin and the game's not close. Likelihood of resolution being kept: Medium.
Adam Jones resolves to play a couple steps deeper in the outfield. Look, Adam, you're a very good defender. Folks have argued with your gold gloves, but regardless of all that, you do just fine out there. But you seem to think you can get to some deep fly balls that you just can't. And fans would rather see a few more singles fall in front of you than doubles and triples get over your head. Likelihood of resolution being kept: Low.
Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy resolve to lay off the junk low and away. The kryptonite of two of the Orioles' most promising but frustrating hitters. If these two can just learn to lay off that one pitch, they'll become much tougher outs in the lineup. Both their on-base percentages and their power numbers would see a huge benefit. Both hitters have shown the ability to get more discerning - in Jones' case, for stints of a few weeks at a time, and for Hardy, in some seasons but not others - but doing so consistently in 2013 will be a big deal. Likelihood of resolution being kept: Medium.
Chris Davis resolves to catch balls that are thrown right at him. The Orioles don't need Davis to be a flashy gold-glover at first. It'd be great, but it isn't going to happen. What the Orioles do need Davis to be is acceptable - which is to say, not to drop balls that hit his glove in mid-air, to make the basic plays that any first baseman should make. Reports on Davis's defense from spring training have been glowing, and Davis publicly acknowledged at this year's Fan Fest that he knew it was something he needed to work on. With the Orioles dedicating their DH spot to Betemit and possibly Nolan Reimold, Davis sticking in the field becomes doubly important to keep his bat in the Orioles' lineup. Likelihood of resolution being kept: High.
Jake Arrieta resolves not to come unglued in tough spots. It's not known at this point whether Arrieta will break camp with the big club, but I'd say it's a safe bet he sees time at the major-league level at some point. It's been debated endlessly whether Arrieta's struggles are the outcome of bad pitching or bad luck - and the truth might be a bit of both - but Arrieta supporters and detractors alike have seen that he responds poorly to high-pressure situations, often leaving up a meatball at the most inopportune time possible. The mental portion of Arrieta's game could be the biggest factor in whether he breaks out or continues to tread water. Likelihood of resolution being kept: Low.
Dan Duquette resolves to gas up the Norfolk Express. One of the most refreshing changes for Orioles fans in 2012 was the club's refusal to keep trotting out guys who didn't perform, particularly in the starting rotation. Showalter said at the start of spring training this year that there were 12 viable candidates for the starting rotation. The dynamic duo of Showalter and Duquette need to keep the pressure on these guys by sending them down if they don't work out, and giving the next guy his shot. Likelihood of resolution being kept: Absolutely certain.
Wei-Yin Chen resolves to get deeper into ballgames. This could be a co-resolution with Showalter, to pull Chen when he needs to come out. A lot of analysis of Chen's 2012 focused on how many days' rest he got, but to my eyes the biggest issue was that his pitches lost a lot of life late in his starts, and Showalter left him hanging a bit too long. The numbers bear this out: Chen's ERA after the sixth inning was 7.42, with an opponents' OPS of .930. Orioles fans can hope that Chen's second year in the majors will have him better conditioned to the rigors of the season, and that Showalter will learn to better see the signs of him tiring. Likelihood of resolution being kept: Medium.
A post like this probably comes off as inherently negative. I still expect good things from the 2013 Orioles, but every club, and every player, has specific areas where they can work to improve. The players and coaches know these things better than the fans, but why should that stop us from throwing in our two cents? Leave the resolutions that you'd like to see the Orioles keep in the comments.