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Let us take a look at sixteen games of a season

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Sixteen games have passed, we just finished a mini-series where the Red Sox shut us down in our park, and the Baltimore Orioles stand at 9-7, in second place in the American League East.

Question for everyone: Are the Orioles better than, worse than, or right about what you expected them to be at this stage in the season? Ignore that it's still too early to really tell anything. If we took that attitude, there'd be nothing to talk about until mid-May at the earliest.

THE GOOD

Rodrigo Lopez has looked like an honest to God ace-caliber starter through three games, two against the Yankees and one, his best, against the Red Sox.

Bruce Chen has also been very effective save for a bad pitch to Jason Varitek, twice shutting down New York, including a four-hit complete game.

BJ Ryan has looked like a potentially dominant closer, which would make him the first real lefty closer in the American League since Randy Myers (Billy Wagner, of course, is the most recent dominant lefty closer).

There have only been a few top-flight lefty closers in baseball history: Myers, Wagner, Sparky Lyle and Dave Righetti are the only southpaws in the top 30 for career saves.

Miguel Tejada hits the ball. There are lots of things you can say bad about Tejada. His defense is still shaky at times (three errors thus far in '05) and he is not a patient hitter. But Tejada is Tejada, and he's also the guy that takes charge and puts it out there that this team thinks they're going to win. Or at least he says it.

Of course, Brian Roberts. What more can you say? Brian's going to cool off - in fact, he already has started probably, as the Red Sox turned his bat to ice. But he's already set a career high for home runs and become a flag-bearer for the 2005 Orioles. He played with cotton stuck up his bloody nostrils when A-Rod went on another slap attack for the love of Ripken.

Javy Lopez might not ever hit 30 home runs again. I wouldn't be shocked if he never hit 20 again. But he's a reliable bat, and he's been there to pick up for the guy in front of him several times.

Center field hasn't been a problem so far, with Luis Matos healthy and hitting his singles at the bottom of the lineup, plus playing some good defense.

Some solid relief pitching thus far from both Jorge Julio and, surprisingly, Todd Williams, who was the last guy to make the squad.

THE BAD

Rafael Palmeiro looks absolutely finished. So does BJ Surhoff, but Surhoff isn't being slotted into the five-hole every day, either. Palmeiro looks completely overmatched at the plate, and is the big centerpiece in Rally Murderer's Row. Two extra-base hits for Raffy so far, a homer and a double. His drive for 3,000 is going to be excruciating to deal with if he keeps this up, and since he had all of one really worthwhile month in 2004, and he's 40 years old, there is really no reason to think Palmeiro is going to hit this season. Hoping for the best is all I can offer.

On the topic of first base, both Palmeiro and Jay Gibbons have been less than stellar defensively, and Gibbons isn't hitting either. The big Todd Helton rumor that Laura Vecsey of the Sun more or less created, thus giving ESPN enough of a lead to report it as a serious possibility, seems better every day with these two in the field and at the plate, and that's taking into account the idea that we'd be giving up arguably our two best prospects and taking on Helton's outlandish contract.

Lopez and Chen have been good. Daniel Cabrera and Sidney Ponson could merge and become one reasonably shaped pitcher. Also, they've both been terrible so far. Opposing hitters are lighting Ponson up, hitting .379. Cabrera has fared better, at .333.

Larry Bigbie has been pretty bad. Amazingly, he's completely outperforming his "competition", which is Surhoff. Surhoff has actually looked good in the field, but his miserable start at the plate is making him look worthless to be carrying on this roster. If the Orioles are going to compete, finding a left fielder may be in order. No one in the minors is really ready for that jump since Val Majewski is out for the season.

The Arsonists Steve started poorly, but Kline seems to be turning it around after his idiotic "I didn't think Baltimore would hear about it!" business in the St. Louis press. Reed, though, is in the same boat with Surhoff and Palmeiro. Rick Bauer has been completely ineffective as the long reliever. Someone tell Kline to get his hat dirty. If there's some sort of team ban on him having a filthy hat, someone tell the team to stop it.

What the hell does Lee Mazzilli do, really? It certainly doesn't appear to be "leading the team," as everything Mazzilli ever says seems to be crediting the opposition instead of his own players. It doesn't seem so bad when we lose, but when we sweep the Yankees, how about patting the team on the back and saying, "Good job!" Instead, Mazzilli opts to speculate that the Orioles may have caught the Yankees at the wrong - er, he means right! - time. I'm sorry, but I'm still having trouble trusting Mazzilli at the helm here. Not in some stupid conspiracy plot way, just in that I don't think he's the guy for this job, and I didn't last year, and I didn't when they hired him.

THE OK

Sammy Sosa has been interesting. He's not doing enough to be bad, really, but he's not lighting anything up either. Sosa is traditionally a slow starter, which has been pointed out a lot. But Sammy never really got on track last year. He hit 35 homers, but it was a rather ugly way of going about it, and he also didn't hit anything in "clutch situations", which he's not doing now either. Every time Sammy comes up with two out and a runner in scoring position, you might as well go to the kitchen and make a sandwich, nothing's happening that isn't going to get you mad.

Melvin Mora got off to a terrible start, but has rebounded. Melvin will hit, I'm not worried about him. And he's become a very good third baseman.

Erik Bedard had a fantastic start against Oakland, an iffy start against the D-Rays, and then got bombed against the Tigers. I like Bedard, but I also like results, so I'm still in the "wait-and-see" mode with him.

The most ridiculous line of anyone on the team belongs to John Parrish. In 6.2 innings, Parrish has allowed just three hits, but has walked 10. He's also struck out 10. He has a 1.35 ERA and a 1.95 WHIP. Batters are hitting .130 against him. And yet his total lack of control makes him a huge worry in a tight game still. Parrish's ERA is treading on thin ice.

What more could you ask of Chris Gomez or Geronimo Gil? And David Newhan hasn't really gotten a chance to do anything. Why he's not getting a look in left field right now is beyond me, even for the Bigbie days off that Surhoff is playing.

ON THE HORIZON(?)

It may only be a matter of time before something has to be done about the Palmeiro/Gibbons 1B/DH situation. There's the Helton idea, which is unlikely I think, and then there's Walter Young, a big fat guy that hits home runs and could be the DH. Palmeiro badly needs at least a platoon partner, and given that if anyone got the bench, it would be Gibbons (who isn't chasing 3,000 hits and does not have 550 homers), Young could help us out.