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Thanksgiving in Birdland - 2009

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There are a lot of things to be thankful for in Birdland this year. More than any year in recent history, I'd say. After years of futility, years of floundering, the Orioles are almost respectable again. They're not there yet, but it's close. I can feel it. To get there the Orioles need to show marked improvement from the teams over the past decade and they also need to prove they can compete with the rest of the teams in the AL East. Will it ever happen? I'm certain part one will. Part two is currently a mystery. But the pieces are starting to come together.


This team is getting younger, and it's getting better. Chris Tillman (21). Brian Matusz (22). Brad Bergesen (23). Adam Jones (23). Matt Wieters (23). Felix Pie (24). Nick Markakis (25). Nolan Reimold (25). That's a hell of a core, and that doesn't even take into account the young guys still in the minors. There could be injuries, there could be busts, but that is potentially the nucleus of a championship team. There are a lot of pieces that need to be added to it, of course, but it's there.

The Orioles used to be the worst kind of bad team, because not only were they bad,  they were old and expensive too. That is no longer the case. Melvin Mora and his $8M/year are gone. So is Jamie Walker ($4.5M). Danys Baez (>$7M), gone. Ditto Aubrey Huff ($8M). After reaching a payroll of over $93M in 2007 that resulted in a paltry 69 wins, the 2010 Orioles currently have obligated less than half of that.

It's easy to look at where the Orioles are now and who is ahead of them in the division and feel discouraged. But another viewpoint is this: the Orioles have a young team that's full of talent and they have money to spend. They have a GM in Andy MacPhail who has proven that he's capable of showing patience, making big trades, identifying potential high-reward players, and sticking to his plan. How he'll handle Free Agents signings (impact FAs, not players like Mark Hendrickson) remains to be seen, but MacPhail has done so many things right so far that there is reason to believe in him.

Catch me any other day and I'll have a little more cynicism and a lot more doubt about the future of the Orioles. But it's the time of year to give thanks, so let's put that other stuff on the shelf for today and thank Wieters for the direction this team has taken.

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