A Brighter Season for the O's

Today begins the O's 2011 campaign and excitement for the Birds and at a high.

The 2010 Orioles season began with a bleak outlook for the future with the team going 8-19 in the first month. However, things took a turn for the better at the end of the season when the managerial position was given to Buck Showalter.

Baltimore went through two managers last season before finding the right man for the job.

Dave Trembley began the season as the manager but was relieved of his position after a dismal start of 15-39, a .278 winning percentage. Juan Samuel was named interim manager after. Samuel filled the position for 51 games. He was a slight improvement over Trembley with a record of 17-34, equaling a winning percentage of .333.

In the 57 games Showalter coached in 2010, the O's had a win percentage of .596 with a record of 34-23. For the time he was in control, the team had the best record during that stretch. Meaning that during the short time Showalter was in charge, the Orioles had a better record than the Rays and the Yankees-both teams who went on to play in October.

Buck has two things that his predecessors did not: the right personality and manager experience.

He is always willing to discuss whatever issues arise with his players but he is not going to be pushed over by them. He is known for his straightforward approach and his profound knowledge of the game.

For both Samuel and Trembley , their time coaching the Orioles was their first time in the role as a major league manager. Samuel had the experience of actually playing in the majors, whereas, Trembley was one of handful of manager without that credential.

However, Trembley did have a minor league coaching record to his name. He spent 24 seasons in the minor leagues, 4 of those being in the Baltimore farm system. As a minor league manager, he has a win percentage of .491 with a record 1369-1413. When he took the role in the big leagues, Trembley's win percentage dropped to .398. The team's total record was 187-283 in the 4 years under him.

In contrast to Trembley, Showalter worked with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers before coming to the Orioles. He supplies a career winning percentage of .517 in his 12 seasons as a major league manager. Two of those season, he coached his teams to 1st place: the 1994 Yankees and the 1999 Diamondbacks. He also won the AL Manager of the Year award in 1994 and 2004.

In 2011, the Orioles finished .500 during Spring Training. They ranked 9th in the Grapefruit League, 4 games behind the 1st place Minnesota Twins. In terms of the American League, Baltimore fell in 8th place and 5 games behind the leading Kansas City Royals.

As for the American League East, the Orioles had the second best Spring Training record, falling 1.5 games only behind the Toronto Blue Jays while being tied with the Rays, 1 game ahead of the Yankees, and 3 in front of the Red Sox. If they can keep that momentum going into the regular season, there may be an even bigger race in the AL East.

Buck is not the only reason positive movement the team has made. He has better talent to be coaching in the 2011 season than there was in seasons past.

In the offseason, the Orioles acquired four players that add depth to the lineup: Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds.

Guerrero was brought to Baltimore as a DH. No one can argue his greatness given his career batting average of .320 with 436 homeruns and 1433 RBIs. He has been the recipient of 7 Silver Slugger awards and an 8 time All-Star.

Derek Lee is bringing a .282 lifetime average and 312 home runs to the team as well as his glove at first base. He has won 3 Gold Gloves and been named to the All-Star game twice. At 6' 5” and 245 lbs, there are no problems for him catching any balls that Weiters throws down too high.

J.J. Hardy brings something to Baltimore that hasn't been there in a while: an experienced shortstop. Since Miguel Tejada was traded the first time in 2007, the shortstop position has been difficult to fill. Hardy played there for the Brewers his entire 6-season career.

Mark Reynolds will be taking over the role at third base. He was brought to the team for his power numbers. In his 4 major league season, he hit 121 homeruns. However, last season he claimed the title as the first player in baseball history to have a higher number of strikeouts than his batting average. He finished last season below the Mendoza Line at .198.

With a talented manager and more depth added to the already established players-Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, Matt Wieters, and Luke Scott-the Orioles have a chance of bringing back some Orioles Magic. If the pitching can hold up, this season may be the best season Baltimore has seen in a long time.

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