BALTIMORE, MD: Kevin Gregg #63 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates with Matt Wieters #32 after a 5-3 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Here's something you might not have seen or heard anywhere this season ...
The Baltimore Orioles are having a great season.
Not great in the sense that it's been a large season, or even an outstanding season.
Great, though, in the sense that if I were an Orioles fan, I would be pretty thrilled right now.
Granted, there probably aren't many actual Orioles fans who feel that way, today.
It's hard to be thrilled with last place, or a 30-34 record. Especially when the twin signings of free agents Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero were supposed to boost the club's hitting attack to decency if not excellence.
Well, that hasn't happened. Guerrero's a disappointment, Lee something like a disaster. The Orioles would have been better off if they'd eschewed Lee and just given the first-base job to Ty Wigginton. Or almost anyone else, for that matter. And I won't allow false modesty to prevent me from saying this: I told you so! I didn't like the signings of Lee and Guerrero when they happened, and very rarely have I ever been quite so right about anything. They could have given first base to Wigginton, left Luke Scott as the regular DH, and given Nolan Reimold another shot in left field. If they'd done those things, they'd be getting roughly the same production, at least, while saving a buttload of cash that might be spent on, oh I don't know, actually improving the roster in a season when it matters.
But that's a lot of negativity in what began, in my mind anyway, as a positive essay.
If there's one thing we might have learned, though last night's games, it's that Buck Showalter might not actually be a Miracle Worker. Then again, it's probably not his fault that Lee and Guerrero are regularly wasting dollars and plate appearances. What we might also have learned is that Buck Showalter is, at the very least, a pretty good manager.
Last year, the Orioles were 32-73 when Showalter took over as manager. Afterward, they went 34-23. Those numbers are a testament to relative managerial talents, for sure. But there's never been a manager born that was the difference, all by his lonesome, between 32-73 and 34-23. It simply wasn't realistic to think the Orioles would continue to play .600 baseball simply because of Uncle Buck Showalter. Nor was there much reason to think that Guerrero and Lee would make a big dent in the standings.
Here's the thing, though: Before Showalter arrived, the Orioles were 32-73. Since his hiring, the Orioles have gone 64-56 ... which is still really impressive and does probably say something about Showalter's talents. And suggests that once the organization is free of overpaid veterans like Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero and comes up with some good young homegrown hitters, the 25-man roster will be in excellent hands.