There seems to be a concern among some of the Orioles' fan base that the club wants to return pretty much the same roster as it had last year. A concern that the club may stand pat, so to speak ... But if the Orioles did return a club next season that looked a lot like the 2012 Orioles, what would be wrong with that?
"Nothing at all!" shouted Andrew Friedman, Brian Cashman, Alex Anthopoulos, and Ben Cherington in unison.
The worry here seems to center on the club's amazing record in the close games. The Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games for the best win percentage in major league history. They won their last 16 extra-inning games, the longest win streak in the big leagues since 1949.
How many of those 29 wins in one-run games can be attributed to luck, and how many should be credited to Buck Showalter's deft bullpen management? Were the Orioles more lucky than good? If you're Dan Duquette, you can't plan on winning three-quarters of your one-run games next season (or ever again). If even a few of those games had gone the other way, if they were only a little bit lucky, the Orioles would have finished behind Tampa Bay. They can't afford to stay the course, because luck runs out, and history isn't kind to the pat-standers:
... you'd be hard pressed to find many World Series-winning teams that entered the next season having made as few changes over the winter as the 2003 Anaheim Angels have.
In fact, Angels general manager Bill Stoneman hoped to do less this winter than he wound up doing.
"We wanted to be more the same."
That's from an interview by a young cub reporter named Rob Neyer (probably an alias). So where did "We want to be more the same" get the 2003 Angels?
Team Year Record Result
Angels 2001 75-87 Third place.
Angels 2002 99-63 World Series!
Angels 2003 77-85 Third place.
This was a nearly perfect example of the Plexiglas Principle: Teams that improve one year tend to decline the next, and vice versa. The reason is simple enough: Winning obscures a team's shortcomings, while losing amplifies them.
Winning teams discount the role of luck in their success. It's so tempting for a GM to assume a player's career year represents his true talent level, or to take his team's good health for granted. Losing teams know they can't stand still. They have to reload.
Good teams usually have to reload, too. They just don't always see it. But if Baltimore's fan base really is clamoring for roster changes this winter, that should make Dan Duquette's job easier, and the Orioles might avoid being a one-year wonder.