Remember when the Orioles won the World Series? I can't. That may be because I wasn't alive when the Orioles were last world champions, but there was once a time when the Orioles were among the greatest in the sport.
I've lived most of my life with the Orioles being below .500. I have suffered through each of the 14 consecutive losing seasons with my father. Each year, I defend my Orioles as if they could beat the Yankees and the Red Sox and take home the AL East crown, mostly due to fan blindness.
For the Orioles to compete, they'll need to do a lot, but the biggest key is time. It will happen eventually. I just hope it doesn't take as long as it did for the Red Sox and Cubs.
Here are five ways that the Orioles could compete with the real contenders.
The Orioles began their push to the international market under Andy MacPhail with signings like Koji Uehara and Jonathan Schoop. Now, Dan Duquette has continued the trend, but has made it more of a focus.
Duquette has already begun signing players from all over. In his short time, he has signed Tsuyoshi Wada from Japan, Wei-Yin Chen from Taiwan, Pita Rona from New Zealand, Eun Chul Choi from Korea and others.
The only way for the Orioles to compete is to gain an edge, and they could gain one by continuing to sign players from the Far East, Venezuela or Dominican Republic.
The Orioles had a pretty solid farm system a couple years ago, but all of the top prospects have graduated to the majors, so the next wave is dry.
While the rest of the league has their Dustin Pedroias, Evan Longorias, Robinson Canos and Ricky Romeros, the Orioles have players like Nick Markakis. While Markakis is a very good player for the Orioles and is certainly one of my favorites on the team, he never developed into the high potential player that he was expected to be.
Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are a good start, but the Orioles need some more top prospects. The Royals, Nationals, Pirates and Padres all seem to have bright futures thanks to growing from within, but the O's are just as far from contention as they were three years ago.
The Orioles haven't had a true star from within the organization since Cal Ripken Jr., and that is unacceptable at this point.
You could put a lot of the blame on the pitching staff for the Orioles having back-to-back terrible seasons, but not having Brian Roberts is almost as detrimental.
Roberts is the team's table setter. He was the base stealer, pitch taker and run scorer, and his loss hit the team hard. Losing their lead-off man made the Orioles much worse than they should have been.
It wasn't just Roberts that went missing in 2011. Luke Scott and Jake Arrieta were also sorely missed, and the team could have really used them.
The Orioles need to have their regulars at full strength to compete.
Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta were supposed to be the answer to the Orioles' pitching woes, but none of them had an overall positive effect on the 2011 Orioles.
The Orioles need leaps forward from these three and young players like Chris Davis and Matt Wieters to take the next step in their journey to contention. The help they could provide might be enough to bring the Orioles to the .500 mark for the first time in 15 seasons.
The Orioles clearly have power, as they were fourth in the majors in home runs, but they don't have one player that invokes fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.
The Red Sox have Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis. The Yankees have Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. The Rays have Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and now Carlos Pena. Even the Blue Jays have Jose Bautista.
The closest the Orioles have are Mark Reynolds and Adam Jones, but both chase pitches enough that they are not feared on the same level. There needs to be a player that can change a pitcher's game plan, and the Orioles lack such a player.