Before we begin, let’s take a look back at a little of the Baltimore Orioles’ history:
1997: The last year the Baltimore Orioles were able to maintain a winning season.
2001: Cal Ripken Jr. retires from Major League Baseball.
2004: A trio of stars, Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, and Rafael Palmeiro, arrive in ‘Charm City’ in hopes of reversing the Orioles’ trend of losing. Sadly, they weren’t altogether successful.
2005: The “Great Meltdown” occurs. At the All-Star break, the Orioles were atop the American League East. Come season’s end, the squad found themselves in Fourth place.
2007: Andy MacPhail is hired as the Orioles’ President of Baseball Operations. Stars Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada are dealt for a total of ten players.
2009: The ‘Triumvirate’ arrives in Baltimore.
Many of you may be asking the question: “What do you mean by the Triumvirate?”
Let’s begin with its meaning. A triumvirate is defined as:
A government of three officers or magistrates functioning jointly
This term has its origins in Roman history. It was the form of government the Romans were ruled by at certain points in their history.
So where am I going with this?
Many Orioles’ fans have done nothing for the past ten years except complain about management, whine about signings, and hope the team would break free from their cycle of losing.
Now it is time to look at the positives.
Most Orioles’ fans know about the ‘Big 3’; a talented young trio of pitching prospects the Baltimore organization seems to be forever waiting on to arrive in the big-leagues. They are comprised of LHP Brian Matusz, RHP Chris Tillman, and RHP Jake Arrieta.
Some may even believe this trio is the true ‘Triumvirate’. However, I beg to differ.
These three young pitchers will be a joy to watch as they daily lead the Baltimore staff into war. Baltimore fans rightfully expect them to provide many joyous victories to the club every season once they’ve arrived.
However, players who only take the field once every five days can’t truly be expected to be the leaders of the club. These leaders are made up from everyday players who grind it out, day in and day out, on the diamond.
Who will make up the core of this leadership on the field? None other than the true ‘Triumvirate’; Catcher Matt Weiters, Outfielder Nick Markakis, and Second Baseman Brian Roberts.
Orioles’ fans have seen these players prepare for combat daily. They take the field and marshal their teammates for the upcoming battle. They will also be asked to aid in the development of the burgeoning Baltimore Orioles franchise.
I believe they’re fully up to the task.
Let’s now take a closer look at this trio of outstanding Baltimore talent.
Baltimore fans have all heard rumblings of Matthew Weiters and his immense talent. He uses his bat as a true weapon, and he proved his capabilities last season while in the minors.
At Single-A Frederick, he batted .345, hit 15 HR, had 40 RBI, scored 48 Runs, and stole a base.
If not, you should be. What should astound you most is the fact he actually improved each time he moved up a level in the Orioles’ system.
At Double-A Bowie, he batted .365, hit 12 HR, had 51 RBI, scored 41 Runs, and again stole a base.
Still not impressed?
How about we take a glance at his current numbers through Spring Training.
As of right now, he is batting .417, has hit 1 HR, and has 3 RBI through only five games (stats as of 3/5/09). In other words, he’s now hitting major league-caliber pitching with ease.
It is unquestioned that he is a future leader of the Baltimore Orioles franchise. He is already becoming a household name among Orioles’ fans; as many believe he is the number one prospect in all of baseball.
What he brings to the table is not only superior hitting ability, but outstanding defense as well.
To put it simply, the kid has a ‘Cannon’. I will now re-visit my ‘Around the Diamond’ series, as a quote on Weiters’ arm is still fresh in my memory.
Baseball Think Factory said, "Defensively, Weiters is a plus-defender with a quick transfer and release to go with his accurate fringe plus-plus arm."
Haven’t we all been waiting for this caliber player?
From behind the plate, Weiters will have to take charge in communicating with the pitching staff. Thus far he has already helped newly acquired Japanese starter Koji Uehara with his pitches.
In a blog at MASN.com, Roch Kubatko explains how he accomplished this task:
“Wieters noticed that Uehara was throwing his cutter at an improper arm angle and tried to correct the problem. The cutter becomes "too big" when his arm comes down a hair too much.”
Hopefully, the bulky catcher will remain in Baltimore for the majority of his career. For he, more than anyone else, may be the man who can save Baltimore Orioles’ fans from the depths of utter despair and his club from utter disaster.
The second player among the three was recently signed to a six-year, $66.1 million extension. Many O’s fanatics were pleased to see this deal finally concluded.
Markakis, the seventh overall pick by the Orioles in the 2003 MLB Draft, glided through the minors, and on April 3, 2006, a new era in Baltimore baseball was born.
Though he struggled at the beginning of his young career, he soon would prove his first round status, as he would go on to finish the season batting .291, while hitting 16 HR, driving in 62 RBI, and scoring 2 Runs.
From that season on, he had the hearts of both the Orioles’ front office and the team’s fans.
He would follow up his late run in 2006 with two straight years batting over .300, while hitting 20-plus HR each year. In 2007, he also led the team with 112 RBI. His RBI production would dip a bit in 2008, but was still impressive as he drove in 87 Runs.
Like Weiters, Markakis’ impact not only exists at the plate. His glove-work is truly a sight to behold.
In 2008, he led the American League in outfield assists with 17, and posted a .991 fielding percentage while scouring Right Field at Camden Yards. In my personal opinion, he was robbed of a Gold Glove.
So, we have rookie Matt Wieters leading the charge behind the plate, while 25 year-old budding Superstar Nick Markakis commands the troops out in the field.
Let’s conclude by discussing the final piece of the ‘Triumvirate’.
Similar to Markakis, this man was also recently signed to an extension, though his wasn’t as costly.
This past offseason, Andy MacPhail was sure to sign the veteran second-baseman to a four-year, $40 million deal. One of the top leadoff hitters in the game is now an Oriole for the next five seasons.
In fact, at the age where many believe leadoff men begin to lose their skills, Roberts continues on.
He batted .296, hit 9 HR, had 57 RBI, scored 107 Runs, and stole 40 bases. Let’s not forget the fact he also led the American League with 51 doubles.
Who believes he’s wearing down?
Some fans looked unfavorably upon giving Roberts a contract extension.. Others praised the move. I am among the latter.
For those who argue against MacPhail’s decision, and think he should have sought to trade Roberts, I can only point out they obviously weren’t aware of the market slowly collapsing last year.
Anyone who followed major league transactions over the winter may have noticed how long it took Orlando Hudson (now with the Los Angeles Dodgers) to be signed.
Besides, the Orioles received all they wanted from the Cubs’ organization, the one team always mentioned in trade rumors for the Oriole middle-infielder.
Others ask: “How will Roberts fit into the Orioles’ future plans?”
I can only respond with, “There couldn’t be a better person.”
Brian Roberts is not only a fan favorite in the city of Baltimore, he’s also a clubhouse leader. He remains a role-model for many young players trying to fight their way onto the big-league roster.
He is the General of the infield, consistently making diving stops, extended throws, and turning double-plays.
He is exactly what the O’s need to move forward.
All-in-all, we have two young stars who will use their talents to benefit the squad as the veteran helps in keeping the team together.
I therefore present to you the ‘Triumvirate’ of the Baltimore Orioles: Matt Weiters, Nick Markakis, and Brian Roberts.
Together, they shall lead a once thought to be dying franchise into war against the “Beasts of the East” and then on into a better and brighter future.
These three studs are the Orioles organization's best hope, and it is their responsibility to govern and lead this team in the fashion their abilities dictate.
Now, it’s time for them to get to work, for there is much to be done.
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