Bill Clinton was president. Beanie Babies and Furbies were all the rage. Mike Trout was six years old. The year was 1998.
For Orioles fans, that was the last time spring training began with any spark of enthusiasm. Fresh off consecutive trips to the American League Championship Series, the 1998 Orioles fell flat on their face. Fourteen consecutive losing seasons followed.
It was a dark time to be an Orioles fan. Until last year, that is. Buck Showalter's 2012 Birds used a special blend of magic, moxie and luck to rise to the top of the AL East and return to the playoffs.
The 2013 edition of the Showalter's squad looks very similar to the 2012 version that shocked the world. In no way, shape, or form is that a bad thing. The free-agent market was weak this year, and short of signing Josh Hamilton, the Orioles would not have upgraded their roster significantly.
Many have already written the Orioles off as a one-year wonder, but this is a good team that can realistically expect to contend again in 2013. It is not realistic to expect them to repeat their 29-9 record in one run games or their 16-2 record in extra innings. Those are historic numbers.
To prove 2012 was more than a fluke, the Orioles will need to raise their team batting average, play excellent defense, get passable starting pitching and rule innings seven through nine. These five players will play a large part in making that happen.