2011 Baltimore Orioles: Road To the AL Wild Card And Beyond
Even though the Baltimore Orioles have been at the bottom of the AL East and the American League for the past ten years, 2011 will be the year that they shock the baseball world and make the playoffs as the AL wild-card team.
Due to their great off-season acquisitions, the Orioles have become an offensive powerhouse of the American League while at the same time being defensively sound. Under the guidance of Buck Showalter, the Orioles are primed for a playoff berth.
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Aside from the veteran Brian Roberts at second base and highly acclaimed sophomore catcher Matt Wieters, the Orioles infield has become one of the strongest offensive infields in all of baseball.
With the three time Golden Glove award winner Derrek Lee manning first base, his veteran presence and leadership will develop the young players throughout the team while playing a key role in the offense and defense.The only downside of Derrek Lee is his age, but he hasn't shown signs of slowing down yet.
Moving on, one of the most feared power hitters in the National League last year, Mark Reynolds, anchors third base for the Orioles. With his home run hitting ability (32 home runs during the 2010 season), he will be expected to produce many runs this season.
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The biggest and most surprising off-season move by the Baltimore Orioles this winter was the signing of Vladimir Guerrero to become the heart of the lineup.
Over his career, Vlad has produced over 1400 RBIs and over 450 home runs. After coming off a career year in Texas, being able to focus solely on his hitting as a DH, and being protected by other great hitters in the lineup, he will have a major effect on the Orioles' contention in the AL East like he did last year for the Rangers (was in the voting for MVP).
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The Orioles had long been on a hunt for a veteran manager to lead an inexperienced and young group of players. Fortunately, they were able to find one in Buck Showalter.
Having managed three different teams and leading two of them to the postseason (Yankees and Diamondbacks), he has much experience and wisdom to offer to the Orioles. Showalter gave Oriole fans a glimpse of the 2011 season by accumulating an above .500 win-loss record through the last 50 games of the season. He will provide leadership inside and outside the clubhouse.
When all the pieces come together, the Baltimore Orioles will not be an easy team to beat. Their offense will be comparable to the better teams around the league and their defense will be one of the best. The AL East will now truly be able to live up to its reputation as the most competitive division in all of baseball.