Lots of thrills, disappointment mark Orioles 2013

Lots of thrills, disappointment mark Orioles 2013
December 31, 2013, 8:30 am
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As we end 2013 and look ahead to 2014, let’s remember the good and bad in a year that started out with so much optimism and ends with lots of pessimism.

When this year started, Baltimore was still awash from Orioles euphoria, and hoping that the new year would be even better.

It wasn’t a bad year for the Orioles, it just wasn’t another playoff season.

For the second straight year, the team won more games than it lost. Eight games over .500 would have been wonderful in 2012 after 14 straight losing seasons. It was a letdown instead.

There were some wonderful things in 2013: Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman.

Each was an All-Star for the first time, and provided thrills to fans. Davis’ team home run record, Machado’s artistry in the field and Tillman fulfilling his promise were joys.

J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones were also on the All-Star teams. Davis, Hardy and Jones were first-time starters.

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Hardy, Jones and Machado won Gold Gloves as the team set major league records for most errorless games and highest fielding percentage.

Some things didn’t go as well in 2013.

Jim Johnson had 50 saves for the second straight year and ends the year preparing for spring training, not at home in Sarasota, but
In Arizona for the Oakland Athletics. Convinced they’d have to pay him upwards of $10 million, Johnson was traded for Jemile Weeks and David Freitas.

Nick Markakis was healthy again, but his power vanished in the last half of the season.

Nolan Reimold was hurt yet again, and had his second neck surgery in a year.

Jason Hammel, who was the Opening Day starter, didn’t win a game after Memorial Day.

Given a final chance, Jake Arrieta pitched poorly and the organization finally traded him to the Chicago Cubs in early July. Arrieta was joined by another disappointment, Pedro Strop.

Strop, who was a terrific setup man for most of 2012, had an awful start and spent time on the disabled list. Convinced they couldn’t fix him here, the Orioles sent him away. Strop pitched well in Chicago.

Wei-Yin Chen missed two months with an oblique strain, and for the second straight year, had a rough end to the season.

Besides Johnson, other familiar names have left.

Nate McLouth, who helped save the 2012 season, will begin next year with the Nationals. He got a two-year contract with a third-year option in Washington.

Brian Roberts, who played more games in 2013 than he had in four years, is gone, too. After 13 years of mostly bad teams, then bad fortune, Roberts will play presumably his final season with the Yankees. Many expected him back here.

Scott Feldman, who the Orioles got for Arrieta and Strop is gone, too. Houston signed him to a three-year, $30 million contract.

The Orioles will have their fifth pitching coach in the last four years in 2014. Rick Adair, who left the team for personal reasons in August, won’t be back. Neither will Bill Castro, who moved from bullpen coach to take Adair’s place.

In their place, Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti join the Orioles as pitching and bullpen coach.

There’ll be a new closer. Perhaps it will be Tommy Hunter, who performed effectively as a setup man. Maybe they’ll sign Fernando Rodney, who’s still a free agent.

The Orioles thought they had a good replacement for Johnson in Grant Balfour, but after a physical, they had concerns about the durability of his right shoulder.

A deal was scrubbed, and Balfour angrily called Dan Duquette to protest. Balfour has yet to sign elsewhere.

Troy Patton, a useful lefthander in the bullpen, will start 2014 on the sidelines. He was suspended for 25 games after a positive test for amphetamines.

David Lough, who the Orioles acquired from Kansas City for Danny Valencia, has a good chance to be the starting left fielder.

The year ends with the Orioles still looking for another starting pitcher and hitter while fans get impatient.

Two years ago, many criticized the team for seemingly doing little to improve. 2012 ended up being a magical year. Fans are hoping that the magic returns in 2014.

NOTE: The family of Paul Blair will greet well wishers on Friday at Ruck’s Funeral Home, 1050 York Road in Towson from 2-8 p.m.

Fans wishing to honor Blair can contribute to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, Tennessee 38105.

There will be no public service.