The 2012 Baltimore Orioles - A Lesson in Survival

Did you think of something he didn’t think of?

Crashing into horizons on the brink of – success!

Hurrah! Success which was survival gone too far!

           All Things that Go to Make Heaven and Earth, The New Pornographers

Yesterday – August 13, 2012 – the Baltimore Orioles had an off day on their schedule.  No game was played, but there was still plenty of work to be done for an organization that has not had a dull moment since the first pitch of the season was thrown way back on April 6th.  The day started with Troy Patton informing the club that he rolled his ankle on Sunday night and that he could potentially miss a few games or more.  The team acted quickly by reacquiring left-hander JC Romero in exchange for non-prospect Carlos Rojas.  The resigning of Romero is an unusual situation – the veteran left-hander signed a minor league contract with the Orioles earlier in the season, only to opt out when he was informed that the team would not be calling him up in the near future.  Romero signed on with the Indians and was assigned to AAA Columbus, although the Orioles, Indians, and Romero all had an unofficial agreement that Romero would be allowed to return to the O’s (for a small amount of compensation) if the Orioles intended to add him to the 25 man roster.  Romero was immediately added to the 25 man roster in place of Miguel Socolovich, who was designated for assignment the previous day.  Steve Johnson was notified that he will be needed at Camden Yards today in case Patton is indeed DL-bound.

Socolovich’s DFA and the reacquisition for JC Romero were roster moves #119 and #120 for the Orioles on the 2012 season.  The number of moves the team has made is most likely not unprecedented, but is a gigantic amount the nonetheless.  The Orioles play their 116th game of the season tonight so they have essentially averaged more than one roster move per game played.  What makes this feat even more remarkable is that these 120 roster moves have been largely made out of necessity.  Any General Manager can get cute with his roster management and make a plethora of unnecessary or illogical moves.  That has generally not been the case with Dan Duquette and the 2012 Orioles, however.  The Orioles have done what they have done all in an attempt to simply survive the season.

When the season started most Orioles fans – including the Orioles Observer – assumed that in order for this team to contend a lot would have to go right.  The young starting pitchers – Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton – would have to take a collective step forward.  They took a collective step (or perhaps five leaps) backwards and all three are currently playing for AAA Norfolk.  Mark Reynolds and JJ Hardy would have to put up the great power numbers they produced in 2012 when they hit a combined 67 homeruns.  They have a combined 23 homeruns entering Tuesday’s game.  Key players would have to avoid significant time on the disabled list.  Nolan Reimold (opening day left fielder/leadoff hitter) and Tsuyoshi Wada (projected starter) have spent nearly all season on the DL; Jason Hammel, Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Johnson have also missed significant time with injuries.  As a team, the Orioles rank 7th in Major League baseball in 20012 in terms of cumulative days spend on the DL.

Some things have gone right for the O’s – Hammel has been outstanding when healthy and Wei-Yin Chen has exceeded all expectations to provide two examples – but in no reality have “a lot of things gone right” for the Orioles.  Yet somehow, they are contending.

What started as simply a game of survival – juggling an average-at-best roster of players in the midst of injuries, underperformance, and stiff competition –  has turned into something much more.  For the O’s, survival has breaded success.  Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, and the entire organization have done a masterful job thus far in finding players that can contribute and managing the roster.  They have – for the most part – pushed all of the right buttons and made most of the right moves.  They have gotten creative – infielders in the outfield, a 29 year-old rookie from the Mexican League as the #3 starter, Chris Davis playing every position on the field – and more times than not, those moves have worked out.  The team has survived and now they are on the brink of much more.

If Tory Patton does indeed head to the disabled list this afternoon and Steve Johnson is recalled to fill his roster spot, they will be the 121st and 122nd roster moves the organization has made this season.  Something tells me they aren’t done either.  For the 2012 Baltimore Orioles it has been par for the course.  It has been about taking it one game at a time – or perhaps more accurately – one roster move at a time.  One day at a time, one game at a time.  It is a philosophy that has served the team well in its twelve straight extra-inning wins.  Survive a 17-inning game, regroup, and survive the next one.  Somehow through it all the Orioles have not only survived, they have prospered.