If you’re heading out to Camden Yards in 2012, it’s probably because you want to see the new statues out in centerfield. Maybe you’re curious to see the new cartoon bird logo or perhaps the Washington Nationals are in town.
While I would never suggest dumping the hometown team and switching loyalty to an up-and-comer, I’m comfortable admitting that if you’re starving for quality baseball then D.C. will be the place to be in 2012.
I remember a couple seasons ago thinking that the Orioles and Nationals were at the same level in their franchise rebuilds. As a lifelong Orioles fan and believer that they could put a decade (at the time) of losing behind them, I thought that Baltimore would eventually be ahead of Washington and soon climb out of the bottom of the AL East. I was wrong.
With the help of their top rated farm system, this offseason the Washington Nationals added an undisputed Ace to their top of their already impressive rotation. Then just last week, Mike Rizzo went ahead and signed the best remaining free agent pitcher to further solidify their pitching staff.
No Prince Fielder. No Yu Darvish. No Edwin Jackson. And yesterday the Orioles traded their top of the rotation starter and fan favorite, Jeremy Guthrie.
It’s been a disappointing 14 years and as of February 7, it looks like the Orioles are set up for a 100 loss season while their local rival gets closer to a playoff berth.
Camden Yards is one of the most beautiful ball parks in the country and it will be celebrating its 20th birthday this season. Surely, heading out there this year will be fun and I’ll probably make the trip 20 or so times this summer. But when I want to watch good baseball, I’ll hop on the D.C. Metro and head to Nats Park where something special is happening.
The Nationals are coming off an 80 win season in a year in which they only played 161 games. For the first time ever phenom Stephen Strasburg will be joined in the rotation by fellow young star Jordan Zimmermann. The Nats locked up Gio Gonzalez from the A’s to a longterm deal and with their signing of Edwin Jackson showed that they think a Wild Card appearance isn’t out of the question.
Washington will get help in their lineup from Adam LaRoche, who was injured the majority of last season, and look to see if Michael Morse can duplicate his career high 31 home run season from 2011. And oh yeah, that Ryan Zimmerman guy isn’t too shabby either.
The Nats are on the rise. If baseball adds a second Wild Card this season like Commissioner Selig hopes, they’ve got a real chance of making the playoffs for the first time since their re-arrival to Washington. Even if they don’t their fans should expect some exciting play from an ever-improving roster.
Being an Orioles fan is tough. Building a winner takes time and the fan base feels that they have been lied to for far too long to believe in any more long-term plans — even if that plan does end up working. The fans no longer believe this team will sign big free agents, has doubts in their prospects’ development at the Minor League level and thinks that ownership doesn’t have a desire to win. It’s tough for me to refute those claims.
What I know is that I’d take one Orioles World Series title over five Ravens Super Bowls. I know that there are Orioles fans in Baltimore that have tucked their hats far back into their closets because they can no longer support the efforts of their once beloved team. They need a reason to dust them off, I just don’t know what it will be.