The number of people who believed in the overachieving 2012 Baltimore Orioles, even when they were locked in battle in the ALDS, could probably be counted on one hand. Seeing how they'd been the unofficial doormat of the AL East for the previous fourteen seasons, it is no wonder that their unexpected success was received with such a critical eye. Winning 93 games on just a plus-seven run differential will do that for you.
Their playoff run might have won over some people, but still plenty remain skeptical that the O's didn't just get incredibly lucky. Surely if they played the season over again, there is no way Baltimore would be that good, right? Well, no need to speculate on that hypothetical because Baltimore management seems perfectly content to test that theory in reality in 2013.
For whatever reason, GM Dan Duquette has chosen to take full advantage of his team's unlikely playoff run and first winning season since 1997 by doing… ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Well, maybe that is a slight overstatement. After all, they did re-sign Nate McLouth, claim Alexi Casilla and Danny Valencia off of waivers and trade reserve infielder Robert Andino for reserve outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Toma(y)to, toma(h)to. And don't forget that they also lost Mark Reynolds in free agency with Joe Saunders and Jim Thome, while currently un-signed, also unlikely to return. In other words, let's hope manager Buck Showalter still has a few of those "nobody believes in us" speeches in his back pocket.
That begs the question though of whether or not the Orioles actually believe in themselves. Nobody expected the O's to contend last season or even come close to it. They were supposed to still be rebuilding, but then they started winning and faced with the choice of riding the wave as far as it would take them or accelarating their plans. Duquette opted for the former, making two minor mid-season trades that cost very little, a strong indicator that even he wasn't a true believer. This off-season, he did the same, choosing to stand pat rather than to use trades and free agency to bring in a star talent boost or even to just plug holes here and there.
To be fair, we can't rule out that the Orioles roster has some sort of secret sauce that the rest of the baseball community just doesn't understand but Duquette feels like they can rely on to keep Baltimore competitive in the tough AL East. They do still have Buck Showalter calling the shots from the bench and he was nothing short of a managerial magician last season. They also return intact a lights out bullpen that helped them to their seemingly unsustainable record in one-run games. Mix in some progression from young studs Manny Machado and Chris Tillman, and just maybe the Orioles are primed to once again shock the world. Of course, having so recently shocked the world, they are going to have to figure out a way to repeat that feat without the element of surprise.
You would think we'd have all learned our lesson about counting out the Orioles after what they did last season, but their winter of inactivity practically begs us to. Maybe they can prove their doubters wrong once again, but maybe they just took the gift of a winning season they could build off of and flushed it down the toilet by not making any improvements whatsoever.