As Bird Nation spends its Wednesday writing laundry lists of the Orioles' shortcomings, I ask: Has anybody noticed a glaring issue?
The O's have no superstars on their team.
There, I said it. Admitting we have a problem is the first step.
In a league, and especially a division, full of teams loaded with star power, this deficiency is going to become glaring in close games.
Superstars come through in the clutch and deliver big performances on a consistent basis. How can any team win without that X-factor?
The Orioles do have a handful of gamers, a few up-and-comers and then everyone else just sort of fills the roster spots. Name one player on the Orioles' pitching staff who is consistently lights out. Name one batter in the Birds' lineup who instills fear in opposing pitchers every time he steps to the plate.
It's hard to do.
The Birds do have Vladimir Guerrero, who, though past his prime, still baffles opposing pitchers. To Guerrero's credit he has come up in the clutch on two recent occasions. Vlad hit the game winning two-run homer against the Nationals on May 22 and a walk-off single against the Royals for the series sweep on May 26.
The problem is Guerrero doesn't consistently deliver as he used to. The Orioles need a player who can produce those types of blows night after night.
A few years ago, while on the road in Tampa Bay playing the Rays, I was chatting with Ty Wigginton. He's played in both leagues and had a good perspective on how a balanced baseball team is usually structured. His theory made sense, so it always stuck with me.
The formula for winners was: at least two superstars, a handful of gamers and then formidable players who can hold their own in one specific area like defense, relief pitching or hitting for power.
For the record, a gamer, is a player who shows up every day, plays hard and consistently contributes. For the Orioles I'd put Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Jeremy Guthrie and Matt Wieters down as the true gamers. The verdict is still out on whether Jones and Wieters will become superstars. I think Markakis will have an extremely successful career but as a gamer, not a superstar.
The Birds have plenty of players who can do one thing well, but that's the problem. They need more players that can do one thing great and everything else really well.
Luke Scott, Mark Reynolds and Nolan Reimold can give you spurts of power. Robert Andino can play great defense. Koji Uehara is solid for one inning, but not on back to back days. Get the point?
Look at the American League East. The Yankees have several superstars who, while they are getting older, still instill fear when they step to the plate, like Alex Rodriguez, or take the ball, like Mariano Rivera.
The Yanks also have superstars who are in their prime like CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Robinson Cano is arguably the best player on the team. Oddly enough, he isn't even a true superstar. I'd put him in the gamer category a step above other gamers like Nick Swisher.
The Red Sox have superstars like Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz. Yes, I still am putting Ortiz in that category. The man is hitting .310 right now.
Besides that, the roster is chalk full of gamers like Jon Lester, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, who is arguably a superstar. Then Boston's roster is rounded out by proven veterans like Marco Scutaro and J.D. Drew who can come through on any given day.
Even a third place team like the Rays has at least one superstar in Evan Longoria.
The question is; how do the Orioles get their superstar? Do they continue to develop the likes of Wieters and Jones, hoping one day they'll reach their full potential? Or is this the year Andy MacPhail truly opens the pocket book and buys that big bat or big arm?
At some point, I believe, that type of seasoned talent is going to have to be bought.