Once again, hot September leaves promise for next season

On Wednesday during Red Sox batting practice, David Ortiz had a question for me. It summed up the feeling of all Orioles fans in 2011.

"What's up with this team in September? They always win," Ortiz said.

I had no answer, so I answered with a question. "What's up with this team from April to August?"

That's the bigger issue.

The O's surge the past two Septembers is admirable, but after watching Buck Showalter's gang fail to carry the momentum gained from last fall to the 2011 season, fans' expectations will be tempered for 2012.

We just don't want to be hurt again - it's like a bad relationship.

At the very least, this September shows the Orioles are no longer willing to roll over and die in September. It's cliche, but it's a step toward building a winning culture in Baltimore, even if it's small.

In the next few days, we should have an idea of what's happening with the O's front office. I'm not sure if I want to see Showalter as general manager - not because I don't think he'd be a good GM, but because I think this club has finally found a general after five different managers in 13 years. The troops need him on the field.

That being said, if Andy MacPhail steps down, as is expected at season's end, we can start the debate. What were MacPhail's best moves from 2007-2011?

For a few years now, I've argued that trading Erik Bedard to Seattle for Adam Jones and four other players in 2008 will go down as one of his best trades, but after this season I've changed my mind.

MacPhail practically stole J.J. Hardy from the Twins last offseason in what has panned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in O's history. Hardy came to Baltimore for James Hoey and Brett Jacobson.

Hardy hit a career-high 30 home runs this season and his surefire defense solidified the middle infield for the next three years.

With Hardy, the O's have a nice looking offense for 2012. It's the first September in a while where I felt there weren't a million holes to fill in the lineup before spring training. The key to 2012 will be signing at least one big free agent pitcher.

One final note from 2011: Before the final game of the season Wednesday, I was congratulating Jones on his season and winning the Most Valuable Oriole award. He was hesitant to accept my compliment, as Jones felt he could've done better - which is a good sign. Nobody wants to win more than Jones.

He said something interesting. His first comment to me was that he thinks about what he could've done if Brian Roberts were healthy. Jones hasn't forgotten what a table setter Roberts is, even if the rest of the Orioles fan base and media have. Looking forward to 2012, Jones said he can't wait to see Roberts back.

Roberts' return will be just one of many question marks for 2012, but the Orioles have an entire offseason to figure that and many other issues out.

For now, I'm looking forward to a little relaxation and of course Ravens football on Sundays.