Everyone knows that baseball, like every sport, is cyclical. You don't really have situations anymore where teams are truly dominant or truly terrible for more than a few years – unless you get mismanaged into the ground like Pittsburgh or Houston.
That being said, it was really only a matter of time before the balance of power in the American League East began to shift away from what has been a long run of a division classified as "Red Sox, Yankees, and… those other guys."
We saw it begin last season, when the Rays had multiple young and talented players finally click together all at once (Garza, Shields, Upton) to carry them all the way to an AL pennant. Now, to the surprise of some, the Baltimore Orioles are seeing a sudden upshot of talent that may put them in the conversation to stay for a number of years.
It's been several years of excellent drafting – just ask the Pirates about how it isn't enough to simply have high draft picks, but to use them wisely – and a little bit of luck for the newest Oriole GM, Andy McPhail.
It started several years back with the drafting of outfielder Nick Markakis, who in his fourth full year in the major leagues at age 25 is already on pace for his fourth straight year of 20+ home runs, 90+ RBIs, and a .300 batting average.
Then the Orioles got lucky and ran into one of those few incompetent general managers. Seattle Mariner ex-GM Bill Bavasi foolishly believed his team was one ace pitcher away from playoff contention, and the Orioles capitalized on that to add Adam Jones to their roster. At only 23 years old, and in his second full season, Jones is crushing the ball to the tune of 11 homers and 36 RBI in the first two months.
Now, this past weekend, the youth has finally hit the big stage in a big way. During their four-game series at home against the Tigers, Baltimore had three starting pitchers take the mound who after this weekend now have 11 total career starts. They also brought up uber-prospect Matt Wieters, and they saw the attendance spike they expected about 110,000 fans in his first three games, compared to just under 12,000 in the first game of the series.
With all that talent, the Orioles should gradually begin creeping into the top end of both their division and the league. In the next few years, the can then add Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz, two more high draft pick, huge talent pitchers flying through the system. The Birds even have a few other less touted but equally talented players approaching the major leagues, and will soon have a seriously strong and young core of players that should put them into the playoff conversation very soon and for a while to come.