Notes From the Clubhouse: Baltimore Blues Might Finally Be Fading

Our MLB editor provides weekly dispatches from major league games in Notes From the Clubhouse.

Last week, the Orioles celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1983 World Series title. That was the last time the once-proud franchise won a championship, in case you were wondering, and it's been a decade since they were relevant.

Eight days later GM Andy MacPhail did nothing at the trade deadline despite his club's grim chances in 2008. Closer George Sherrill is still an Oriole. So is second baseman Brian Roberts, first baseman Aubrey Huff, outfielder Jay Payton and starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera.

To an outsider it might look like the latest gaffe from a front office that has been as hapless as they come since the days of the Clinton administration. But spend a few days with the team at Camden Yards and you get an entirely different vibe.

MacPhail has overhauled the organization in such a way that there's very real hope for the very near future. In perfect concert, manager Dave Trembley has changed the clubhouse culture, stressing things like accountability, respect and appreciation. It's enough to make you see the light at the end of the tunnel, if nothing else.

MacPhail was as busy last winter as he was quiet at this year's deadline. He shipped out pitcher Erik Bedard and shortstop Miguel Tejada, receiving Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Adam Jones, pitching prospect Chris Tillman and Sherrill. Tillman could be at the head of the big league rotation as soon as next season. Scott and Jones have joined blossoming star Nick Markakis to form one of the best young outfields in baseball. Sherrill, under the team's control for the next three seasons, has merely embraced the closer's role.

Throw in catching prospect Matt Wieters, the team's top pick in the 2007 draft and a guy who could be one of the best offensive backstops in baseball by 2009 or 2010, and a surprisingly promising young core of players is beginning to form in Baltimore -- one that could contend in a year or two.

Why send Sherrill or Roberts packing when both are under the club's control after this season and both could be major contributors to the O's first winning season in years?

There are still holes to be filled, sure. The starting rotation needs an anchor at the top, the bullpen needs depth and the left side of the infield is as weak as the outfield is strong.

But MacPhail continues to tinker and add to the organization and Trembley continues to push the right buttons, to stress to his players how fleeting a major league opportunity is and how hard they should take each loss.

"I've told a lot of these guys 'what are you looking over your shoulder for?'" says Trembley. "You need to have that killer instinct and go for someone's throat."

"You either figure it out or the game passes you by," adds the soft-spoken, but intense manager.

The game has long since passed by the legends of 1983 and the winning tradition they were a part of in Baltimore. The tradition Earl Weaver helped create has faded with them. Those teams had tremendous depth. They had talented youngsters like Cal Ripken, Mike Boddicker and Dennis Martinez, experienced veterans like Ken Singleton, Rick Dempsey and Jim Palmer and an imposing slugger in his prime named Eddie Murray.

In short, they had the perfect mix.

MacPhail and Trembley are trying to get it just right now.

"We'll never see a [team like this] again here," said Dempsey, now a TV analyst for the Orioles, during the reunion festivities. "They gotta find their own way," he said referring to the players and leadership in place in the Charm City.

For the first time this century, it feels like the Orioles are at least headed in the right direction. This group of talent might not be able to replicate what the 1983 team did, and they sure have their work cut out for them in the harrowing AL East, but it looks like Baltimore might soon have a team worthy of its long winning tradition.

"We're here because of what they did," said Trembley.

It might not be too much longer until the city is celebrating the spoils of the team playing there now.

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