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No Sweep, but a Great Opening Series in Birdland

Gunnar Henderson Colton Cowser line
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It was about as fun and exciting an opening series as you could have hoped for from the Orioles. While they didn’t sweep, they straight-up dominated the Angels in the first two games, and the vibes have never been higher. The excitement level in Birdland got a shot in the arm with the off-season acquisition of Corbin Burnes and welcoming in a new ownership group. That excitement has seemingly trickled over onto the on-field success early on and these Birds look like easy World Series Contenders.

There is only so much to say from a three-game sample size, but some trends were picked up that are worth discussing. So, let’s discuss the five observations from this exciting opening series against the Angels.

David Rubenstein said and did all the right things

Before the games started, we got news that the new ownership would be in full control the day before Opening Day. On Opening Day, Rubenstein held a press conference with other members of his ownership group to announce that they had taken over formally. Rubenstein has said everything you want to hear as an O’s fan. He seems committed to winning, and doesn’t like to sit in the owner’s suite, preferring sitting with the fans. His MASN Interview on Opening Day was fantastic, and members of his group bought beer for everyone at Pickles on Thursday.

Now, he still has a lot of work to do, like fixing the MASN dispute, extending players and spending money, but those things look like they will come naturally. At least we can say that Rubenstein won’t embarrass the team by saying all the wrong things, and it seems like he cares about the city, team, and the fans.

Starting pitching looked awesome

While the future under new ownership is fun to dream about, we have a World Series-caliber team in front of us right now and the games actually needed to be played. The most important thing from this series is that the starting rotation will always give the O’s a chance to win. Corbin Burnes seized the moment on Opening Day and was terrific. Grayson Rodriguez looked good and continues to build off his strong second half. While Tyler Wells was the worst of the three, he settled down and turned in a quality start after a rough first two innings. There will be bumps with Kyle Bradish and John Means continuing to rehab, but this rotation just looks like something special and worthy of a World Series winner.

Henderson is the best player on the team

This is the hottest take right now. Many O’s fans and national media think that Adley Rutschman is the best player on the field for these Orioles. While it is close, for me, Gunnar Henderson is slightly better right now, and he played like it in this series. Gunnar has taken all the good things he did in the second half and is translating it onto the field right now. His offensive profile is still elite as ever, hitting multiple balls over 113 mph. His baserunning is the most underrated part of his game, and while he doesn’t steal bases, he runs well and takes a lot of extra bases. His defense will also be better this year with a permanent move to shortstop, and he has already flashed his glove.

No doubt about it at this point: he is a superstar and is the best player on the team right now.

Walk year Santander is going to be special

There has been so much written about the team’s outfield depth, yet Mike Elias has decided to keep around the outfield of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander, which has stayed the same for some time now. While that decision has left some debate, it has one significant upside: Keeping Santander in Baltimore for his final year. He is in a walk year and hasn’t been moved yet, so he probably won’t be at this point. He looks locked in right now, a far cry from his start to 2023. He provides that spark in the middle of the order. So far, as Tony goes, the O’s go.

The first two games the offense was on fire, and look at that: Tony was smashing the ball. Yesterday, the O’s scored just once, and wow, Santander was 0-for-4.  He is the cog that makes this machine of a team go, and while some will criticize his defense, he is an important part of this team, and the conversations about his future will be fun to have.

Platooning will continue until morale improves

This is the most controversial part of this team right now. While everyone was excited for Colton Cowser to get a spot on the Opening Day roster, he has yet to start a game. Guys like Jordan Westburg have started all three games but in a different spot each time. The team will likely continue to mix and match their talent and get platoons going for certain guys. This even extends to guys like Ryan O’Hearn, as he seems like he’ll only face right-handed pitching this year. This trend isn’t going anywhere, it seems. Hyde loves to play matchups and likes the versatility of having guys like Westburg, Ramon Urias, and Jorge Mateo who can do different things and play all over the diamond. We still need to see how the team employs Cowser going forward, as they did face a lot of lefties early on, and it seems like they don’t trust him against southpaws. This could change if Austin Hays continues to struggle, but for now, these platoons aren’t going anywhere so buckle up and get used to it.

You probably couldn’t script a better opening week for this team. The excitement is high, and the team’s on-field play is tantalizing. Orioles fans can’t wait to see how this team progresses, and there seems to be something different around these 2024 Orioles.

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