Can you believe it’s almost here? The anticipation is too much for March to end. If you had hopes on winning any perfect bracket for March Madness, that was gone since at least the 21st.

Why is it great then that March is coming to a close? Well, Opening Day of course! (Also, it will be welcome to be that much closer for being done with snow!) This year, the Orioles kick off their season (at home!) on the 31st against the AL East rival Red Sox. It should be interesting to see how our squad will fare against the defending World Series champions.

Will you be watching? I’m pretty sure I will. I gotta say, this has to be one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory for the Orioles. After 14 years, they’ve had two straight winning seasons and look primed for the playoffs.

What helps are the recent acquisitions in the last several weeks. The O’s really upgraded their pitching staff when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez, who should be projected as the 2nd day starter. Something the Orioles have lacked for 10+ years is a pitcher that can eat up at least 7 innings on a regular basis, and Jimenez gives us this with great skill.

Chris Tillman gets the top spot, after such a great season last year. He’s also quite young, and should be our ace for years to come.  If you recall, he was one of the results of two huge trades that were ingenious of the Orioles to pull, with both the Mariners & Rangers.  Also included would be Adam Jones & Chris Davis.

Two other good pitchers on the staff, Miguel Gonzales & Wei-Yin Chen, should be healthy after their times on the DL and ready to dominate again. Chen had some amazing stretches last year as our top pitcher. Gonzales was our opening day pitcher last year but landed on the DL very early.

If that’s not enough, the Orioles also have signed on Johan Santana (!) who’s ready to show that he’s still got it. Just take a peek at some of his career stats and be amazed.  Currently, he’s slated to do some pitching in the minor leagues but, as we all know for any sport genre, injuries always happen during the course of the season. Let’s see the O’s get through any tough stretch with one of the best pitchers of the last decade.

For offense, the Orioles signed on slugger Nelson Cruz, who brings even more punch to a line up which includes last year’s home run leader in Davis. I do expect this year to see both Matt Weiters & Nick Markakis come alive with 20+ home runs (and/or 100+ RBI) to make up for last year. I’m probably over estimating and they may get around 18 hr & 79 RBI on average, but it’s fine.

Perhaps the Orioles will take the AL East division crown this year?  It might make sense if you follow me on this.

The Red Sox have continued to shed off some old contracts, as they seem to be doing every 4-5 years, and hope that their farm system can turn up some new good prospects. While that is very smart in the long run, that doesn’t help for the present.

The Yankees are changing in a rather odd way this offseason. For starters, they no longer have the highest payroll. Second, their longtime player Jeter announced that he will retire after this season. (I will always think of this clip.) While this is happening, A-Rod is still serving a year plus ban from playing yet is still employed with the team! Also, their great slugger Robinson Cano (who I have feared the O’s pitching against while simultaneously wanting him to join our team) has signed on with the Seattle Mariners, of all teams. He’s relatively young compared to most of the other Yankees. To top it off, they haven’t made much of a splash this season with free agents. There is a really weird vibe with this team now…

The Rays will be the biggest challenge to the AL East crown again, as they’ve had another offseason of adding good talent and losing good homegrown talent to balance things. The Blue Jays are still the Blue Jays, although maybe all of their big acquisitions last year will show up better this year.

For the O’s to be truly successful this year, they have to just stay healthy. That’s really what it comes down to. They are so loaded right now that, bearing any unseen circumstances, they could be penciled in to win 95+ games, despite one of the hardest schedules in the league. I am really, really, really liking that Santana signing to keep the ship afloat through the upcoming 162 games.  (Also, get the pronunciation down: it’s pronounced “Yo-han”.  Don’t want to chant his name in the stadium with a hard “J” sound now do we?)

What better way would it be to end the O’s 60th anniversary than with a trophy?

Kinda like this one here

Kinda like this one here

If you’re heading to the stadium on Monday for Opening Day, you’ll be receiving a 2014 schedule & car magnet!  Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Well if you want some more free items, check their schedule to see what things you’ll really want on other promotional days.

For example, I’m a little fond of the Orioles ripcord bracelet that they’re offering the first 20,000 fans on May 25th for their game against the Indians.  However, I’m not feeling euphoric enough to grab a father’s day fedora hat on June 15th game against the Blue Jays. (plus I’m not a father)  That won’t stop another 20,000 fans wanting one, of course!

If you’re thinking of getting some drinking done on Monday, you can head over to Mother’s Federal Hill Grille and join 98 Rock’s “O”pening Day event where they will be giving out freebies and chances to win tickets for the Preakness.

Also, mark your calendars for August 2nd’s game against the Mariners. Kids 14 years and younger can receive their very own Chris Davis action figure.

Enjoy the festivities going on in the city (you can go just about anywhere downtown and find an Opening Day event) and go O’s!

– CW