Millar's musings: O's on right track
Veteran first baseman thinks Baltimore is poised to contend
Kevin Millar, long known as one of the most affable players in the league, kept a regular diary for MLB.com in Spring Training and has maintained his unfiltered communication throughout the regular season. In this installment, Millar recounts his team's odyssey through August and touches on what has made them more competitive than last season.
Let's start with the positives: You have to really be excited about what this lineup's done offensively. Going into Spring Training, I don't think anybody knew where the power was going to come from. We were ranked something like 28th out of 30 teams for projected power numbers, and now we're fifth in the league in home runs. The balance of our lineup is tremendous, and it's been really exciting, but I think we've probably surprised everybody but ourselves.
It makes it fun when there's no big-name guy in the lineup who opposing teams have to pitch around. On any given night, all year long, someone's contributed. We have five guys who could potentially hit 20 home runs in this lineup, and you have three guys that could potentially have 100 RBIs in Aubrey Huff, Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora. The addition of Luke Scott has been key, and he's given us some on-base percentage and power. And Adam Jones went through an adjustment period before he got hurt, and I think hitting coach Terry Crowley deserves a lot of credit for that. Nobody knew if this kid would be able to hold his own or just play good defense, and now he's hitting .280 and has driven in a ton of big runs for us.
Changing gears, you've also got Jeremy Guthrie solidifying himself as a dominant pitcher in this league. Last year, he had 25 starts and everyone said, "OK, can you do it again?" Well, he's done it again, and he's definitely an ace. He's matched up well with every other team's ace, and early on in the year, we didn't score a whole lot of runs for him. He could definitely have 14 or 15 wins under his belt right now, but you've really got to love what Guthrie has done for this team. And he was basically a gift from God, like I like to say. He was a waiver claim, or whatever, and he only cost us $25,000.
It's got to be fun and exciting for the organization to see this team really start jelling together. We have the very definition of a team, and that's something Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has tried to stress from the get-go. I wasn't here in 2003, but I know things are definitely better from 2006. And that's a plus, because you know things are going in the right direction. It takes time, and you have to crawl before you learn to walk. It's baby steps. You don't just go out and buy a team in the offseason and then win the World Series. That's not the way it goes, and I saw it happen with the Florida Marlins.
This organization is doing it right, and I think everybody involved understands that we have to have the right players to go forward. Sometimes, you don't get a good mix and you get guys who will quit in the tough times. We don't have that. We've lost some tough games -- crushers -- and this team has bounced back the next day about as well as you can ask.
|"This team right here really cares about each other. This group right here stays together and hangs out together."|
|-- Kevin Millar|
I think everyone in this clubhouse has said this is the most fun they've ever had coming to the field, and it's neat to hear. The guys are here at 2 or 2:30 every day and they're not straggling in at 4 with their heads down and headphones on. We eat together, we play cards together, we rag on each other. It's a long day at the field, but we've been enjoying it.
And that doesn't just grow overnight. It takes effort from everybody. It takes effort to have a team dinner and to include everybody in everything. You've got a certain amount of guys who do that and keep things going, and that's what makes the team. And it all starts at the top. You have to believe in the theories your manager is stressing. Dave told us from the get-go, "Team, team, team, team -- nobody's bigger than the team." It started that way in February, and we've believed it. You're a reflection of your manager, and we've never quit and we've always played as hard as we can. That doesn't mean you're going to win every game. We're going to get beat and we're going to get crushed, but you can play the game right.
People always ask me, "Are you signed through next year?" No, I'm not. Do I want to come back to be an Oriole? Yes, I do. I enjoy it here, and I enjoy helping to change this team around in a positive way. I enjoy the dogfight that comes with playing in the American League East and playing against the Yankees, the Red Sox and now even the Rays. I really believe that basically with the addition of some starting pitching, this team could begin to compete for a playoff spot.
I don't know if I'll be back, but I'd hope to be. I don't know what the organization's plans are, but I've expressed to Andy MacPhail, the team's president of baseball operations, that I love it here and I'd love to come back. I know Trembley knows that I love it here, and the one thing with me is you know what you're going to get. Knock on wood, it's pretty much a healthy body. You're going to get what you've gotten the last three years, and it's not going to cost a whole lot of money. It certainly won't be a contract issue. It's just a matter of what direction they want to go. My gut says I'll be an Oriole. As a free agent, you have a choice to go where you want to an extent. And I want to be here. I hope that weighs into their plans.
Fantasy football season's about to start, and we've got some guys who think they know it all. We've got Steve Young, Sean Salisbury and Tom Jackson on this team. Everybody knows everything about everything, but all I know is that I'm probably by far the most knowledgeable guy on this team about fantasy football. I live and die for the NFL, but don't know anything about college. I've been in former teammate John Burkett's league for several seasons, and he has over 100 teams, but I've been a top 10 finisher. I just want to let the guys know in advance what they're dealing with. They're cute little fellas like that kid Edwar Ramirez from the Yankees. They try so hard, and I want to thank them for their time and their donation.
Kevin Millar's diary appears as told to Spencer Fordin, a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.