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ESPN’s Karl Ravech: ‘I don’t think the Orioles have staying power in that division’

ESPN’s Karl Ravech: ‘I don’t think the Orioles have staying power in that division’

Baseball, on occasion, lets people’s imaginations run wild. 

From the time the first pitch of a game happens until the final out is recorded, anything — theoretically — is possible. That notion stays relevant even as it’s expanded upon to an entire season. Or, in 2020’s case, a 60-game season. 

And after a 5-3 start to the season, which is now a 5-4 start, some people let their thoughts run free about how likely the Orioles were to make a serious playoff push. 

But some, like ESPN’s Karl Ravech, don’t think the Orioles can sustain their stellar hitting and sturdy-enough bullpen for the entire season.

“I don’t think the Orioles can over the course of 60 games,” Ravech said on NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk Podcast. “I do think over the course of 10, maybe 20, be in it. But a lot of times during a baseball season, the first couple of weeks out of the gate you’re surprised by it. Similarly out west, and I don’t mean to dismiss the Orioles, the Rockies are off to a really good start. To me, the Rockies have better players than the Orioles do.”

After an embarrassing loss to the Red Sox on Opening Day, expectations for the Orioles, which were already low to begin with, cratered amongst the fanbase. But they rebounded to win the next two, and after two-straight losses to the Yankees, swept the Rays in a three-game set at Camden Yards. 

RELATED: ESPN NOT CONVINCED BY ORIOLES’ HOT START, PUTS THEM LAST IN FIRST POWER RANKINGS

With so many questions surrounding every team in the division aside from the Yankees, some hypothesized that, if a miraculous season for the Orioles were to happen, this is the script for such a year to occur.

The Rays were just swept by the Orioles, the Red Sox have an atrocious pitching staff and the Blue Jays still have yet to settle into a permanent home for the season. With an expanded playoff format, the season started in the right way for the Orioles.

“I don’t think the Orioles have the staying power in that division, and playing against the two divisions that they do,” Ravech said.

But while an impressive start was a bit surprising, especially considering some individual achievements across the roster, it’s still not terribly early to think about a playoff race with nearly one-sixth of the season complete.

Yet, despite blazing starts at the plate for Rio Ruiz, Jose Iglesias and Hanser Alberto, and strong performances on the mound from John Means, Miguel Castro and Alex Cobb, the Orioles still have a lot to prove to show the league they are even capable of staying in the playoff chase. 

After all, this team was projected by many to barely, or not even at all, reach the 20-win plateau. 

For now, though, the Orioles having any realistic, no matter to what degree, conversations about a playoff run are a very welcome sign in Baltimore.

“To me, this was always going to be, for better more than worse, but for better or worse, the most memorable baseball season that I’ve ever experienced,” Ravech said. “I think a lot of the baseball fans at home for a million reasons will look at it that way as well. Especially if your team is in it. If you’re rooting for the Orioles, what you think would be a throwaway year, at least for the first month, you’re not throwing anything away.”

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Tampa Bay Rays use Opening Day festivities to promote social justice

Tampa Bay Rays use Opening Day festivities to promote social justice

It’s Opening Day in Tampa Bay, but the Rays have much more than baseball on their minds.

Hours before the team kicks off its 2020 season, the Rays official team Twitter account promoted social justice, reminding fans of the issues facing America –– issues much bigger than sports.

The team tweeted, “Today is Opening Day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.”

Taylor was a 26-year-old African American woman, who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers in her apartment on March 13. One of the three officers was fired more than three months following Taylor's death, but the investigation remains underway with the others only facing administrative leave thus far.

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In response to the deaths of Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black individuals, many sports leagues around the country have taken action. In their Opening Day matchup with the Yankees, the Nationals stamped “BLM” on the pitcher’s mound next to the MLB logo. Players also wore patches reading “Black Lives Matter” and “United for Change.” Every Nationals and Yankees player and coach kneeled together prior to the national anthem as well.

Following their powerful statement, the Rays will host the Blue Jays tonight at 6:40 p.m. to kick off their season.

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A Nationals fan's guide to the AL East

A Nationals fan's guide to the AL East

The 2020 MLB season is finally getting underway. As exciting as it is to have baseball back, the campaign will look quite different from past years. No fans, increased measures of safety during the pandemic and a 60-game sprint make it an oddly structured few months.

This year, teams will also be limited to playing teams that are in the same geographical reason. For the Nationals, that means playing the NL and AL East. While its division foes are familiar faces, Washington will also face some rather unfamiliar teams for the bulk of their schedule. Here's a primer on what you should know about the squads from the AL East.

New York Yankees: The Favorites

Besides the Dodgers, no one has better odds to win the World Series in 2020 than the New York Yankees. That's not a surprise, as New York has been on the cusp of a 28th championship in the past few years but fallen short in the ALCS.

Now, they bring back a powerful lineup that features the likes of Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton, not to mention complementing pieces DJ LeMahieu, Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier. There are more names, too. The bullpen has talent as well, with Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton headlining. Aroldis Chapman will be in the mix once he recovers from COVID-19.

Oh, also, the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a massive contract in the offseason to sure up their one "weak" area of starting pitching. Entering 2020, there really are no visible holes on the roster. New York is one of the best teams in baseball.

Likely 2020 outcome: Compete for a World Series, with a high probability they are one of the last teams standing.

What could slow them down: Injuries, the same thing that can derail any good team quickly. Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be back soon, but losses in the rotation or the lineup during a short season may throw them off, even if they have talented plug-in players waiting.

RELATED: CAN GERRIT COLE LIVE UP TO HIS CONTRACT?

Tampa Bay Rays: Underrated Contender

The Rays won 96 games in 2019, did you know that? One the most under-the-radar team in baseball last year, they were victims of an incredibly loaded American League. Still, they were one game away from taking down the Astros in the ALDS.

Tampa Bay's success in 2020 will largely depend on its arms. The Rays have three talented starters in Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. The bullpen is elite as well, and the "opener" strategy that worked in the past could come back into play as well. 

Likely 2020 outcome: If all goes as it should for the Rays, they are a World Series contender that can compete with any other team.

What could slow them down: The lineup is solid and versatile, but with Austin Meadows' status uncertain for Opening Day, there are some holes. A slow start at the plate could hurt no matter how good the pitching is. Also, having the Yankees, Nationals, Phillies and Braves make up a chunk of the schedule does not help.

Boston Red Sox: In Limbo

Just two years removed from a World Series title, 2020 will be an interesting year for the Red Sox. Trading away Mookie Betts made it seem as though they were falling out of contention, but the roster shows otherwise.

In the lineup, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi lead a very formidable group. Alex Verdugo, who came over in the trade for Betts, is a rising star that could head the outfield for years to come.

It will be the bullpen and rotation that raise questions for Boston in 2020. With Chris Sale out for the year, there's no clear No. 1. There's hope Nathan Eovaldi can return to his 2018 postseason form, but no guarantee. Sixty games is a short sample size, but it could say a lot about the future for the Red Sox.

Likely 2020 Outcome: A "bubble" team that could compete for a Wild Card spot.

What could slow them down: Pitching, or just the sheer fact that their division features two of the most talented teams in baseball. 

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Toronto Blue Jays: On The Rise

The name of the game for the Blue Jays in 2020 is youth. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladamir Guerrero Jr. are on their way to forming a "Big 3" in baseball. Already, Bichette and Guerrero both have shown flashes of stardom early on. 

Toronto also once again has an ace in Hyun-Jin Ryu, though it will be interesting to see how he fares in a new division. This season may not be the beginning of the competitive window just yet, but it is coming soon.

Likely 2020 outcome: Not a playoff team, but an improvement from last season (though 60 games make it harder to tell). If all clicks, a postseason push could happen.

What could slow them down: Youth. The same thing that could propel them could lead to a few bumps, as growing pains and adjustments are common.

Baltimore Orioles: Full-On Rebuild

As NBC Sports Washington's Andrew Gillis said, a rebuild is what is happening in Baltimore even if it's not explicitly said. Baltimore isn't expected to win many games this year and that is not a shocker. There is a lot of talent in the system, but it most likely won't be on the field in 2020. John Means is one of the best stories on the major league club, but he's dealing with arm soreness to begin the season.

With only 60 games being played, it technically won't be a "long year" for the Orioles, but it will be another campaign where they sit toward the bottom of the league.

Likely 2020 outcome: No. 1 pick contenders

What could speed them up: Nothing will "slow" them in 2020, but surprise contributions or an early appearance from a prospect could bring more success. Otherwise, the unpredictability of sports is their best bet.

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