How many of you think the Orioles will win the AL East?

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Predictions in baseball are almost comically dumb. We all do them because they’re kinda fun and because we have nothing else to do before the season starts, but they really are a sucker’s game. You can’t predict injuries or slumps or breakouts, no matter how quasi-scientific you try to make your analysis sound. We’re all just guessing. The more honest among we writer folk will admit that to you up front and poke fun at ourselves for being really wrong. Note: I picked the Tigers and Giants to win Wild Cards last year!

That said, there are some guesses which are more informed and educated than others. We’re in an age of super teams these days, it seems, and it’s really, really hard to pick against some of them, let alone more than one of them at the same time. If you go out on a limb like that I’ll totally give your contrarian take a fair hearing, but do understand, the burden is on you to convince me, not on me to suspend disbelief and nod at your wacko prediction as a matter of course. I hope that’s not controversial.

Anyway, I say all of this because today ESPN is running their preseason prediction pieces in which they poll their “29 experts” about who will win what. The AL East prediction sort of jumped out at me:

The Yankees are everyone’s pick. The Red Sox are the defending champs and still look loaded, so that’s totally defensible. But, uh, the Orioles? Someone who calls themselves a baseball expert is picking the Orioles to win the American League East? Really?

Again: we’re all entitled to our opinion and even the most baseball savvy brain genius on the planet is gonna be way off on many of their predictions. The Orioles will play 162 games in 2018 and have a non-zero chance to win each game in which they play, so there is nothing conclusively barring them from winning the AL East. I’m just struggling to understand what, absent multiple plane crashes and/or a Martian occupation of everything north of Towson, the world in which the Orioles win the AL East looks like. Sadly, the linked article does not provide an explanation of that seemingly magical world. Maybe one will come later. Maybe this article is clickbait for later clickbait. Clickbait bait? I dunno.

Either way, part of me actually hopes the Orioles pull it off. Not because I care about the Orioles or hate the Yankees or Red Sox — I still think both of them will be way better than the O’s — but because it would be an amazing story and would create utter chaos in the Baseball Industrial Complex. I’ve been writing about this sport for about 12 years now, professionally for almost a decade, and I’ll admit that some sameness creeps into every season. A changeup like Baltimore vanquishing the Yankees and Red Sox in the 162-game championship season would be something to behold and would force me to come up with new words and stuff. We could all use such constructive disruption.

Really, though, that dude’s just nuts, right?

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”