MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Opening Day is Thursday, which is, of course, a very good thing.

The Washington Nationals visit the refurbished and upgraded New York Mets, as Buck Showalter makes his MLB managerial return for New York, and the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals, with both games being Thursday in the 4 o’clock hour.

On Friday, not long after 3 p.m., the Baltimore Orioles open under the world’s most boring big top when they visit the Tampa Bay Rays, who once more will be one of the lowest-paid teams in baseball, yet once more one of the best teams in baseball.

We’ve said it here before, but I have no idea what the Pirates are doing. Or (as Gary Williams likes to say), in other words, we don’t know what the plan is. For that matter, it’s also difficult to put a finger on what it is the Nationals are doing, which is unfortunate since the free-agent clock continues to run on the great Juan Soto. Even with that, the Nats remain the best-run organization here in our three-team 2-Hour-Drive Conference (2HDC).

While it’s true I merely admire the Pirates and the Nationals from afar (though admire is much too strong a word for the Nats … hate?), my guess is both will come in near or slightly above the over-under posted on them by Las Vegas – 64.5 for Pittsburgh, and 70.5 for Washington.

Just have to love the .5, don’t you? As though that could happen, right?

Of course, never sell short the motives of the weasel strapped into the commissioner’s booster seat. He might make ties part of the standings the way the NHL does. Anything to avoid extra innings and get fans out of the ballpark four minutes sooner than they were out last year.

He’s an idiot.

As for the Orioles, their over-under is 62.5.

Now, one of the many reasons I do not bet is, if you can bet on it, it can be fixed. Another reason is the house always wins, so these guys in Vegas know what they’re doing.

Personally, what little I have seen, what little anybody has seen this spring thanks to MASN, is completely inconclusive, which is understandable given the short spring training, thanks to the rotten team owners.

The Orioles really didn’t add anybody to their 40-man roster this offseason, other than starter Jordan Lyles. Yet based on what we saw at the end of last season, I felt if the team stayed the course with the in-place roster, 70 or so wins might have been possible. But 70 or so is not what this whole thing was broken down and scrapped to achieve. So, if you’re looking for a boost in the W column, it’s going to be another rough season.

The Orioles did avoid arbitration with Trey Mancini this week, but did so with a contract that will make it even easier for them to trade him this year – likely even before the trading deadline.

This came a couple of days before the team traded relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser to the Marlins for a Competitive Balance Round B Draft pick (no, I don’t know what it is, either), two prospects and a player to be named later in an effort to further enhance their top-rated farm system.

Frankly, I have no problem with trading Scott and Sulser. Nor will I have a problem with their trading Mancini because he just does not fit with what we think the Orioles are trying to do. They likely wished to have traded him last year, but given all of his health concerns, it wouldn’t have been a good look.

Either way, the return for the 30-year-old Mancini would not have been nor will be bountiful. But it will free up a roster spot once general manager Mike Elias decides it’s time to pull the go trigger on this massive rebuild.

Top-prospect catcher Adley Rutschman, once he recovers from his strained triceps, will be called up at some point in the next couple of months, and that is when the infusion of highly-rated talent will finally kick in.

Next will likely be Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, and lefthander D.L. Hall, who hits the gun at around 99 miles per hour and hit 100 in a recent spring training game.

Until then, the Orioles have no starting pitchers to speak of behind arbitration-bound John Means and Lyles; nor do they have a back end to their bullpen, which makes sense considering they didn’t have a back end to the bullpen before trading Scott and Sulser.

On top of that, other than three outfielders with both on-field and in-trade promise, and a young first baseman who can flat-out hit, it doesn’t appear they have much of anything else on the big-league roster. At least for now. We hope.

Thus, the unpopular trades will continue until morale improves.

In the meantime, probably a good idea to take the under.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT