Adam Pendergraph is the Lead Writer for Fansided’s Baltimore Orioles blog, Birds Watcher.  You can follow him on Twitter @apen87.

You can find your Baltimore Orioles tickets for the 2011 season on SeatGeek.

Baltimore Orioles 2011 Season Preview

Orioles’ fans would like to forget the last 13 years. The teams’ last winning season was in 1997 when they went 98-64 under Davey Johnson.

The Red Sox and Yankees have dominated the division with their endless payroll and big market advantage. During the mid-2000’s the Orioles attempted to keep up with the free spending of the two teams, signing free agents such as Albert Belle and Miguel Tejada, who were unable to elevate the team’s dismal record.

However, the Tampa Bay Rays introduced a new formula for dealing with the free spending of Boston and New York to win the division two of the last three years. Simply put: build through your farm system.

Due to their usual poor performance during the regular season, the Rays would have an early draft position, choosing high-ceiling prospects. Instead of buying high-priced free agents they spent their money on increasing their scouting team department to include more scouts over a wider range.

The Rays developed a talent pool to include Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, David Price, Wade Davis, and Jeff Neimann. The team also traded for young talented players such as Carlos Pena and Matt Garza.

The Orioles have somewhat mimicked the Rays philosophy, developing talent through the draft with Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton. Andy MacPhail, Orioles’ President of Baseball Operations, has done an excellent job bringing in young talent via trades with Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill (all three of these players were from the same trade with Erik Bedard, sorry Mariners’ fans), and Luke Scott (okay, he was 30 but he has been one of our most effective hitters).

This off-season, the organization has added to their young nucleus on the left side of the infield with shortstop J.J. Hardy, 28, and third basemen Mark Reynolds, 27. Both are seen as offensive upgrades.

Optimism in Baltimore is as high as it has been for a while. The young pitchers have had another year under their belt. Wieters, behind the plate, is only 23 years old and most still believe he is a future superstar.

Even with their abundance of talent, the Rays success in 2008 was surprising. The prior season they compiled a record of 66-96, the worst record in the majors.

A young team like the Orioles has the capability to reenact such a turnaround, especially with the veteran Buck Showalter managing.

The road to the division pennant is the toughest in any division. The Red Sox reloaded this off-season acquiring slugger Adrian Gonzalez via trade and signing free agent outfielder Carl Crawford. The defending division winning Yankees will want to prove they are still the team to beat. The Rays lost some of their marquee players to free agency but they still have a roster able to compete. Finally, the Blue Jays are an underrated team who earned a 85-77 record. Not bad for the 4th best team in the division.

Where do the Orioles fit into this talented group? Fans would love to see a different outcome than the last 13 seasons.