Hollywood, MD – The 2016 Major League Baseball Season is about to begin. It is always wise to remind even the casual fan that “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It’s 162 games.

Last season, fans of the region’s two Major League teams—the Baltimore Orioles of the American League (AL) and the Washington Nationals of the National League (NL)—were disappointed by their respective team’s performances. Both clubs had made the playoffs in 2014. In 2015 the Orioles scrambled to finish with a .500 record. The Nationals never recovered from a weekend sweep at the hands of the New York Mets, the eventual NL East and NL champions. The Nats finished 83-79 and fired their manager, Matt Williams, and his entire coaching staff.

The Orioles season was a blend of highs and lows. The Baltimore riots in late April forced the team to postpone two home games and play a third in an empty ballpark.

While the team was third in the majors in home runs and slugger Chris Davis led the league in home runs (47), the club’s pitching staff was 18th in earned run average and the team’s batting average was 20th overall. In August the Orioles were no-hit by Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma. During that same month, the Orioles banged out 26 hits in an 18-2 win over Oakland.

So, will Season 2016 be any better for the region’s teams—or is the worst yet to come?

Here are two overviews.

Newcomers to the team include right-handed pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Odrisamer Despaigne; and outfielders Hyun-soo Kim and Mark Trumbo. Kim and Trumbo bat left and right, respectively. The big departure was left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. Pitcher Bud Norris is also gone. Add to that the one that got away—outfielder Dexter Fowler, who jilted the Orioles and instead re-signed with the Cubs.
The club did resign Davis to a huge seven-year deal and also retained right-handed set-up man Darren O’Day. The Orioles also signed veteran catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year, $15.8 million deal. There are pros and cons regarding this transaction. Wieters is a three-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner. While his bat and glove are valuable there are two knocks on him—one, he doesn’t handle pitchers very well and two, he is frequently injured. Wieters will turn 30 this year and with a contract that expires at the end of the season he is definitely at a career crossroads.

Two solid players in the lineup are third baseman Manny Machado and center fielder Adam Jones. Gallardo should help the club’s weak starting pitching rotation.

The other teams in the AL East—the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and especially the Blue Jays, especially in Toronto—could be the undoing of any hopes the Orioles have for making it to the post season.

By now, new manager Dusty Baker has met the Nats’ star right fielder Bryce Harper and has assessed the rest of the club’s talent. The Nationals have a revamped infield, appear fairly solid in their starting rotation and shaky in the bullpen. The relief corps’ instability opens and closes with Jonathan Papelbon, the catalyst of one of the ugliest incidents of Season 2015. The high-priced right-handed closer will be hard-pressed to put his confrontation with Harper in the team’s dugout behind him. It might help if the starters, led by ace Max Scherzer, are effective during the season’s early weeks. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg has reached his moment of truth with the club. He will need to surpass the 11 wins he earned last season or he may be pitching elsewhere.

Key departures for the Nats during the off-season included pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, shortstop Ian Desmond and outfielder Denard Span. New to the club is second baseman Daniel Murphy, whose torrid late-season and post-season hitting helped the rival Mets make it to the World Series.

Harper is a truly great player but he can’t do it on his own. Infielders Anthony Rendon and the well-paid Ryan Zimmerman, plus another big money guy, Jayson Werth, have to contribute significantly for the team to meet its potential. Most baseball pundits expect the Mets to win the division again this season.

Are you a fan of the Orioles or Nationals? Or is there another team you root for? What do you think is going to happen this season? Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com