I think that a lot of these "Intro to Vim"-type posts do Vim beginners a disservice by recommending a whole bunch of plugins right off the bad. Instead of just learning the Vim basics now the reader needs to also learn how to use all those recommended plugins.
You can get awfully far with just the built-in application and maybe something like CommandT to help navigate projects, especially if using a GUI editor like MacVim to make tab navigation easiest.
As much as I respect Steve Losh, I must admit you are right: this very post put me in a plugin/remapping frenzy when I switched from TextMate. After a few weeks, my Vim was a mess and… it wasn't Vim anymore. Eventually I decided to go back to square one and learn Vim properly but I certainly lost a couple of months chasing fantasies.