Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Short Term Stops: The All-Orioles Team

The Orioles strike me as a team that's either really good or really bad.

A quick look at their franchise encyclopedia page seems to support that claim, as there aren't a ton of ho-hum .500-ish seasons in the mix. It's either somewhere around 90 wins or 90 losses in any given year.

I remember the O's as perennial cellar-dwellers during my formative baseball years in the late '90s and early 2000s. Under the guidance of Buck Showalter, however, the O's seemed to have turned the tide. They've won 85 or more games in four of the last five seasons, and my hunch is that they'll continue to be among the top of the AL East leaderboards in the years to come.

A franchise with as rich of a history as the Orioles is bound to have some (un)memorable short term stops along the way, and their roster is no exception.


1994 Topps #175 Fernando Valenzuela

Orioles "Short Term Stops" Accolades:

Fernando Valenzuela (1993 Orioles, 32 games)

One of the common threads running throughout this roster is the Orioles' tendency towards "out of nowhere" pickups.

After just two dismal games with the '91 Angels, Valenzuela played in the Mexican League the following year. I can't find any of his 1992 stats, but he apparently pitched well enough in Mexico for the Orioles to give him another shot at the big leagues in '93. 

I'm sure Valenzuela surprised a lot of people by playing a full season with the 1993 Orioles, posting an 8-10 record and a 4.94 ERA in 32 games along the way. He'd pitch in the bigs for four more years before calling it a career in 1997.

Not bad for a guy who couldn't find a job in American baseball just a few years earlier.

1995 Score #91 Lee Smith

Orioles Accolades:

Lee Smith (1994 Orioles, 41 games)

Lee Smith jumped around quite a bit later on in his career, but he had one of his last great seasons with the '94 Orioles.

The legendary closer -- who I still believe should be enshrined in Cooperstown -- finished with a 3.29 ERA and 33 saves in the strike-shortened season. He made the AL All-Star Team and placed fifth in the year's Cy Young voting.

And, as a testament to how crazy mid '90s baseball cards often were, I own a total of 24 cards of Lee Smith as an Oriole despite the fact that he only played a single year for the club. 

 2013 Topps Update #US-78 Francisco Rodriguez

Orioles Accolades:

Francisco Rodriguez (2013 Orioles, 23 games, half-year stint)

Not every trade deadline deal works out.

Desperate for late-inning help in 2013, the O's acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers in an attempt to shore up their bullpen. The Orioles mainly used K-Rod as a setup man down the stretch, a decision which didn't exactly pan out. Rodriguez posted a bloated 4.50 ERA in his 23 games in Baltimore.

He'd return to Milwaukee on a free-agent contract the next offseason, making his brief sandwich stint as an Oriole all the more forgettable.


2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #287 Gregg Zaun

Orioles Accolades:

Gregg Zaun (1995-96, 2009 Orioles, 146 games, half-year stint in '09)

I don't have a great nominee at the catcher position, so let's go with Gregg Zaun.

Zaun is the epitome of the career-backup type I so much love to collect. He played in 100 games in just four of his 16 career big-league seasons, a career which began in Baltimore back in 1995. Zaun returned to the O's in his penultimate 2009 season before being traded to the Rays after just 56 games.

But he's on this roster more or less so I can get another opportunity to mention how much I miss Upper Deck's OPC brand. 

First Base

2011 Topps Allen & Ginter #269 Derrek Lee

Orioles Accolades:

Derrek Lee (2011 Orioles, 85 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Derrek Lee will always have a special place in my baseball heart.

He was the anchor behind the Cubs' division-winning clubs of my adolescence in the late 2000s and was one of the more underrated players in the game at that point. With the Cubs in the cellar in 2010, however, the North Siders dealt Lee to the Braves at the trade deadline that year.

He'd sign with the O's as a free agent in 2011, and was traded to the Pirates after posting a mediocre .246-12-41 line in 85 games in Baltimore.

Lee retired after the 2011 season, though he's still a fan favorite here in Chicago five years later.

Second Base

1993 Upper Deck #803 Harold Reynolds

Orioles Accolades:

Harold Reynolds (1993 Orioles, 145 games)

It's kind of a shame that the first thing I think of when I think of Harold Reynolds is horrible announcer.

The fact of the matter is that Reynolds was a terrific player in his day: a constant stolen base threat, a two-time All-Star, and a three-time Gold Glover. He walked 66 times in comparison to just 47 strikeouts during his lone 1993 season with Baltimore. 

But it doesn't matter: Harold Reynolds's legacy will be his announcing career after all is said and done, and that's not really a good thing.


1998 Ultra #300 Ozzie Guillen

Orioles Accolades:

Ozzie Guillen (1998 Orioles, 12 games, half-year stint)

It's sometimes hard to believe Ozzie Guillen played for any other teams besides the White Sox.

After 13 years on the South Side of Chicago, however, the Sox let him walk, prompting Guillen to sign with the Orioles during the 1997 offseason.

Ozzie would go on to play in just 12 games in Baltimore, going 1-for-16 (an anemic .063 average) before being released. He'd sign with the Braves and hang around the big leagues for a couple more years before calling it a career.

In hindsight, it certainly looks like the Sox got that one right.

Third Base

2006 Upper Deck #1009 Fernando Tatis

Orioles Accolades:

Fernando Tatis (2006 Orioles, 28 games)

Much like Fernando Valenzuela before him, Fernando Tatis is another "out of nowhere" member of this Orioles squad.

Best known for being the only player to hit two grand slams in a single inning, Tatis had been out of pro baseball since 2003 before signing a minor league contract and briefly resurfacing with the O's in 2006. He posted a .250 average and slugged two homers in 28 games for Baltimore. Tatis spent all of 2007 in the minors before resurfacing yet again, this time with the Mets in '08.

Talk about an up-and-down handful of years.


1988 Score #501 Reggie Jackson

Orioles Accolades:

Reggie Jackson (1976 Orioles, 134 games)

I can't remember a team having a better short term stops outfield than the Orioles.

We begin with what is easily one of the most well-known unfamiliar stints (hopefully that makes sense) in baseball history here, honoring Reggie Jackson's single year as a Baltimore Oriole.

Due to a new thing called free agency, the A's dealt Jackson to the Orioles prior to the '76 season, afraid of the big paycheck he'd most certainly command once his contract expired. Though no one remembers it, '76 was a fine season for Reggie, as he posted a .277-27-91 line in 134 games as an Oriole.

Of course, he'd sign with the Yankees the very next year, becoming a Bronx legend and little more than a footnote in Baltimore lore. No Topps card was ever made of Jackson with the O's: he's still depicted as an A in 1976 and airbrushed into Yankee pinstripes in '77.

It's time we gave Reggie's tenure as an Oriole its proper due.

2001 Fleer Platinum #308 Tim Raines

Orioles Accolades:

Tim Raines (2001 Orioles, 4 games, half-year stint)

Tim Raines makes his second consecutive short term stops roster with his appearance on the Orioles' squad.

With only a few games left in the regular season, Raines was dealt from the Expos to the O's in October of 2001. I don't know for sure, but I have to imagine the trade was made in an attempt to allow Raines to play in a few games with his son -- Tim Jr. -- who had recently been called up to the big club in Baltimore at the time.

Raines Sr. finished out the season with a grand total of four games as an Oriole, going 3-for-11 with a homer and five RBIs as the shortest-tenured member of this O's roster.

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter "Starting Points" #SP-91 Jose Bautista

Orioles Accolades:

Jose Bautista (2004 Orioles, 16 games, quarter-of-a-year stint)

I usually like to stick with base cards in these posts, but I'm forced to show an insert here for the sheer fact that this is the only card I've ever seen of Jose Bautista as an Oriole.

Before coming out of nowhere to hit 54 homers with the Blue Jays in 2010, Bautista was the very definition of a journeyman, so much so that he played for a whopping four teams in his rookie 2004 season alone. (The others being the Devil Rays, Royals, and Pirates.)

Joey Bats made his big-league debut as an Oriole on Opening Day in '04, going 3-for-11 in 16 games with Baltimore (while failing to collect a single homer or RBI) before being claimed off waivers by Tampa.

And the rest is history.

Designated Hitter

2012 Topps Heritage #108 Vladimir Guerrero

Orioles Accolades:

Vladimir Guerrero (2011 Orioles, 145 games, sunset season)

This roster comes to a close with the man himself: Vlad.

Vlad posted a respectable .290-13-63 line in what would turn out to be his sunset season, slugging the final 13 of his 449 career homers as an Oriole in 2011. He signed with the Blue Jays the following offseason, but retired shortly after being sent to the minors out of Spring Training.

Part of me still believes that Vlad could come out of retirement and help a big league club today or next year or ten years down the road: he was that amazing of a hitter.

Once again, that about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.

Thanks for tuning in!


Adam Sanders said...

Love this series Nick, keep them coming. Another good nominee for third base would have been Chris Sabo, although he could qualify as a White Sox short term stop as well.

Metallattorney said...

Dwight Evans would have been a good pick for the outfield as well. After 19 years in Boston, he played his final season in a uniform that always looked strange on him. He was decent too.

Anonymous said...

Woo! The return of Short-Term Stops! Thanks, Nick!

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a teenager in the Blue Jays system, so maybe Vlad Sr. will "Pull a Tim Raines" some day.

Brett Alan said...

Cool post. I like Metallattorney's mention of Dwight Evans making a stop in Baltimore. I've got a card or two of him there, and it's so weird.

BTW, a "slash line" isn't average--HRs--RBIs, it's avg/OBP/slugging. For a moment I wondered how Derrek Lee had an OBP of 12! hehe.

Matthew Scott said...

Most of these were recent enough that I actually remembered them. It is amazing Jose Bautista ended up having any type of career the way he balanced around.

Adam Kaningher said...

Upper Deck OPC was a great effort. I like the black parallels even more than the base cards!

Brett Alan said...

Matt Nokes (26 games in 1995) might have been a better choice at catcher.

Too bad there's no one from the 50s or 60s.

Brett Alan said...

I just decided, for the heck of it, to look into vintage Orioles Short Term Stops. There really aren't many.

One good one is Bobby Avila, the longtime Cleveland infielder. He was traded to the O's before the 1959 season, and was released after 20 games. This turned into one of those third-of-a-year stints, as he then played 22 games with the Red Sox and 51 as a Milwaukee Brave in his sunset season.

Another sunset season that year was George Bamberger, who had a brief major league career before having more success as a manager. He had pitched in 8 games as a Giant in 1951-52, then went to the minors, making it back for just three games with Baltimore in 1959! Crazy. How many major leaguers can say that they played for only two teams, and both teams moved to new cities in between the two stints? Anyway, both Avila and Bamberger have cards as Orioles in 1959 Topps.

Perhaps even odder than Bambi's case was Dizzy Trout, who had a fine career, mostly wwith Detroit from 1939 to 1952. He attempted a comeback with Baltimore in 1957 at age 42, after three years as a Tigers announcer and an unsuccessful run for Sheriff of Wayne County (which includes Detroit). Perhaps not surprisingly, it did not go well. He appeared in 2 games, and managed to retire only one batter, while surrendering three runs for an 81.00 ERA. Ouch. Sadly, if not surprisingly, there don't seem to be any cards of Trout in orange and black, so I guess he belongs as the third pitcher on the all-forgotten team.