Tap-In Question: Who is the most underrated Oriole in club history? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Tap-In Question: Who is the most underrated Oriole in club history?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Every now and then I turn over the keys to the Tap Room to the patrons and allow them to pick the topic – or at least be the inspiration for the topic.

Sometimes, a new discussion develops from a previous conversation we’ve had. And that’s what’s happening today.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about the best catchers in Orioles’ history and tried to get a sense of how Matt Wieters fit into that conversation. Chris Hoiles was on the short list, and one reader, Bancells Moustache – what a great name, huh? – mentioned that he believes Hoiles may be the most underrated player in club history.

It’s a pretty good call. And an excellent topic for debate. So, let’s do it. Grab your thinking cap and your drinking cup and play along.

Who is the most underrated Oriole of all-time? Underrated doesn’t always mean underappreciated. In my mind, Eddie Murray was the most underappreciated Oriole, but it’s impossible to be underrated when you are a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Underrated, to me, means the player just didn’t get his due — nationally, locally, whatever. Hoiles could lead that parade. He never made an All-Star team, but he was a huge part of the excellent O’s teams of the mid-1990s. He was just overshadowed by Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson, among others.

When I was writing my book, Rick Dempsey gave me his unsolicited pick for most underrated Oriole: Ken Singleton. He played 10 years for the Orioles, hit 182 home runs and had an outstanding on-base percentage of .388. Singleton (pictured above) made three All-Star teams and finished in the Top 3 of the AL MVP voting twice. But he was overshadowed by Murray and, later, Ripken.

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My Dad, an Orioles fan since 1954, suggested Davey Johnson. There were so many great players on those clubs from 1966 to 1971 that Johnson was overshadowed offensively by Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson and defensively by Mark Belanger, Paul Blair and Brooks. But Johnson, a three-time All-Star in Baltimore, won three Gold Gloves and had a .330 on-base percentage in nearly 1,000 games with the Orioles.

Another guy I’d consider is Gary Roenicke, who is best remembered as part of a tremendous outfield platoon with John Lowenstein. But, the truth is, during Earl Weaver’s tenure the right-handed hitting Roenicke played a whole lot more than a right-handed member of a platoon normally would, including plenty of games in the same starting outfield with Lowenstein.

In fact, Weaver routinely took offense years later when Roenicke would be mentioned as a Weaver platoon player, saying he only sat Roenicke against particularly tough right-handers. Roenicke played in 130 games or more in both 1979 and 1982; his true “platoon” year was in 1983 under manager Joe Altobelli, not Weaver. In eight years with the Orioles, Roenicke hit 106 homers and had a .355 on-base percentage.

Old-timers have told me that reliever Stu Miller has to be mentioned as an all-time underrated Oriole. He pitched for the team for five seasons, threw 502 innings without ever making a start and posted a cumulative ERA of 2.37. He won 14 games with a 1.89 ERA in 1965 and finished seventh in AL MVP voting – as a reliever. And yet he’s sort of a footnote in club history.

If you want to get a little more modern, how about Melvin Mora, who made two All-Star teams and won a Silver Slugger in his 10 seasons with the club? He had a slash line of .288/.355/.431 and moved all around the diamond, but the Orioles’ continual losing last decade may make Mora’s contributions more forgettable.

Or what about Nick Markakis, who never made an All-Star Game despite being on some awful O’s clubs? In nine seasons, Markakis compiled more than 1,500 hits and 150 homers and hit .290 while winning two Gold Gloves in right.

With this current squad, I think shortstop J.J. Hardy is often the forgotten man. He’s the glue of the defense, has more than 100 home runs as an Oriole and has hit .260 or better in four of his six seasons in Baltimore. He just has higher-profile players all-around him.

I’ll throw one more name at you: lefty Scott McGregor, who made just one All-Star team and never finished Top 5 in Cy Young voting. But he’s sixth in modern franchise history with 138 wins and fourth in innings pitched (2,140 2/3) in 13 seasons with the Orioles. And he had a 1.63 ERA in six postseason games, including a complete-game shutout in the franchise’s most recent World Series contest, Game 5 in 1983 at Philadelphia.

I guess my common theme here is underrated means overshadowed: Really good players who probably didn’t shine as brightly nationally because of circumstances beyond their control.

I’m offering a few nominees. I’m sure you’ll come up with others. There’s no right answer here, but it should be a fun exercise.

Tap-In Question: Who is the most underrated Oriole in modern franchise history?

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. OsFanStuckInNY

    December 22, 2016 at 7:34 am

    My first reaction was to nominate Ken Singleton, as you mentioned. I’ve only ever written one letter to a player in my 55-years of following the O’s, and it was to Ken Singleton upon his retirement — when I realized just how big a loss it was to the team and the sport. Great player, classy guy, like Brooks.

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      December 22, 2016 at 7:36 am

      I even included the snapshot I took of him from the CF upper deck in game 5 of the ’83 WS 🙂

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

      That’s cool. He still is an absolute class act. He was a huge help for my book.

  2. DiamondJim

    December 22, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Most underrated Oriole? Mike Cuellar. We got him in a steal of a deal with Houston ( for Curt Blefary ). All he did was win 20+ games in each of his first 3 seasons with Baltimore. You hardly hear his name anymore. He passed away a few years ago. If only we had a Mike Cuellar now!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 22, 2016 at 9:11 am

      I loved Cuellar as a kid. He of the extra dirty hat! Good call, but I’m not sure you could call a guy that won a Cy Young award as well as a member of the greatest starting rotation ever underrated. Just wanted you to know that there are a lot of us that remember him.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 9:59 am

      I’m with Boog here, Jim. I thought about Cuellar but the Cy Young disqualified him as underrated for me. Had the same thought about Bumbry and ROY. But Cuellar should be remembered as one of best Os pitchers ever.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 22, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Jeepers Dan, you’ve already mentioned all the good ones. I think Dempsey may have hit the nail on the head with Singleton. The guy hit for average, power and had one of the most keen eyes for the strike zone that I’ve ever witnessed. (all that and his 1979 Strat-O-Matic card was offensively one of the best I’ve seen)

    I also give thumbs up to Mora, Hardy and Scotty McGregor votes.

    But since Singleton and the others were already mentioned, I’ll give you a few more to consider.

    Al Bumbry, Bobby Grich and Tony Muser (just joshin’ with that last one)

    But of course, MY most underappreciated Oriole ever … HANDS DOWN … would be Matty Wieters! (still sobbing over my virtual beer)

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 22, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Oh yeah, Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley were CERTAINLY underappreciated ….

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Too soon, Boog. Too soon.

  4. brianjshea

    December 22, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Good picks, Dan. I’d also throw Rich Dauer in there. Consistent and dependable during a great run in O’s history

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Good call Brian. (any relation to Matt?)

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 10:01 am

      Yeah, that’s an excellent choice too. Took him forever to get into O’s Hall of Fame.

    • Cinda B

      December 23, 2016 at 6:33 am

      1st time commenting but I enjoy reading. As a fan since the mid-70s, I second Rich Dauer. Was so nice to see the Os do a video tribute when the Astros were in town this year. Steadiest 2nd baseman they’ve had, and he had a great, clutch World Series in ’83. He also has the best birthday, which he shares with fear the Flaherty and me! Could also get behind Scott McGregor – overshadowed a bit on a rotation that included Palmer (though not in his prime), Flanagan and Cy Young winner Steve Stone, among others.

  5. Marshall

    December 22, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Love this topic. Singleton probably wins this, but he’s been discussed. So, In no particular order:

    Brady Anderson – He gets discounted from most conversation with the usual, “he only had one good season and it was a fluke year”. However, he was solid. Year in and year out, and one of the best base thieves we’ve had in the last X years.

    Brian Roberts – Doubles/OBP machine, base stealer. I’ve always felt he wasn’t given his due.

    Scotty McGregor – Nothing flashy, not big on K’s, consistent and got the job done.

    Mussina – From the Toronto AS game to the no 20 win seasons thing (till his last) to the defection to NY. He should be the most respected starting pitcher after Palmer and is all but forgotten.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Thanks for commenting. Of your group, I’d have to go McGregor then Brady. I think Roberts was pretty well thought of during his prime. And I believe Moose is gonna be a HOFer, so that discounts him as underrated. Real good thoughts tho.

  6. woelps

    December 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I would say Nick Markakis, and I am still bummed that he didn’t play his whole career for us. I wonder how those 180 hits and 40 doubles the last two years would have done for our line up. Hard to believe he ONLY won two GG and never made an All Star game. He always played hard and a career .358 OBP who will likely finish his career with 2300 plus hits.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      You know Woelps, he could finish with many more hits than that. He’ll get his 2000th this year if healthy. And could be sitting at 2200 with a new contract looming at age 34. So 2500 is within reach I’d imagine.

  7. Bancells Moustache

    December 22, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I suppose I’m late to the Tap room, (apologies, working nights this week)but I suppose I should put in my two cents since apparently I did inspire this discussion (just stick the royalty check in the mail, Dan).

    OF course my vote is Hoiles.

    I’ve never thought of Kenny Singleton as being underrated.
    He has, at least from my vantage point, always occupied a position of great respect in Birdland. I look at O’s legends in a sort’ve tiered system. At the top of the mountain you have the statues, Cal, Frank, Brooks, Eddie, Jim and Earl, to which Mussina belongs in all but name, then you have the next tier. Singleton sits comfortably on that perch along with Scotty McGregor and several others. Adam Jones has a table reserved for whenever he is ready. They won’t get any Cooperstown love but most Oriole fans are at least familiar with their great contributions. I mean, you ask someone over 40 who the best non-Hall of Fame Oriole was from that era, chances are very good that Singleton’s name is the first one dropped.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    December 22, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    And to add onto the Davey Johnson discussion, unquestionably the most underrated manager. People tend to forget that the catalyst for the Orioles stunning fall in the late 90’s, my opinion anyway, was not Ripken’s retirement, not Mussina leaving, not signing Albert Belle. It was the firing of Davey Johnson.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 22, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      I would agree on that one. The combo of Johnson and Gillick was an amazing one. As for Singleton not being underrated. Maybe among O’s fans, but I was talking more in a global sense. But I agree he belongs in that second tier.

  9. LarryBS

    December 22, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    My first comment, but I’ve read every post and every comment since you started this site, great job on it. Several thousand hours of playing APBA baseball permanently etched the names of the 1968-76 clubs in my memory, so I’d have to mention RPs Dick Hall and Pete Richert, and my nominees Don Buford and Merv Rettenmund. Not sure of their career stats, but they sure were integral parts of those Orioles teams.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 23, 2016 at 12:15 am

      First Larry, welcome aboard. Thanks for commenting and keep commenting. As you’ll see, this is a forum filled with reasonable people who like hearing other reasonable opinions. Second, those are some good names. Hall, especially. Buford, too. The other two definitely helped the Orioles but played roughly 5 seasons each in Baltimore. So they probably don’t compare to some of the more-tenured, underrated guys.

  10. Camden Bird

    December 23, 2016 at 3:21 am

    Not only is he the most underrated player in Orioles history, but he’s one of the most underrated in all of baseball history.

    Bobby Grich.

    • Dan Connolly

      December 23, 2016 at 9:33 am

      It’s definitely a great name to throw out there.

  11. robdaniels1966

    December 23, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I’m voting for Mora because he played in the worst Oriole era since the 1950s but never let the team’s struggled diminish his effort or performance. Another thing: He did this as a father of quadruplets.

  12. bigdaddydk

    December 27, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    I was a young kid in the 70s and faithfully watched the Birds anytime they were on TV. For reasons I cannot to this day explain — I think I just liked his name — Ken Singleton was my favorite player. So, when I saw the article title, he was my first thought. Why? Because there were so many other Orioles players capturing the limelight. Murray (underappreciated for sure, but he made himself well-known), Palmer, Bumbry, and a number of others got a lot of attention. Singleton just showed up every game and gave his all. Yet, when thinking about the great Orioles he almost never comes up in conversation. Kind of like Kiko Garcia, but for different reasons.

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