Tap-In Question: Which Oriole debut over the years were you most anticipating? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Connolly's Tap Room

Tap-In Question: Which Oriole debut over the years were you most anticipating?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

I’ll save you further analysis of Thursday’s beating by the New York Yankees.

In one sense, the Orioles needed that win. In another sense, every time I say the Orioles need to win a game, they don’t. And yet they remain in the hunt.

Since we can’t figure out this team, let’s make today’s Tap Room subject a little bit about history, with a connection to the present.

This is another one of those Connolly questions without a correct answer. I just want to know your opinion – this one is personal in a non-probing, can’t-get-arrested kind of way – and stroll down Memory Lane with you.

Recently promoted outfielder Austin Hays is the next big thing for the Orioles, a third-rounder from 2016 that absolutely, positively destroyed the minors in his first year-plus as a pro.

He’ll eventually be named the Orioles’ 2017 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award winner after hitting a combined .329 with 32 homers and 32 doubles at High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

He has some speed, defensive abilities and a hard-charging style of play. He officially made his major league debut as a defensive replacement in right field during the top of the ninth on Thursday. He batted in the bottom of the inning, grounding out to end the game.

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We’re all looking forward to his first major league start. It will almost certainly come on this upcoming road trip, though all three of the starters in Cleveland are right-handers and the expectation is that the right-handed-hitting Hays will mainly start in right field versus lefties while lefty Seth Smith gets a breather.

The Orioles have had their fair share of anticipated debuts during the years I’ve covered this team involving players such as Nick Markakis, Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, among others.

To me, none was more hyped or more anticipated than Wieters’ debut on May 29, 2009. Low-key club president Andy MacPhail actually announced on MASN three days before his debut that Wieters, baseball’s top prospect at the time, would be in the starting lineup that Friday night against the Detroit Tigers. It was a brilliant move: 42,704 people attended that game, including more than 10,000 who bought walk-up tickets the evening of the game.

I’m not sure that debut will be rivaled. Certainly, though, there was plenty of buzz around Manny Machado when he arrived in Baltimore on August 9, 2012. And, I remember all the hype around right-hander Ben McDonald in September 1989, when the No. 1 overall pick of that year’s draft was called up to the Orioles in a pennant race. He’s the last No. 1 overall pick to make the majors in the year he was selected.

Here’s what I want to know from you: Which Oriole debut were you most eagerly anticipating? It’s OK if it’s now a long-forgotten flash-in-the-pan (Matt Riley, anyone?).

Just give me a name and an explanation. And a story to go along with it if warranted.

Tap-In Question: Which Oriole debut were you most anticipating?

57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 8, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Once I heard Dylan Bundy being compared to an 18 year old Dwight Gooden, I couldn’t wait to see him. I’m still waiting to see him, if you know what I mean.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Biggest upset of the day no matter what anyone else says. The fact this isn’t Wieters for you is mind-boggling. Double drink chip.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        September 8, 2017 at 7:57 am

        Dan you know I love Matt. But as far as buying into the hype, I never believed he was the next coming of Johnny Bench. There will only ever be one Johnny Bench. I know Matt isn’t a superstar, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a grade A ball player and world class receiver. I fell in love with him AFTER he showed up.

        But Bundy …. I believed the hype. Or at least I hoped upon hope he was what they said he was. That’s why I picked Bundy for this Tap Room question. Thanks for the chip!

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 8:36 am

      I was just teasing. And yes the Bundy hype train was in full motion. Remember he wasn’t supposed to be called up but a 19-inning game in Seattle — which I covered — changed all that.

  2. Raymo

    September 8, 2017 at 7:42 am

    For me it was Ben McDonald. As I recall, his father or agent insisted on him signing a major league contract which was apparently quite controversial. So part of me was like ‘who does this guy think he is?’ and part of me was hoping that he’d live up to the hype.

    His debut was spectacular, and really raised expectations. He ended up being pretty effective when healthy, but his career was mostly disappointing due to health issues and overhype.

    • Raymo

      September 8, 2017 at 7:47 am

      I also didn’t understand the implications of signing a major versus minor league contract and I guess I still don’t. But I thought it was an outrageous demand for a kid who never played any pro ball.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 8:39 am

      That agent was Scott Boras, who was really just ascending into prominence at the time. The irony is he later told me that he didn’t like major league deals for most amateurs because of the restraints connected to them. Didn’t try to get one for Wieters, for instance. They are no longer allowed by the way.

  3. general81

    September 8, 2017 at 8:07 am

    No question – Ben McDonald. Having the number one pick, and getting the consensus best pitcher available at a time when we really needed him (my, how times haven’t changed) was huge.

    Here’s my story: During the contract stalemate, when Ben’s father was allegedly negotiating with a potential startup league, I called the LSU sports information office, identified myself as a reporter with the Baltimore Sports Journal (!!), got the home number for Mr. McDonald, and called him for an interview (I was a reporter at the time, so it was semi-legitimate).

    We talked for about 10 minutes, I got some information on where talks were with the Orioles, then crossed my fingers Ben would sign with us.

    To this day, he remains one of my favorite players in Orioles history, no matter his star-crossed career.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 8:41 am

      General: Great story. Tremendous … guts. Drink chip. People forget McDonald had a solid career. Just not what everyone hoped because of the wear and tear on that shoulder.

  4. Orial

    September 8, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Dan I have to agree with you on this one. Wieters and I believe he ironically hit a triple in the game. Speaking of that debut 42,000 in Attendence? Wow when will we ever see that again for a player’s debut?

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 8:41 am

      The triple actually came the next day but was his first big league hit. Came against Verlander. I always teased Wieters that his speed peaked early.

  5. Orial

    September 8, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Sorry Dan a little off topic but see where you mentioned how the Yankees foul off tough pitches(something the O’s don’t do). why is that? Their approach? The type of hitters they have? All of the above?

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 8:43 am

      I think it is approach. Everyone teaches it but Orioles get caught up in hammering mistakes. The Yankees, for the most part, have always been more patient. Getting pieces of good pitches. I’m not sure how that is taught.

  6. Marshall

    September 8, 2017 at 8:31 am

    In recent times, I’m also for Bundy. That first year in the minors when he went over 100 innings with an ERA of like 2.00 and 119 K’s. He was at the top of all the prospect lists. He had some national exposure really early. We had just gone through failing to develop a starter with Arrieta, Bergeson, Matusz, Britton…I was so excited for Bundy.

    I think a case can be made that Weiters may not be my answer just because of how utterly ridiculous the hype got to be. It was so powerful, we knew it wasn’t going to be and switched to a wait and see approach when it came to his debut.

    I remember being jazzed for Big Ben & Jeffrey Hammonds. I thought Jayson Werth was going to be the second coming of Chris Hoiles. ..

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 8:43 am

      Hammonds is a great name to throw out there. Drink chip.

  7. Creatively_19

    September 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

    The picture at the top of the page says it all – Matt Wieters for me. It wasn’t just that he was billed as Johnny Bench and Joe Mauer in one, but at the time the O’s had been losing for so many years. He represented hope that things were about to turn around for the whole team. It was exciting, everybody in Baltimore was in on the hype as represented by the near sell out crowds the night he debuted.

    For extra credit, the overall player I was most excited to ever see his debut was Steven Strasburg. As soon as the Nationals announced he was coming up to make his debut I bought a ticket for that game against the Pirates. 14 Ks in 7 innings did not disappoint, nor did the crowd that was hanging on every pitch. Quite a game to be at.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 10:19 am

      I covered that one too. Heck of a spectacle. Drink chip for extra credit.

  8. JCO

    September 8, 2017 at 8:53 am

    For me it’s Ben McDonald, and how’s this for a blast from the past…the late Drungo Hazewood.

    I’m 50, and remember the hype around him. I kept hearing how he was the greatest athlete many had seen play the game, and was kind of like Bo Jackson in that he was a two-sport star with amazing speed and power. I can still remember Chuck and Bill raving about him during radio game broadcasts, how he was hitting these 500 foot bombs in the minors. He was also beloved by teammates, and if he had worked out, would have been a legendary and beloved Oriole.

    Alas, he couldn’t hit the curveball…

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Here’s the awful thing about Drungo, too. He had 5 MLB at-bats at age 21 in 1980. He started one game in his career. Had 4 ABs. Struck out in all 4. And never played in the majors again. Incredible.

      • JCO

        September 8, 2017 at 12:23 pm

        I know. It was such a bummer. I was all onboard to be a big fan of his.

        And just think of the fan chant echoing through Memorial Stadium as he comes up with the bases loaded…

        “Drun-go! Drun-go! Drun-go!”

  9. garyintheloo

    September 8, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Jeffrey Hammonds was it for me. I remember Frank Robinson comparing him to Ricky Henderson: “Wait until you see his power.” Various injuries stripped away both the power and speed.. I never thought Wieters would be the next Johnny Bench though Carlton Fisk would have been nice.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Hammonds sure had the tools. And he had a nice half season in 1997 filling in for Davis. He played 13 seasons in MLB including an AS year w Rockies in 2000. But couldn’t stay healthy/consistent in Balmer.

  10. Mustang21

    September 8, 2017 at 10:45 am

    A few to choose from like others said. McDonald, Wieters, and Hammonds, but for me it was Machado. He was exactly what the 2012 team needed. Cool moment to be at the stadium during those moments. I was there for Mancini, Christian Walker, and Bret Boone’s debuts.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Bret Boone?

    • Mustang21

      September 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Yep Bret Boone. Not just the Oriole debuts. Super hyped- third generation MLBer who made Harold Reynolds expendable so he could be an Oriole. Quite a buzz in the stadium that night.

    • Mustang21

      September 8, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      A couple others I thought of during work today. Leo Gomez and Curtis Goodwin. Craig Worthington was really good at making outs, so the debut of Leo gave us a little more power. Goodwin was speed. Really was excited to see him debut, but he never panned out.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Interesting Mustang. Drink chip for originality and leaving the Bird’s nest for this one.

  11. Teejay

    September 8, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Wow this is a great question Dan. Obviously recently it was Wieters for me, 25 years or so ago it was Ben McDonald but the one that first one that comes to my mind when I see this question is…..Fred Lynn!!

    Now I may have misinterpreted the question but you did say Oriole debut and not Major League debut.
    You remember when the EBW and the O’s went all after the disappointment coming off of ’84 and you know the O’s never ever signed big name free agents but this was the year of Aase, Lacy, and the centerpiece Lynn. My recollection is he always played well against us when he was with the Bosox and Angels and he had his moments for us (remember that home weekend series against the Twins early in the year), but alas we all know that you couldn’t buy a pennant….even Earl coming out of retirement didn’t help!

    So yeah the first face that comes to my mind when someone asks anticipated Oriole debut is Fred Lynn.

    Dan, didn’t we get Hoiles for him when he went to the Tigers in ’88?

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Fine interpretation. Yep, got Hoiles. Drink chip.

  12. JParsley

    September 8, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I thought Jeffrey Hammonds was going to be a super star. he had all the tools, but just couldn’t stay healthy

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      As I said earlier he actually had a solid career. Just not as good because of the injuries.

    • JParsley

      September 8, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      solid yeah but definitely not what I expected

  13. mqm

    September 8, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Pitcher – Ben McDonald. I bought the hype and was expecting a HOF career

    Fielder – Jeffrey Hammonds. Loved the tools.

  14. Johntr1984

    September 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    How about Ryan Minor? He was replacing a legend and was treated (fairly or unfairly) as someone who may be able to fill that void. Glad he’s back with the O’s as a minor league manager

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      There definitely was hype. I don’t remember the debut. We all remember his big moment in Sept 1998 tho.

    • JCO

      September 8, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      I wonder if a guy like Minor ever regretted going into baseball. He was a second round draft pick of the 76ers and chose baseball instead.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      No. Baseball was his love. And he is still in the game.

  15. willmiranda

    September 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Frank Robinson, if I may cite a success story. In the 1950’s I longed for the day the O’s won their 55th game so that they wouldn’t lose 100. In the early 60’s the Baby birds matured into a solid club, but couldn’t get over the hump. Then they went and got a fighting MVP. I wasn’t at the stadium Opening Day 1966, but the excitement was evident on TV, especially when, as I recall, both Robbies, hit homers in a win.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm

      Interesting reply. I like it. Drink chip.

  16. wirpls

    September 8, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    I’ll show my age a bit here, but the one that sticks in my mind is Mike Adamson. He came right from USC to the major leagues back in ’67 or ’68.

    One of the first to ever do that and a total bust!!

    I’ll also agree with Ben McDonald!!

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      That’s 2 drink chips. I don’t know much about Adamson at all.

  17. JoeFundo

    September 8, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    From my early years:

    60’s – 1966 – Frank Robinson…maybe the most underrated baseball player ever!

    70’s – 1976 – Reginald Martinez Jackson…we waited, and waited, and waited.

    80’s – 1989 – Big Ben McDonald…pitched out of the pen in late 1989 and then when he was called up in 1990, He threw a 2-0 complete game, four hit shutout in his first MLB start at Memorial Stadium against the White Sox. All four hits were singles. The game lasted less than two and a half hours and he threw 85 pitches.

    90’s – 1991 – Mike Mussina…he pitched beautifully in his debut but lost 1-0. Then he threw great in his last three starts that year but never got a win. He was 4-5 that year and should have been 10-2.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 8, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Excellent choices. Drink chip. Moose’s arrival definitely was highly anticipated too.

    • Raymo

      September 8, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      Joe, you are so right about Frank Robinson. It kills me when our announcers talk about the last Triple Crown winner and they stop at Yaz, when Frank did it just 1 year earlier.

  18. Winger

    September 9, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Ubaldo …. lol.

  19. lmterps

    September 9, 2017 at 8:48 am

    For me Mike Mussina, I followed his minor league career and knew we had a gem there, once he came up he sure proved his ability. Still pissed that they let him walk.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 9, 2017 at 9:49 am

      I’m fascinated by whether he gets a statue and a retired number if he makes the Hall. All others have. But he may not go in for one team.

  20. Craig417

    September 9, 2017 at 11:33 am

    The most anticipated debut in my eyes would be Jimenez on another team. Sounds cruel but he is taking up a very large salary and a spot that could be utilized by lower paid below mediocre pitcher. Wait that sounds cruel also. Much like the homer in the bottom of 9th in Toronto during last years’ wildcard game. Just gives me nightmares!

    • Bancells Moustache

      September 9, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Nailed it. Ubaldo Jimenez as a Cincinnati Red or Atlanta Brave or San Diego Padre is a glorious vision indeed.

  21. Bancells Moustache

    September 9, 2017 at 11:40 am

    “The Cavalry”. Baltimore was going to have a young rotation that made Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux look like Huey, Dewey and Louie. All with Jesus in shinguards calling the game. Cue sad trombone.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 9, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Hey three of those pitchers received arbitration awards over $10 million in 2017: Arrieta, Britton, Tillman. A second trombone?

  22. Mikepete73

    September 9, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    for me it was dylan bundy. dan do you know why brandon kline missed the whole season for 2nd straight yr. cant find much info

    • Dan Connolly

      September 9, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      He was coming back from surgery. Must have had a setback. I’ll look into it.

  23. geevee3

    September 9, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    I’m not as old as Willmiranda, though Frank Robinson is my favorite all-time player, but I am older than most of your posters. What I remember most sweetly is Eddie Murray’s first spring with the club. I actually told a friend: “I’ve never seen a sweeter swing. This guy will definitely hit 500 home runs!” An absurd statement, I know, for any unproven player, but I was right!

    • Dan Connolly

      September 9, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      I want proof. Until then. Drink chip.

  24. geevee3

    September 9, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Okay, can’t prove it, could produce witnesses, but it’s like my “309 down the line Lowenstein ” story, which is my favorite stadium prophecy, or my decision in April 1966 while looking at the Burlington County Times (south jersey) in April 1966, to make my favorite player Frank Robinson, I know the bonfides . I can provide details, but not proof.

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