When Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, a common question was: Who would be the next Oriole inducted?
Now that we know that former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina will enter the Hall of Fame without an Orioles or Yankees logo on his cap, the wait might be much, much longer.
Mussina had won 244 games when Ripken was inducted and wasn’t yet considered a Hall of Fame candidate. Fourteen months later, Mussina ended his career with his only 20-win season and 270 career victories, and steadily built support.
Mussina’s decision to enter the Hall of Fame without a logo is understandable. His statistics were compiled in two places, and they were nearly equal, but that didn’t stop many Oriole fans from complaining about it.
Among those entering with Mussina are two selections of the Veterans Committee, Harold Baines and Lee Smith. Smith played just the strike-shortened 1994 season with the Orioles, but Baines had three iterations lasting seven seasons in Baltimore.
Although Baines was a controversial choice, many Orioles fans were happy to see him go to Cooperstown. Baines is a lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore, and played with the Orioles in 1997, when they nearly went to the World Series.
Curt Schilling, whose political views have made him another controversial choice, recorded just the first of his 216 lifetime wins with the Orioles. He could be elected in the next year or two, but he won’t enter as an Oriole.
Among those who could be on the ballot next year are Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth and Joe Saunders, but none is likely to garner substantial support.
Roberts was one of the best second basemen in Orioles history, but he isn’t close to Hall of Fame worthy.
Manny Machado has had a spectacular start to his career. In his first seven seasons, he has a 33.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and if he maintains that level over the next seven-to-10 years, he could be a Hall of Fame candidate.
By then, Machado’s early years with the Orioles could be mostly forgotten, especially if he signs a contract of six years or more with another team and leads them to postseason success.
If you’re thinking that Adam Jones or Nick Markakis are possible Hall of Famers, you’re probably wrong, or at least premature.
Jones and Markakis were wonderful Orioles, some of the best ever, but not close to being Hall of Famers, at least not yet. If both continued their careers and had several more excellent seasons, perhaps they could be considered, but not now.
Jones and Markakis have identical 32.4 WARs, which is still well below Baines’ 38.7.
Baines, who never received more than 6.1 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America in his five appearances on the ballot, was elected by a group of 16 former players, executives and media members.
Jones, who is a free agent, has 1,813 hits and 266 home runs — impressive numbers, but not among the top 300 on the all-time hit list or the top 200 on the all-time homer list.
He does have four Gold Gloves and five All-Star selections and the gratitude of Orioles fans.
Unfortunately, no team has signed Jones, who could be a strong addition to a contender.
Markakis recently signed a one-year, $4 million contract with a $2 million buyout with the Atlanta, where he has played the previous four seasons.
Markakis has 2,237 hits, but only 179 home runs. He’s won three Gold Gloves but didn’t make an All-Star team until 2018.
Markakis has had seven seasons of 180 or more hits, but his most impressive statistic is the number of games he played.
In 11 of his 13 seasons, Markakis has played in at least 155 games. Last season, at 34, he played in all of Atlanta’s 162 games.
Only in 2012, when he had right wrist surgery and later a broken right thumb, did he miss significant time. Markakis played in just 104 games in the Orioles’ first winning season after 14 losing ones.
His absence from the 2012 postseason could have cost the Orioles their shot at playing in the American League Championship Series. They lost a taut five-game Division Series to the Yankees, whose left-hander, CC Sabathia, ended Markakis’ season with a pitch that broke his thumb.
For Markakis to reach 3,000 hits, he’d have to average just over 150 hits for five more seasons. He’d be 39 by then.
Even though Hall of Fame voters haven’t given as much weight to the “counting numbers” in recent years, Markakis would be making a strong case for Cooperstown with 3,000 hits.
However, Markakis isn’t likely to want to hang on just to achieve a number. If he continues to perform well and a team wants him, he’ll continue, but like Mussina, who didn’t want to keep playing at a diminished level just to reach 300 wins, Markakis holds himself to high standards.
Markakis maintains a home in the Baltimore area and has long enjoyed living here. Perhaps if he gets those 3,000 hits and reaches the Hall of Fame, he’d enter Cooperstown as an Oriole.
But that’s at least a decade away.
The advice here is that if you’d like to attend an Orioles induction into the Hall of Fame, brave the crowds that Mariano Rivera will draw this year and make your way to Cooperstown for Mussina’s big day on July 21.
It might be a very long time until there’s another.