The Orioles' all-underrated team - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

The Orioles’ all-underrated team

Thanks to the many who’ve reached out, in the comments section, Facebook, Twitter and on email with your suggestions for an all-Orioles underrated team.

There are many who could have qualified. First, I’ll tell you who’s not underrated: Mark Belanger, Dave McNally and Boog Powell.

Those were common nominations. Belanger, McNally and Powell were all on my all-time Orioles team from early this year. Belanger won eight Gold Gloves and, although he was overshadowed during his career by several bigger names, those Gold Gloves show he wasn’t overlooked.

Powell was also an outstanding player. He won the Most Valuable Player in 1970 and finished second the year before. After his stellar career, Powell has earned lifetime renown for his Boog’s Barbecue stand at Oriole Park.

McNally was a 20-game winner four straight seasons, but never won a Cy Young. He won 181 games as an Oriole, second behind Jim Palmer.

McNally, Mike Cuellar, Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor easily made my all-time Orioles team because they were easily five of the best starters in Orioles history.

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They suffer only because they weren’t Palmer.

Another popular choice was John Lowenstein, who was a valuable and useful Oriole during his seven seasons here. I’d argue that much of the sentiment for Lowenstein was based on his personality.

Here’s my all-time underrated Orioles team:

First Base: Jim Gentile

Gentile played just four seasons with the Orioles, and they were excellent ones. His 46 home runs in 1961 was the club record until Frank Robinson broke it five years later, and he trailed only Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) in ’61.

Gentile’s 141 RBIs was tied for the American League lead with Maris and stood as a team mark until Rafael Palmeiro broke his record by a single RBI in 1996.

In his four seasons with the Orioles, Gentile averaged 31 homers and 99 RBIs.

Second Base: Davey Johnson

Like Belanger, with whom he played, Johnson was overshadowed by Powell, Brooks and Frank Robinson and the great pitchers.

But Johnson racked up important awards. He was a four-time Gold Glover at second, made three All-Star teams and was third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1966.

Johnson’s hitting wasn’t superb. He had a .259 average with the Orioles and a .330 on-base percentage but had an excellent offensive season in 1971 with 18 homers, 72 RBIs and a .282 average.

Shortstop: Mike Bordick

In 2002, Bordick committed an error in his seventh game and then, remarkably, went the rest of the season without one. In those 110 errorless games, Bordick had 540 chances.

His streak ended in the first game of 2003 when he played for Toronto.

Bordick succeeded Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop in 1997 when Ripken willingly moved to third base, and he continued the tradition of superlative Oriole shortstops.

In his six seasons with the Orioles, Bordick hit .260.

Third Base: Melvin Mora

Many readers preferred Doug DeCinces, who was handicapped by following Brooks Robinson at third, but I think Mora edges him.

Mora hit a club record .340 in 2004 and had a league-leading .419 on-base percentage.

He played 10 seasons with the Orioles and, although the Orioles had a losing record in each of them, Mora was a solid performer who played every infield and outfield position.

Left Field: Don Buford

Buford was overshadowed by Paul Blair in center and Frank Robinson in right, and he was the leadoff hitter for the 1969-1971 Orioles teams.

He played only five seasons with the Orioles, but he stood out. Buford hit 13 leadoff homers from 1968-1971, and walked more often than he struck out. Buford had a .385 on-base percentage with the Orioles and scored 99 runs in 1969, 1970 and 1971.

Center Field: Al Bumbry

Bumbry falls into both the overlooked and underrated category. He had 1,403 hits in an Orioles career that ran from 1972-1984. In 1980, he had 205 hits.

Bumbry’s 252 stolen bases trail only Brady Anderson and Brian Roberts and, despite Earl Weaver’s disdain for the stolen base, swiped 42 in 1976 and 44 in 1980.

As our friend Jim Henneman, who has covered more Orioles games than anyone, points out, Bumbry made himself into a good outfielder.

Right Field: Nick Markakis

Markakis is the only member of the Orioles’ all-underrated team who was also on my all-time Orioles team.

Because he played with Adam Jones and Chris Davis, Markakis’ offensive contributions were ignored.

He’s sixth in club history with 1,544 hits. Only Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Jones, Anderson and Powell have more.

Markakis won two Gold Gloves, the last in 2014.

The Orioles didn’t think Markakis could physically withstand the rigors of four more years, and they allowed the Atlanta Braves to sign him after the 2014 season.

Markakis has continued to be solid with the Braves, and his 2,355 career hits are fourth among active players.

Designated Hitter: Lee May

May led the American League with 109 RBIs in 1976 and bridged the gap between Powell and Murray at first.

In 1975 and 1977, May had 99 RBIs and provided consistent power in his five seasons with the Orioles.

Catcher: Gus Triandos

Some could argue that Gus Triandos was not only the most underrated catcher in team history, but the best.

Triandos, who played with the Orioles from 1955-1962, was the first Oriole to hit 20 home runs (1956) and the first to hit 30 (1958).

A four-time All-Star, Triandos excelled defensively. In 1957, Triandos threw out an astounding 67 percent of would-be basestealers (42 of 63).

Triandos, who caught knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm’s no-hitter in 1958, never threw out fewer than 41 percent of runners attempting to steal in his time wit the Orioles.

Starting Pitcher: Steve Barber

Barber is ninth on the Orioles’ all-time win list with 95 but, because he pitched early in the club’s time in Baltimore (1960-1967), many of his contributions have been forgotten.

In 1963, Barber became the first 20-game winner in team history and had an excellent 3.12 ERA.

Barber, who wasn’t a strikeout pitcher (5.8 per nine innings), did have a weakness. He walked 4.2 batters per nine innings.

On April 30, 1967, Barber pitched 8 2/3 no-hit innings against Detroit, walking 10, hitting two batters and throwing two wild pitches. The Orioles lost, 2-1.

Relief Pitcher: Stu Miller

Although I named Dick Hall to my all-time Orioles team, and was tempted to include him here, too, Miller deserves recognition.

He relieved Barber and got the final out in the top of the ninth in the losing no-hitter. More notably, Miller was one of the most successful in a line of underrated relievers.

It could be argued that Hall, Pete Richert, Wes Stock and Eddie Watt were also underrated. Miller was the only one in that group without a single start in his Orioles career.

The Orioles had exceptional starters who contributed to the string of underrated relievers in the ’60s and early ’70s.

Miller, who pitched for the Orioles from 1963-1967, had the best ERA in team history, 2.37, while throwing 502 innings. He allowed just 0.5 home runs per nine innings.

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