Nick Markakis was the most underappreciated Oriole - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Nick Markakis was the most underappreciated Oriole

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The news that Nick Markakis quietly confirmed his retirement shouldn’t be a surprise. Markakis, who told The Athletic that he was ending his outstanding career, was the most underappreciated of the last decade’s Orioles, except by those who played with him.

Markakis played his first nine years with the Orioles and then six seasons with the Atlanta Braves. Although he consistently compiled solid statistics, that wasn’t why he continued to play.

When Markakis was drafted by the Orioles with the seventh overall pick in 2003, he joined an organization that he later referred to as “minor league”—until manager Buck Showalter came along.

Markakis’ best statistical seasons came in his early years. In 2007, his second season, he hit .300 with 23 home runs and 112 RBIs along with 18 stolen bases. Those last three stats were career highs.

But the number I’ll remember is games played. Except for 2012, which was his first winning season in the major leagues, Markakis played at least 155 games in every season from 2007, when he was 23, to 2018, when he played all 162 at 34.

Markakis played in losing seasons under Sam Perlozzo and Dave Trembley before the Orioles hired Showalter in 2010. Showalter knew he had a player who embodied his baseball philosophy, and Markakis had a manager who wouldn’t stand for foolishness on the field.

Markakis, catcher Matt Wieters, who was drafted in 2007, and centerfielder Adam Jones, a 2008 trade acquisition from Seattle, helped turn the team around.

Sadly, Markakis missed the first trip to the postseason in 2012. After missing time because of hamate bone surgery, the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia drilled him, breaking a thumb, and ending any chance he’d play in October that year.

Jones, who was the media darling of those early Showalter teams, admired Markakis’ grit. It was no accident that Jones insisted on playing every day, too, a quality that was often overlooked.

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Markakis was there when Manny Machado made his debut. After his bat-throwing incident against Oakland, Markakis admonished the young star, telling him his actions could harm the team.

Playing the right way is a cliché, but it meant something to Markakis. He wanted punitive penalties against steroid users and prided himself on doing things with his natural ability and work ethic.

In 2014, Markakis was ready to re-sign with the Orioles until they unwisely withdrew their four-year contract offer for medical reasons. Markakis, who underwent neck surgery, accepted a four-year deal from the Braves instead and responded with six solid seasons, including his only All-Star selection in 2018.

Markakis, who was overlooked in All-Star voting with the Orioles, insisted he didn’t care and was happy with a few days off in July to spend with his family.

Although he was never about the numbers, they were still strong. He leaves with 2,388 hits, trailing only Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano among players still active in 2020.

His Orioles stats were impressive. His 1,547 hits are seventh all-time behind only Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Adam Jones, Brady Anderson and Boog Powell. Markakis’ 316 doubles were the sixth most in club history.

Markakis was a Gold Glove winner twice, in 2011 and 2014. He won one for the Braves in 2018 when he also won the Silver Slugger.

Two years after the Orioles’ surprising playoff run in 2012, Markakis got to play in his first postseason. That 2014 group was the Orioles’ best team with solid performances by the starters and an outstanding group of relievers.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a complete team. Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery and missed most of the season, Machado needed a second knee surgery, and Chris Davis was suspended for use of a drug without a therapeutic exemption.

Markakis hit his only postseason home run in Game 2 of the Orioles’ sweep of Detroit in the Division Series. In Kansas City’s four-game sweep in the ALCS, the Orioles’ offense was silent, although Markakis did hit .263. That winter he was off to Atlanta. ‘

In December, Markakis, designated Nelson Cruz and reliever Andrew Miller signed elsewhere. Although the Orioles remained competitive for an additional two-plus seasons, they searched fruitlessly for a replacement in right field for several years.

A year after Markakis, Cruz and Miller left, the Orioles made sure that Davis didn’t follow them, and I wonder if Markakis’ tough love could have helped Davis out of his slumber, but that’s a story for another day.

Markakis got to play in the postseason in the past three seasons for the Braves, reaching the National League Championship Series in October. He leaves baseball quietly, knowing that he could still contribute.

There will be no symbolic one-day contract so that he could retire as an Oriole, and that’s fitting.

What’s more fitting is that he’s remembered as the solid, efficient player who helped teach Showalter’s group that coming ready to play every day was paramount.

In Markakis’ final year, as he kept climbing the team’s all-time leaderboard, Showalter knew that others in the organization didn’t share his appreciation for Markakis. Often, you don’t appreciate a player until he’s gone, he’d say. He’s gone, but he won’t be forgotten around here.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Bj42170

    March 13, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    2110 Will Always Be Remembered; Nick is 21 and Adam is 10.

  2. TxBirdFan

    March 13, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for this article Rich! Markakis was always one of my favorite players, and I kept checking his box score even after he went to the Braves. Not only was he a reliable gamer, but I loved his rocket left arm in his early years when he piled up OF assists as runners foolishly challenged him.

    I understand why he didn’t sign a one day contract with the O’s before retiring, but I sure wish he had. The front office needs a better understanding of how fans become attached to players, not just wins, and that’s what brings us out to the ballpark and keeps them watching the scoreboard. I hope they learned something here.

    Thanks Nick for the wonderful memories!

  3. BrooksPJs

    March 13, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    I think a lot of Orioles fans appreciated Nick while he was with Baltimore and continued followed his career while he was with Atlanta. He seemed to be a high-quality player on the field with matching high-quality character on & off the field. Wish him and his family all the best in his next chapter…

    • Ekim

      March 13, 2021 at 4:18 pm

      Put me in the same category… not every day but at least 3 or 4 times a week. Letting him get away ranks as one of the O’s biggest blunders.

      • BrooksPJs

        March 13, 2021 at 5:45 pm

        I re-read some articles from the off-season when Markakis signed with Atlanta, seems like there were a lot of factors in play – Markakis’ recent neck injury made Duquette hesitant to offer long-term deal (or any deal), $17.5M qualifying offer not made by the Orioles, Atlanta came up with a nice $44M over 4 years offer. Was very sad to see Markakis move on from the Orioles though, wish he would have stayed and been an Oriole for life. Now hoping Mancini sticks around, he seems “cut from the same cloth” as Markakis IMO. Que sera, sera…

  4. OrioleRick

    March 13, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    Maybe others didn’t appreciate Nick, but he was one of my favorites from that era. I think Brittany Ghiroli had it tagged the best, “Ho-Hum” another hit, “Ho-Hum” another solid play in right, “Ho-Hum” moving the runner into scoring position. He didn’t play with flash, he just played the game hard.

    • Rich Dubroff

      March 13, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      Points for you for remembering Brittany’s tweets!

  5. willmiranda

    March 13, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    Like others here, I always considered Markakis a favorite. Not a Hall of Famer, but a classic right fielder, as opposed to all those “can be a corner outfielder.” Maybe he seemed underappreciated because the people who appreciated him were as quiet about him as he was. Always thought the CC pitch was intentional.

  6. dlgruber1

    March 13, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    I always had to laugh after Nick left for Atlanta and suddenly Adam Jones defensive metrics went into the tank. That it s a perfect example of what’s wrong with baseballs metrics. Adam Jones didn’t suddenly forget how to play CF after winning multiple Gold Gloves. It helps tremendously when you’re surrounded by other quality teammates that you don’t have to cover for. Watching Adam and Nick roam the outfield was a pleasure I never took for granted. I’m hoping for something similar over the next few years with Santander in RF and Hays/Mullins in CF. LF yet to be determined but that was the same way when 2110 played. Nick was my favorite player for many years and I hated seeing him leave. I know he wants to spend time with his family but it sure would be nice to bring him back to coach/mentor all the young OF’s the O’s have now.

  7. mmcmillan1123

    March 14, 2021 at 1:38 pm

    Going to miss following Nick. I’ve always believed that if we had resigned Nick and Nelson Cruz we would have let Chris Davis walk unless he would have agreed to a smaller contra contract. Oh how the O’s recent history could have changed.

  8. Catman

    March 14, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Not re-signing him in 2014 is one of my biggest disappointments in this organization. 2110 was a lot of fun to watch for several years!

  9. bv22

    March 18, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    He may not have been appreciated by management, but he was appreciated by the fans. Definitely my favorite Oriole since Ripken retired. I followed his career after he left for Atlanta, and really thought he was going to stick around long enough for 3000 hits. I’m sure he could have done it and been the most unassuming HOFer as a result!

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