In January 2020, I asked our readers to help me compile an all-time Orioles team. Here’s the second part, the 16 position players.
I was overwhelmed by the knowledge of our readers, especially those who named players from the ’50s, ’60’ and ’70s, before I arrived in Baltimore.
Many of the suggestions forced me to consider players I hadn’t thought about and created harder choices.
Again, thanks for your input. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Catchers: Rick Dempsey, Matt Wieters
The Orioles have had some very good catchers, but no great ones. Dempsey stands out because he played 12 seasons for the Orioles, won the World Series MVP in 1983, and caught the most games in team history.
Dempsey never made an All-Star team, and that’s a shame. He wasn’t a standout offensively, hitting .238 with the Orioles with a .674 OPS.
It was on defense that he stood out, although he never won a Gold Glove. In his career, he threw out 40 percent of runners attempting to steal and, in 1977, threw out 58 percent in 91 games.
Matt Wieters got lots of support from our readers, and I’m glad he did. For much of his eight-season Orioles career, he was unfairly criticized for not becoming a superstar. Wieters was the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft and was a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner.
I’ll remember him for coaxing a starting pitching staff that included Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and a young Chris Tillman to within a game of the 2012 American League Championship Series.
Also considered: Chris Hoiles, Gus Triandos, Andy Etchebarren
I wavered between Hoiles and Wieters but decided to go with defense over offense. Hoiles was the superior offensive catcher. This was perhaps my closest call.
An argument also could be made for Triandos, who played eight seasons with the Orioles, from 1955-1962, long before my time. He was strong at stopping the running game, throwing out 47 percent of runners attempting to steal in his career. Triandos was a three-time All-Star.
Several fans told me not to forget Etchebarren, who died in October. Etchebarren was with the Orioles for 12 seasons, but was the primary catcher in only two, 1966 and 1967, when he was named to the All-Star team.
First base: Eddie Murray, Boog Powell
This was an easy choice. Murray was a seven-time All-Star with the Orioles, won the American League Rookie of the Year in 1977 and won three Gold Gloves. He finished second in the MVP race in 1982 and 1983.
Murray had 343 home runs, second in club history, and had a 51.9 WAR in 13 Oriole seasons, also second in club history.
He played with four other teams, but he’s always identified as an Oriole.
Powell was a strong hitter, but analytically he’s been downgraded as a first baseman. He was a four-time All-Star and was the AL MVP in 1970 when he hit 35 home runs, and had 114 RBIs and a .962 OPS.
Also considered: Rafael Palmeiro, Chris Davis, Jim Gentile
Palmeiro, who played precisely 1,000 games with the Orioles in seven seasons, is a polarizing figure among Oriole fans. His stats were excellent, but he will always be viewed skeptically because of his performance-enhancing drug suspension in 2005.
In any case, Powell’s longevity wins out.
I hope that 10 years from now Davis’ career will be remembered not only for his recent horrible offense but for the thrills he provided with his home runs in 2013 and 2015 and the heroic pitching performance in Fenway Park in May 2012.
Gentile was long the club’s single-season leader with 46 home runs and 141 RBIs in 1961, but he played only four seasons with the Orioles.
Second base: Bobby Grich, Brian Roberts
When I began this project, I had no idea whom I would pick at second until I began to hear chatter that perhaps Grich would get Hall of Fame consideration.
Grich was on the Hall of Fame ballot once, in 1992, and got just 2.6 percent of the vote, but he deserves batter. He was a four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star in seven Oriole seasons before moving on to the California Angels. In his five complete seasons, 1972-1977, Grich’s WAR was between 6.0 and 7.3.
Roberts was a strong player on terrible Oriole teams. He led the American League in doubles twice and stolen bases once. Injuries in his final four Orioles seasons, 2010-2013, clouded impressions of him.
Also considered: Roberto Alomar, Davey Johnson, Jonathan Schoop
Alomar had three outstanding seasons with the Orioles, but that’s not enough here. Johnson was a good player, but Grich’s arrival forced him out of Baltimore. Schoop had a nice run, but a relatively short one.
Shortstop: Cal Ripken Jr., Mark Belanger
Ripken is the obvious one, but Belanger is nearly as obvious.
Ripken not only played in 2,632 consecutive games, a record that will never be broken, but he was a 19-time All-Star, something you also might not see again. He won two MVPs and was the 1982 Rookie of the Year. Ripken was also an eight-time Silver Slugger. In 1990, he played 161 games at shortstop and committed just three errors.
Belanger had the fourth-highest WAR of any Oriole, trailing only Ripken, Murray and Brooks Robinson. That’s amazing, but as you might suspect, nearly all of his WAR came from his sterling defense. Belanger hit just .227 as an Oriole with a subpar .580 OPS. He was an eight-time Gold Glove recipient and made the All-Star team in 1976 when he hit a career-high .270.
Also considered: Luis Aparicio, J.J. Hardy, Miguel Tejada, Mike Bordick
Aparicio is a Hall of Famer, but that’s primarily because of his 10 excellent seasons with the Chicago White Sox. He played only five with the Orioles, winning the Gold Glove twice.
Hardy had a strong seven-season career with the Orioles, and Tejada set the team single-season RBI record with 150 in 2004, but he played just five seasons with the Orioles. In 2001, Bordick made just one error in 117 games.
Third Base: Brooks Robinson, Manny Machado
Robinson is a given. The Hall of Famer won an unbelievable 16 Gold Gloves and was an 18-time All-Star. Robinson won the 1964 MVP and will be forever remembered for his stellar play at third base in the 1970 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Had Machado stayed with the Orioles, it would have been interesting to see if he could have come close to Robinson in fans’ minds. He was a joy to watch, and I’ll always remember his play at third base at Yankee Stadium, where he fielded a ground ball near the stands and made an on-target throw to first.
Also considered: Melvin Mora
Had there been a utility player, Mora could have been the guy. He played every position but pitcher and catcher, but was primarily a third baseman. In 2004, Mora hit .340, highest in club history.
Outfield: Frank Robinson, Paul Blair, Adam Jones, Brady Anderson, Nick Markakis, Ken Singleton
Cincinnati traded Robinson to Baltimore after the 1965 season, referring to him a “not young” 30, and he was the key to the Orioles’ first world championship and a run as the best team in baseball. Even though he played just six seasons with the Orioles, and later became the game’s first African American manager with Cleveland, he’s remembered as an Oriole.
In 1966, Robinson won the Triple Crown, MVP and World Series MVP.
Blair was the best centerfielder in franchise history, winning eight Gold Gloves.
Although Jones wasn’t a leftfielder, and wasn’t a better centerfielder than Blair, he’s one of the three best outfielders in team history. The most important player on the team during its 2012-2016 run, Jones had the fourth-most hits in team history and fifth-most home runs and RBIs. He won four Gold Gloves in center and was a five-time All-Star.
Anderson was also among the club leaders in many offensive categories. He had the fifth-most hits and doubles, is fourth in runs scored and is the team leader with 307 stolen bases. He hit 50 home runs in 1996, a team record surpassed by Chris Davis in 2013.
Markakis was an underappreciated player in his nine seasons. He won two Gold Gloves and was a steady influence on the field and in the clubhouse while hitting .290.
We’ll make Singleton the designated hitter. In 10 seasons, Singleton hit .284 and was the regular DH in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Also considered: Al Bumbry, Harold Baines, B.J. Surhoff
Leaving Bumbry off was an agonizing call. Bumbry hit .282 with 252 stolen bases in 13 seasons. If rosters ever expand to 27 players, he makes it.
In three iterations lasting seven seasons, Baines hit .301 with the Orioles, but he went into the Hall of Fame with the White Sox, for whom he played 14 seasons.
Surhoff played eight seasons with the Orioles and hit .291. He played until he was 41.