The 5 Most Underappreciated Orioles Of All Time

Featured, Sports and Bets — August 15, 2014 at 6:44 am by

I don’t know if you saw it, but Melvin Mora and his children threw out the first pitch before Wednesday’s Orioles’ game.  MASN showed Mora throw the ceremonial pitch to Adam Jones during the eighth inning of the game broadcast and ol’ Melvin was smiling ear to ear.  Jim Palmer, who knows more about baseball than me and everyone who reads this combined, said during that first-pitch replay that Mora, “Had some great years for the Orioles.”  That quote by Palmer got me thinking aloud, “How good was Melvin Mora?”, I wondered, and it sent me into a Baseball Reference internet wormhole that took me several hours to get out of. The first player I looked up was, of course, Melvin Mora, and babes, Palmer was absolutely right, Melvin Mora did have some great years as an Oriole.  What happened?  How had I forgotten? And how had his name not come up in the hundreds of conversations that I have had over the last few years in regards to the Orioles and their history?  Melvin and his talents deserve more recognition from the everyday, average fan, for sure, and he simply isn’t getting it.

This revelation sent me into more Baseball Reference wormholes and I began to dig deep into Orioles’ history.  What other players, besides Mora, are severely underappreciated?  After hours of fun research and discussion with other self-proclaimed Orioles’ experts, I came up with this list.  These are the 5 most underappreciated Orioles of all time.  For whatever reason, this group doesn’t quite get the public recognition they deserve in and around Baltimore.  In the Yard and in the pubs of Baltimore, the names of Cal, Earl, Eddie, Palmer, Brooks, and Frank are always on the lips of every Oriole fan when the discussion turns to the Baltimore Baseball greats, as well they should be.  But the guys on this list, while not as prolific as that group, deserve to be mentioned more often when Orioles’ baseball is discussed.  Despite their great play here in Charm City, these Birds simply seem to fall through the cracks when it comes to Orioles’ talk. It’s time we give them their due.

This list includes players from the current Orioles franchise (1954-2014), not the old National League Orioles of the 1890’s……

5. Adam Jones-  Yeah,I went there.  Jones is the best player on this current Orioles’ roster and the best center fielder in Orioles history, but for whatever reason all fans want to do is talk about his bubble-gum bubbles and his inability to hit breaking balls with two strikes.  I’ve got news for ya, a lot of hitters can’t hit breaking balls with two strikes.  Besides, Jones is an absolute stud on the filed.  He’s got three gold gloves to his credit and he’s already hit 160 home runs as an Oriole.  While a player like Chris Davis bounces up and down with productivity at the plate, Adam Jones remains a steady and reliable force in  the middle of the lineup.  In 2011, Jones hit 25 HRs and notched 83 RBIs.  In 2012, it was 32-82.  In 2013 it was 33-108.  And this year Jones has 23-75 and he’s still got a quarter of the season left to play.  Oh, and during that four-year stretch he’s batted between .280 and .287 every single season.  The dude does good work.  Plus, he’s a leader in the clubhouse.  Jones bought into Buck Showalter’s doctrine as soon as the skipper signed on to right this ailing Oriole ship.  In a post game conference earlier this season in which every Oriole, except for Jones, had logged a hit in the game that evening, Buck spoke on how Jones had run out a routine ground ball in the bottom of the eighth inning.  Buck didn’t want to talk about hits, he wanted to talk about leadership.  That’s what Jones is- a leader.  With AJ10, you get consistent power, consistent hitting, gold glove defense, and clubhouse leadership.  What’s not to love.  He’s the O’s best player and it’s time he was recognized as such.

4. Jim Gentile-  Diamond Jim was a beast when he played first base for the Birds from 1960-1963.  In those four years, Gentile belted 124 home runs and drove in 398 runs.  That averages out to 31 dongs and 99.5 RBIs a year.  In 1961, Gentile had one of the greatest offensive seasons in Orioles’ history, hitting 46 HRs and driving in 141 runs, all while batting .302 and slugging .646.  That year, Diamond Jim, on May 9. 1961, became the first player to hit a grand slam in consecutive innings. He hit one in the first and one in the second that day versus the Twins.  Yet despite these big power numbers, Gentile gets nary a mention in the annals of Baltimore Baseball history.  Maybe that has to do with Eddie Murray and Boog Powell, two slugging first basemen who seem to overshadow Gentile.  As luck would have it, even Gentile’s ’61 season was overshadowed by Maris and Mantle’s race to 61 homers.  Nevertheless, when you’re talking Orioles’ sluggers, you should be talking about Diamond Jim.

3. Mike Cuellar-  This starting lefty was a part of the four man crew that each won 20 games on the 1971 Orioles’ squad.  But when you ask anyone in Baltimore for the names of the four pitchers in that historic rotation, the names Jim Palmer and Dave McNally always seem to get spit out first.  (Pat Dobson was the fourth.) It kinda makes sense since Palmer’s the greatest O’s pitcher of all time, and since McNally was with the club for so long, but Cuellar was no slouch on the diamond either.  In fact, he may have been a better pitcher than McNally during his time here in B-Town. Cuellar was with the O’s for eight season and in that time he amassed 143 wins, compiled a 3.18 ERA and won one Cy Young award (1969).  He pitched 133 complete games in that span and threw 2028 innings.  All that averages out to 17.9 wins a year and 253 innings a season.  Work horse, babes.  In his Cy Young season (Cuellar shared the award, he didn’t even get full recognition in that.) in 1969, Cuellar went 23-11 to the tune of a 2.38 ERA over 290 innings pitched.  His WHIP was 1.005 that year and he threw five shutouts.  Yikes.  Personally, I think he’s the best left hander in Orioles history.

2. Rafael Palmeiro-  I can hear you groaning now- stop.  This guy was a tremendous talent and when he was here every one of us felt like that short porch in right  was built specifically for Rafael’s sweet left-handed swing.  And maybe I’m crazy, but I believe Palmeiro when he says he didn’t know he took those ‘roids he tested positive for.  I don’t know why I do, exactly, but I believe him. Anyway, Palmeiro was the straw that stirred the drink that was the Baltimore offense of the mid-ninties.  The team that went wire to wire in 1997?  Palmeiro belted 38 home runs and drove in 110.  In 1996 when the Birds got robbed by that prick, Jeffrey Maier?  Palmeiro hit 39 homers and had 142 RBIs.  His production from 1994-1998, his first stint with the club, was incredible: 182 home runs and 553 RBIs.  Overall, in his full seven years in Baltimore, Rafael batted .284, which means with all this power and production, he still hit for average.  I mean, the guy had 183 hits in 1998.   (He also produced over 35 doubles twice as an Oriole.)  I guess the finger wagging at congress doesn’t help him, but the guy could flat-out play.  Power, average, and a plus defender, Palmeiro was the man. Did I mention that he had over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his career?  Just sayin’….

 

1. Melvin Mora-  This guy toiled through 10 losing seasons as an Oriole, yet he came to play every night.  The Birds were in  the tank, but Melvin was the man. During those years the likes of Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis got a lot of the local positive press and Miguel Tejada got most of the national praise, but Mora was a stalwart of quality baseball for ten solid years.  Over that decade, Mora averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBIs a year.  He also batted .280 during that span and played plus defense. In 2004, Melvin had an incredible season, batting .340 with 27 HRs and 104 RBIs.  (The .340 batting average is a team record.) He also notched 187 hits that year and raked 41 doubles.  His slugging was .562 and his OBP was a fantastic .419.  Mora was also a two-time all-star and a model citizen off the filed.  It’s time to get this guy into the Orioles’ Hall of Fame and give him his props.   Good baseball is good baseball, it wasn’t Mora’s fault that the Orioles sucked and that they couldn’t put together a pitching staff for his entire tenure here.  Besides, if Jim Palmer says it about the O’s, it’s 100% true and ol’ Jim was right again, Melvin Mora did have some great years here in Baltimore.

 

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