Randy Milligan (1989-92)(career
stats) The most underappreciated Oriole of all time. What did
Milligan do during his four years as the O's first baseman? Well, he
compiled the fourth-best career on-base percentage in team history,
tied with Ken Singleton. He was one of the best three hitters on the
team for three of those four years. In 1990, he was by far the best,
supplementing a modest batting average with 88 walks and 20 homers for
a splendid line of .265/.408/.492, the 6th best OPS in the AL. He
was a careful, patient hitter, who routinely led the league in number
of pitches seen per plate appearance.
How did the Orioles reward their star? By trading Pete Harnisch,
Steve Finley, and Curt Schilling to Houston for another first baseman,
Glenn Davis: a move generally considered the worst in team history.
The often-injured Davis never took much playing time from Milligan,
but it was clear Randy wasn't part of the Orioles' future, and he was
signed by Cincinnati for the 1993 season. Both he and Davis were out
of baseball by 1995.
Jack Voigt (1992-95)(career
stats) Jack Voigt didn't get a major-league at-bat until 1993,
when he was already 27, and he made the most of it, logging
.296/.395/.500 numbers in 64 games. Voigt was a solid bat off the
bench available for almost any situation, thanks to his defensive
flexibility: he played all three outfield positions, first base, third
base, and he DHed on Harold Baines' days off. His finest moment in
the orange and black was surely June 4,
1993, when the Orioles faced the Seattle Mariners and their ace
Randy Johnson. Voigt, batting eighth, came up in the bottom of the
second with two outs, the game still scoreless, and Mike Devereaux on
second. Voigt rapped a single, the Oriole's first hit off Johnson, to
put the Birds up 1-0. The Mariners put up four runs off Rick
Sutcliffe; Voigt came up in the 7th and homered with the bases empty
to make the game 4-2 in the Mariners' favor. But the Orioles
battled back in the bottom of the 9th and the game went into extra
innings, tied 5-5. In the bottom of the 10th, Voigt again came up
with two men down and Mike Devereaux on second. On the first pitch,
he singled to right: final score, Orioles 6, Mariners 5.
Voigt had one more effective part-time season, for Milwaukee in 1997, and
retired the next year. OK, he wasn't Eddie Murray. OK, he wasn't
even Brady Anderson. But he deserves to be remembered; the Orioles
would be a lot better if they had some players like him now.
Of his 20 career home runs, 3 were off Kenny Rogers.
Chris Hoiles (1989-1998)(career
stats) Year in, year out, the best .250 hitter in baseball.
Except in 1993, when he hit .310, which, combined with his usual power
and ability to draw him a walk, gave him a line of .310/.416/.585. He
finished 16th in the MVP voting that year, behind such heroes as Mike
Stanley and the badly-declining Joe Carter. Hoiles's body gave out
before his bat did; he hit .262/.368/.476 playing half-time in 1998,
then retired. Interesting facts about Hoiles: he was caught stealing
four times before his first successful steal, which came in his 5th
major league season. On May
17, 1996 he came up in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases
loaded, two outs, and the Orioles down by three. He hit a full-count
grand slam for the win. (The pitcher? Future Oriole
lead-cougher-upper Norm Charlton.) In Hoiles's last season, he hit
two grand slams in one game.
Hoiles would be higher on this list had he not been belatedly
inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame this year. But he hasn't yet
gotten his due as the greatest Orioles catcher of all time.
Harold Baines (1993-95,1997-99)(career stats) Harold Baines: professional
hitter. Quietly played on most of the few good Orioles teams of the
last twenty years, and hit when he needed to hit: .353 in the Orioles
doomed 1997 ALCS, for instance. It seems in my memory as if he played
for the Orioles much longer than this.
Albert Belle (1999-2000)(career stats) The Belle signing is another
famously bad Orioles move, like the Glenn Davis trade; the difference
is that this move wasn't actually bad. Belle was one of the premier
hitters in the game, and for the two years he was an Oriole before his
hip did him in, he did just what he was signed to do; hit better than
anybody else on the team. (Except 40-year-old part-time Harold
Baines, that is.) And when he was healthy… well, let's just say, I
was at this
game. Orioles behind the Angels 3-0; Belle homers to make it 3-2.
Orioles behind 7-3; Belle homers to make it 7-6. Bottom of the ninth,
two outs, bases empty, Orioles still down 7-6, Belle homers again to
send it to extra innings. Bottom of the 11th, Belle comes up again
and Mike Holtz wisely hits him with the pitch. Three batters later,
Ripken singles home B.J. Surhoff: Orioles win, 8-7. I have never seen
a batter carry a team like this, before or since. If he hadn't gotten
hurt, he might have been the second Eddie Murray.
Todd Frohwirth (1991-93)(career
stats) That Todd Frohwirth belongs on this list was pointed out to me by Tom
Scocca. I cannot improve on the case as he made it, so here it is:
"He pitched three years for the O's, getting credit for only 30
decisions (with a 17-13 record) and a mere 10 saves. But toiling
through the glory-free middle of the games, he made 186 appearances,
threw 298 innings, and gave up 90 earned runs, for a 2.71 ERA. That's
118 more innings than Gregg Olson, who got all the saves, pitched in
that span. The underhand style meant he could go long if needed, or
bounce back on no rest. In 1991, the best of those years, he led the
team with an ERA of 1.87. He was essentially the perfect middle
reliever. And he gets extra credit as an Oriole because those three
brilliant seasons were the only good ones of his career, save for an
unhittable 10-game rookie campaign with the Phillies. We got only the
best of Todd Frohwirth, we got all of it, and it was very very good
The 1997 bullpen(1997 team
stats) When you think about the last great Oriole team, you think
of Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Mussina, and Scott Erickson.
But the great secret strength of this team was its superb bullpen, led
by the nerve-wracking Randall K. Myers (1.51 ERA, 45 saves); ageless,
impassive, Jesse Orosco (2.32 ERA); Arthur Lee Rhodes (3.02 ERA, 10-3),
and the drastically underappreciated fireballer Armando Benitez.
Orioles fans don't remember Benitez for his 2.45 ERA or his 106
strikeouts in 73 1/3 IP; they remember two decisive home runs he gave up to the
Indians in the ALCS. The first was a three-run shot to Marquis
Grissom with two outs in the 8th innning of game 2; but if home plate
ump Jim Joyce hadn't mistaken previous batter Jim Thome's strike three
for ball four, the inning would have been over before Grissom came to bat. The second came in game 7, top of the 11th, two outs, scoreless tie, to
non-power-threat Tony Fernandez. Yeah, that one hurt. But you know
what? When you get shut out for 11 innings, it's not the closer's
fault you lost. Benitez stayed with the Orioles one more year
after that, but was traded to the Marlins for Charles Johnson after
the 1998 season. He's been predictably excellent everywhere he's
pitched since then.
Floyd Rayford (1980,1982,1984-87)(career
stats). Great baseball name, great baseball nickname ("Sugar
Bear,") one great year, 1985. He's sort of the fat black Jack Voigt
of the 80s, actually: he turned in one fine season of spot-work,
.306/.324/.521 in 105 games split between catcher, 3B, and DH, but was
never able to win a regular job. The
only season he played outside Baltimore was 1983, when the Orioles won
the world series; he was in St. Louis, which had won the previous
Other worthies. It's probably worth remembering that Larry
Sheets and Ben McDonald were both really good when they were good.
Once he is gone we will say the same about Rodrigo Lopez. Jim Dwyer
stayed good longer than you might think. Eric Davis enjoyed a fine
late-career renaissance with the Orioles but was actually pretty
well-appreciated at the time; I may add him to the list in five years
if everyone forgets how well he played for us.