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September 2004 Archives

September 8, 2004

Thoughts on September call-ups

I've been meaning to continue my series on the coverage of the Orioles in the media with reviews of the Washington Times and the York Daily Record. But the original Orioles-related content (i.e., non-wire stories) in those two publications has been so paltry that to dissect them would be akin to picking through scraps. So I've moved those articles toward the back burner for now and will begin a new series starting tomorrow. But first, a few comments on the team as it stands today.

September call-ups

Thanks to the September roster expansion, the Orioles are no longer short-handed these days; they now have a surplus of options at virtually every position. But are any of these extra guys good enough to be a major part of next year's team?

Continue reading "Thoughts on September call-ups" »

September 9, 2004

Greatest O's—for real this time

If you've been following the Orioles at all this season, you've no doubt been bombarded by reminders that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the modern Orioles in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun has run a year-long series of historical articles on the Orioles of the last 50 years; ad spots have run prominently featuring the Birds and the numbers 50 or 1954-2004; and during every O's broadcast we are exhorted to pick the 50 greatest Orioles by voting on the team's web site.

Considering that I am both a regular Internet user and a close follower of the Birds, it may seem surprising that I did not give much thought to submitting a ballot for the 50 greatest O's until recently, when I came across the voting page during my survey of MLB.com. I guess I don't care as much for "Top N" lists as other people do. So I procrastinated, figuring that I could always refer to the all-time Orioles lists in Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups (one is reproduced here at ESPN.com) to help me fill out my ballot if I ever got around to it.

But what I discovered upon examining the ballot immediately drew my indignation. I was almost scared away by the amount of personal information required to vote. But far more exasperating was the ballot's flawed design. No, it's not what you think: there isn't a confusing, butterfly-style presentation, nor is there potential for hanging chads, and as far as I know, Diebold did not write the code to run this vote. But the inequitable way that the ballot allocates votes for various positions makes it highly likely that many deserving players will be left off the team of the 50 greatest Orioles. I'm not saying that the vote was intentionally rigged to favor certain players or groups of players, but the effect will be essentially the same.

Continue reading "Greatest O's—for real this time" »

September 15, 2004

Greatest O's: Introduction

Selection criteria

I've settled on an informal system for selecting the top 50 Orioles of the last 50 years (i.e., 1954-2003). The primary criterion for judging players will be their total contributions to the Orioles during their playing careers. Those contributions will be measured by two rating systems, Bill James's Win Shares and Clay Davenport's Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP-3). I don't really want to get into the details of each system here; however, information on both is widely available—Win Shares in book form, and WARP-3 on BaseballProspectus.com, where it is included on the Davenport Translations (DT) player cards. Neither system is perfect, but both make a reasonable effort at mathematically approximating a player's total worth, combining his efforts on offense, defense, and the pitcher's mound. In truth, the two systems have a lot in common, but they differ enough in some implementation details that I decided to use both statistics to get a more complete picture.

The Oriole career Win Shares and WARP-3 will be weighted far and above all other factors, but in some cases peak performance—that is, the value of the player in his greatest seasons—will also be considered. Peak contributions will come into play for stars that had brief Oriole stints, but shone brightly enough in their years with Baltimore to overshadow the longer but less spectacular careers of others. However, to eliminate one-year wonders, a player must have spent a minimum of three seasons in an Oriole uniform to make it to the final cut.

Other factors that may be used to settle close calls are, in order of decreasing importance: the player's extra-Oriole playing career; the player's postseason performance with the O's; and the player's contributions to the organization after his playing career.

Positional distribution

As I wrote in my last article, the official ballot for selecting the Top 50 team is seriously flawed and is bound to result in some deserving players being left off the team and some less worthy ones making it. I will correct somewhat for these potential injustices. Ideally, one would attempt to determine the 50 greatest Orioles of the last 50 years, regardless of where they played on the field. However, to maintain balance I will begin with modest positional quotas, distributed as I suggested in my amended ballot. The first 40 players chosen for my Top 50 will contain the top three players at each fielding position, including nine outfielders; there will also be one designated hitter and fifteen pitchers, at least one of which will be a reliever. That makes 8 * 3 + 1 + 15 = 40. The last ten spots will be given to the most deserving players, regardless of position, who have not yet been named.

Another problem that I failed to mention earlier is the lack of spots devoted to managers, not to mention coaches, scouts, executives, and other non-players. But restricting the nominees to players is a fair compromise in that it reduces the complexity of the process for the voting public. For the most part, fans are familiar with the achievements of the players, whose contributions come on the field in the presence of many witnesses. Other team personnel may have a large influence on the team's success, but most of their work happens behind the scenes. Also, the lack of objective measuring tools makes it hard to gauge the contributions of non-playing personnel. So while it may be interesting to name the top bullpen catchers in Orioles history, I'll save that debate for another day.

I will reveal my top Oriole selections position by position, starting at catcher. I'll name the players at each position that cracked the top 40, along with honorable mentions that merit consideration for the top 50. After those are done, I'll choose the final ten players to round out the top 50, and finally I'll wrap up the discussion by attempting to rank the top ten players of the Orioles' last fifty years.

Greatest O's: Catchers

Top three catchers in modern Orioles history:

  1. Rick Dempsey (1976-1986, 1992)
  2. Chris Hoiles (1989-1998)
  3. Gus Triandos (1955-1962)
Catcher, Win Shares, WARP-3;Rick Dempsey, 113, 51;Chris Hoiles, 113, 48;Gus Triandos, 107, 37;Andy Etchebarren, 61, 23;Ellie Hendricks, 55, 18;Mickey Tettleton, 45, 16

The battle for the top Oriole catcher is between two players with contrasting skill sets: Rick Dempsey, a defensive wizard with a mediocre bat, and Chris Hoiles, an offensive force with a mediocre throwing arm. The two virtually tied for the most career Win Shares among Oriole catchers with 113. Dempsey finished with a small advantage in WARP-3, 51 to 48.

Continue reading "Greatest O's: Catchers" »

September 16, 2004

Townsend goes to class

Today's Baltimore Sun reported some rather startling news about the Orioles and their top 2004 draftee:

Three months after touting the selection of Rice pitcher Wade Townsend as their No. 1 pick in baseball's amateur draft, the Orioles are prepared to lose his rights. Townsend is attending classes for his senior year and has signed with agent Casey Close, a decision that eliminates his eligibility as a college player.

Major League Baseball is in the process of determining whether the Orioles still hold his rights, or if he'll re-enter the draft next June. It's believed that no player has retained an agent and also attended classes.

"As of this date it's our understanding that he's going back into next year's draft," said executive vice president Jim Beattie. "I understand they're trying to go down a new road. I talked to the commissioner's office recently and they said we can't negotiate with him. At this point, negotiations are dead. It's very disappointing, but you have to move forward."

This news, also reported in an article on MLB.com, is unexpected and unsettling for the Orioles and their fans. However, Will Kimmey of Baseball America, writing about the story on Tuesday, painted a more complete picture that left some hope that the Orioles might still be able to sign Townsend:

Townsend had yet to reach an agreement with the Orioles, who selected him eighth overall, but wanted to maintain his ability to negotiate with Baltimore while simultaneously working toward his degree....

Townsend's maneuver seems to fly in the face of draft rule 4-H, which states: "A player who is selected at the Summer Meeting and returns to school in the fall without signing a contract shall be subject to selection at the next Summer Meeting at which the player is eligible."

Rule 4-K allows for MLB to interpret the rule as it sees fit, which is what Townsend is relying on. Close said the key lies in the semantics of how "player"--or more specifically a "college player"-- is defined....

Townsend is prepared for the consequences if MLB rules his return to class terminated the Orioles' rights to negotiate with him, which would put him in the 2005 draft pool. Without college eligibility, Townsend would work out at IMG's Florida facility beginning in January and look into the possibility of pitching for an independent league club prior to the '05 draft in June.

"If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out," Close said. "Wade did this to keep his options open to sign with the Orioles, but also to complete his degree by December. If it doesn't work, he'll still have his degree and will only miss minor league competition from April until June, so that's two months."

Continue reading "Townsend goes to class" »

September 19, 2004

Greatest O's: First Basemen

Top three first basemen in modern Orioles history:

  1. Eddie Murray (1977-1988, 1996)
  2. Boog Powell (1961-1974)
  3. Rafael Palmeiro (1994-1998)
Player, Win Shares, WARP-3;Eddie Murray, 307, 94;Boog Powell, 253, 57;Rafael Palmeiro, 110, 41;Jim Gentile, 93, 22;Randy Milligan, 62, 20;Jeff Conine, 67, 18

Can't find a better man than Eddie

The Orioles have had some fine first basemen in their history, but the greatest of them all was indisputably Eddie Murray. Murray's achievements were recapped extensively last year upon his induction into the Hall of Fame, but here's a numerical refresher.

Continue reading "Greatest O's: First Basemen" »

September 23, 2004

Greatest O's: Second Basemen

Top three second basemen in modern Orioles history:

  1. Bobby Grich (1970-1976)
  2. Davey Johnson (1965-1972)
  3. Roberto Alomar (1996-1998)
Player, Win Shares, WARP-3;Bobby Grich,147,48;Davey Johnson,124,40;Roberto Alomar,71,25;Rich Dauer,87,22;Jerry Adair,70,18;Bill Ripken,45,15

The competition for the top all-time Oriole second baseman was more heated than the battles at other positions. No second sacker in modern club history has combined performance and longevity the way that Brooks Robinson did at third base or Cal Ripken did at shortstop. Baltimore has had several noteworthy second basemen, including a couple whose overall careers are worthy of Cooperstown. But because none of them stayed in town longer than a decade, none was able to compile the kind of counting stats that would make him the indisputable king at the position.

Continue reading "Greatest O's: Second Basemen" »

Greatest O's note

It has come to my attention that the fan voting has been completed and that the Orioles will introduce their 50th anniversary team this coming Sunday before the game. From MLB.com:

Many of the greatest players in franchise history will be on hand Sunday at Camden Yards when the Orioles culminate their 50th anniversary season celebration with the announcement of the 50 All-Time Favorite Orioles, as voted on by fans and presented by SunTrust Bank, in pre-game ceremonies beginning at 1 p.m.

The Orioles will present the fans' favorite 50 players, as voted upon throughout the season on the team's official website, www.orioles.com. Fans had the opportunity to vote for up to 50 of the 729 players who took the field for the Orioles from 1954 through 2003 to choose the All-Time team, and more than half of the players selected will be at Camden Yards on Sunday when the Orioles play the Detroit Tigers.

Hmm. Funny that now they are calling this team the "50 All-Time Favorite Orioles" instead of the "50 Greatest O's of All-Time" (sic) as stated on the online ballot. Perhaps most fans will dismiss this as an inconsequential change in nomenclature, but there is a substantive difference between a team of all-time greats, which was supposedly the aim of the voters, and a team of all-time favorites, which is what we now appear to have. It is true that popularity often follows greatness, but not all popular players are great, and not all great players are popular.

Although I admit that I am taking this matter way too seriously, I consider the All-Time Greatest/Favorites switcheroo a betrayal of the fans' trust. It's like informing the citizenry after an election that no, your ballots did not elect the president, vice president, and congresspersons like you thought they would, but instead we've decided to use your selections and call them the king, queen, and court for this year's homecoming.

The administrators of the voting appear to be backtracking from the "Greatest" label by instead calling them "Favorites...as voted on by fans." Unfortunately, this distances the team members from all associations with greatness and relegates them to winners of a popularity contest.

I suspect that the change from All-Time Greatest to All-Time Favorites was prompted by the results of the voting. Since the criteria for selecting players were never explicitly stated—the ballot said to “help us to pick the top players of the past 50 years”—fans were free to interpret "top" and "greatest" in different ways, quite possibly leading to the election of some O's who were not all that great or even good as players. And the poorly designed ballot didn't help matters either, as I've described in some detail. (The statement, "Fans had the opportunity to vote for up to 50 of the 729 players..." is inaccurate. On the online ballot there were spots for a maximum of 27 votes.)

Of course, I'm eager to see the All-Time Whatevers team, in particular to deduce whether the ballot design led to the underrepresentation of pitchers and outfielders and the overrepresentation of designated hitters as I predicted. But the news of Sunday's announcement of the team also means that I will have to adjust my schedule of articles about the top O's of the last half-century.

In short, I'm going to finalize my top 50 list before the fan-elected team is revealed on Sunday. This will require me to publish the finalists and honorable mentions at the rest of the positions without fleshed-out descriptions of their playing careers, which I will add next week. By Friday, I plan to have a complete listing of the overall top 40 (composed of just the finalists), and on Saturday I will attempt to sift through the honorable mentions and select ten candidates to fill out the top 50.

September 24, 2004

Greatest O's: Third Basemen

Top three third basemen in modern Orioles history:

  1. Brooks Robinson (1955-1977)
  2. Doug DeCinces (1973-1981)
  3. Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001)
Player,Win Shares,WARP-3;Brooks Robinson,356,122;Doug DeCinces,76,33;Cal Ripken,69,24;Leo Gomez,42,18;Tony Batista,35,14

Honorable mentions

Leo Gomez (1990-1995) and Tony Batista (2001-2003).

The contest for the top Oriole third baseman was no contest at all. Brooks Robinson finished so far ahead of the field in both Win Shares and WARP-3 that the only suspense was in the order of the runners-up.

Continue reading "Greatest O's: Third Basemen" »

Greatest O's: Shortstops

Top three shortstops in modern Orioles history:

  1. Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001)
  2. Mark Belanger (1965-1981)
  3. Mike Bordick (1997-2000, 2001-2002)
Player,Win Shares,WARP-3;Cal Ripken,358,138;Mark Belanger,161,52;Mike Bordick,68,29;Luis Aparicio,78,24;Ron Hansen,42,12

Honorable mentions

Luis Aparicio (1963-1967) and Ron Hansen (1958-1962).

Write-up to follow.

Greatest O's: Outfielders

Top nine outfielders in modern Orioles history:

  1. Ken Singleton (1975-1984)
  2. Brady Anderson (1988-2001)
  3. Frank Robinson (1966-1971)
  4. Paul Blair (1964-1976)
  5. Al Bumbry (1972-1984)
  6. Don Buford (1968-1972)
  7. B.J. Surhoff (1996-2000, 2003)
  8. Merv Rettenmund (1968-1973)
  9. Gary Roenicke (1978-1985)
Player, Win Shares, WARP-3;Ken Singleton,224,67;Frank Robinson,176,50;Brady Anderson,212,76;Paul Blair,178,61;Al Bumbry,169,53;Don Buford,110,30;B.J. Surhoff,86,34;Merv Rettenmund,80,25;Gary Roenicke,85,30

Honorable mentions

Write-up to follow.

Greatest O's: Designated Hitters

Top designated hitter in modern Orioles history:

Harold Baines (1993-1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)

Honorable mentions

Ken Singleton, Tommy Davis, and Lee May.

Write-up to follow.

September 25, 2004

Greatest O's: Pitchers

Top fifteen pitchers in modern Orioles history:

  1. Jim Palmer (1965-1984)
  2. Mike Mussina (1991-2000)
  3. Dave McNally (1962-1974)
  4. Mike Flanagan (1975-1987, 1991-1992)
  5. Scott McGregor (1976-1988)
  6. Mike Cuéllar (1969-1976)
  7. Milt Pappas (1957-1965)
  8. Mike Boddicker (1980-1988)
  9. Steve Barber (1960-1967)
  10. Tippy Martínez (1976-1986)
  11. Stu Miller (1963-1967)
  12. Dennis Martínez (1976-1986)
  13. Dick Hall (1961-1966, 1969-1971)
  14. Gregg Olson (1988-1993)
  15. Scott Erickson (1994-2002)
Player,Win Shares,WARP-3;Jim Palmer,312,94.6;Mike Mussina,161,76.9;Dave McNally,167,47.2;Mike Flanagan,136,43.9;Scott McGregor,121,40.9;Mike Cuellar,123,33.0;Milt Pappas,109,31.6
Player,Win Shares,WARP-3;Mike Boddicker,81,35.2;Steve Barber,91,29.9;Tippy Mart´┐Żnez,78,32.6;Dennis Mart´┐Żnez,86,27.5;Dick Hall,66,33.8;Stu Miller,71,31.3;Gregg Olson,66,31.5;Scott Erickson,64,29.8

Honorable mentions

Write-up to follow.

Greatest O's: Top 50

So far I've named my top 40 Orioles of all time by taking the top three players at each infield position and catcher, nine outfielders, one designated hitter, and fifteen pitchers. Perspicacious readers will have noticed, though, that Cal Ripken was selected to the top three at both shortstop and third base, so the resultant list of finalists actually had 39 unique members. No matter; this just means that I will have to select eleven more players, not ten, to fill out the top 50. So without further ado (without any ado at all, really), here are those top 39 hits as well as my eleven at-large selections (noted with asterisks) to round out the top 50:

Continue reading "Greatest O's: Top 50" »

September 28, 2004

Greatest O's: 50 All-Time Favorite Orioles

The 50 All-Time Favorite Orioles were revealed on Sunday before the game. Here's the roster, sorted first by position, then alphabetically by last name:

PITCHERS (15): Jeff Ballard, Steve Barber, Mike Boddicker, Mike Cuéllar, Scott Erickson, Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martínez, Tippy Martínez, Scott McGregor, Dave McNally, Mike Mussina, Gregg Olson, Jesse Orosco, Jim Palmer, Hoyt Wilhelm.

CATCHERS (6): Rick Dempsey, Andy Etchebarren, Elrod Hendricks, Chris Hoiles, Mickey Tettleton, Gus Triandos.

FIRST BASEMEN (5): Jeff Conine, Jim Gentile, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Boog Powell.

SECOND BASEMEN (6): Jerry Adair, Roberto Alomar, Rich Dauer, Bobby Grich, Davey Johnson, Billy Ripken.

SHORTSTOPS (4): Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Mike Bordick, Cal Ripken.

THIRD BASEMEN (2): Doug DeCinces, Brooks Robinson.

OUTFIELDERS (10): Brady Anderson, Don Baylor, Paul Blair, Don Buford, Al Bumbry, Mike Devereaux, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Ken Singleton, B.J. Surhoff.

DESIGNATED HITTERS (2): Harold Baines, Tommy Davis.

Continue reading "Greatest O's: 50 All-Time Favorite Orioles" »

About September 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Orioles Warehouse in September 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2004 is the previous archive.

October 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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