Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Marty Cordova, 2002 Topps Gold Label #148

As Andy MacPhail keeps making moves (in the past two days, he's acquired Rich Hill from the Cubs for a PTBNL and signed Ty "This Little Wiggy" Wigginton to a two-year deal), and I start to wonder if he's being paid by the transaction, I thought I'd post a reminder of why I've got so much faith in the current Oriole general manager. Simply put, he hasn't made any Marty Cordova deals. (As an aside, how about the cheesy Photoshopping on this card? Check out the way the wrinkles go right through his uniform number!)

As the O's slid further into irrelevance in the late 1990s and early aughts, they became increasingly desperate for a quick fix. Poor player development meant that no solutions were coming from within, and the team's culture of losing made Baltimore an unpopular destination among the brightest free agent stars. Former personnel chief Syd Thrift famously said that he was working with "Confederate money". So the Birds basically threw their money at any past-his-prime veteran who would take it. The names are legion. David Segui, Pat Hentgen, Will Clark...Marty Cordova.

You may remember Marty as the 1995 American League Rookie of the Year, when he hit .277 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI for the Twins. He was even better in his sophomore season, with a .309-16-111 line, plus 46 doubles. Next came four injury-marred seasons, followed by a slight resurgence in Cleveland in 2001 (.301-20-69). So naturally, the Orioles pulled out his stat sheet and focused on 1995-1996 and 2001, while ignoring that big ugly chunk in the middle. They signed the 32-year-old outfielder with a history of back problems to a three-year, $9.1 million contract. They got even less than you might expect. In 2002, he actually played 131 games, his highest total since 1996. But he was pretty average (.253-18-64) and they had to use him as designated hitter 56 times. He also ensured his legacy as a punchline by falling asleep in a tanning bed and missing a handful of games with the ensuing burns to his skin. Marty played a whopping nine games in the second year of his contract, as elbow injuries shut him down pretty decisively. He didn't even take the field during the final year of the deal, so the O's basically flushed that last $6.6 million down the toilet.

If you're wonder what brought Marty to mind six years after he played his final game, I just read this article, which mentions that he is the co-owner of Skeletal Metal, a jewelry company that just signed a deal with Ultimate Fighting Championship. His company sells an "Octagon" bracelet made from actual surgical steel, which is used in orthopaedic surgery to support broken bones. It's an oddly appropriate piece of merchandise, both for the UFC and for Mr. Cordova, wouldn't you say?


Rounding Thirty 3rd said...


Since I grew up with the modified cards of the 70's and 80's, I am hard pressed to call the photoshopping on this card "cheesy". I will, however, commend you on your keen eye to notice the discrepancy in the photo.

Anonymous said...

The Cordova piece was very good. There is something positive about being very bad. As it becomes humorous after awhile. Burned in a tanning booth (priceless).