As I've navigated the darkness of the last eleven years of Oriole futility, I find myself clutching at the little shreds of relevance, the symbols that Baltimore still has a place in Major League Baseball. Whether it's the rare series win against the Yankees or Red Sox, or George Sherrill coming up huge in the All-Star Game, I just want to know that my team is still a part of the national conversation. I always hope against hope that one of our players will win a major award, or even lead the league in a significant category.
For Melvin Mora to challenge for the American League batting title in 2004 was borderline surreal. Going into that year, he was a 32-year-old utility player. He'd hit .317 the year before, but injuries limited him to 96 games and the O's can't have been sure whether they were getting that Melvin Mora or the guy who had hit .233 two years previous. But they finally settled on a position for him, and their new third baseman caught fire. He was hitting .385 on June 1, and though he didn't maintain that pace, he was still in the running until Ichiro pulled away in August. Mora had to settle for second place, but at least he was beaten by the best. Besides, he established career highs in every major offensive category and won a Silver Slugger Award. Being chosen as the best hitter in the league at third base is a pretty good consolation prize, I'd say.