Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ben McDonald, 1990 Score #680

Earlier this evening, former Orioles #1 overall draft pick Ben McDonald represented the team as they chose high school pitcher Matt Hobgood fifth overall in the 2009 amateur draft. While many think of the lanky Cajun as a draft bust (after all, he went 78-70 with a 3.91 ERA in his career, hardly commensurate with the hype that surrounded him), he was one of the more successful #1 picks in O's history. A quick swing by Baseball Reference's draft database tells us that including supplemental picks, 27 of the club's 55 first-round picks have made it to the big leagues. That's a 49% success rate, though Brian Matusz (and perhaps Brandon Snyder) should push the club over the halfway point in the next year or two. Let's take a closer look at some of those picks, shall we?

-With Nick Markakis still in just his fourth major league season and Matt Wieters still learning on the fly, at this point I would declare Mike Mussina to be the best first-rounder selected thus far by Baltimore. The O's actually drafted Moose twice; in 1987, they'd tabbed him in the 11th round coming out of high school, but he didn't sign. Good things come to those who wait!

-A good runner-up is Bobby Grich, who the Birds selected in 1967 and coaxed away from UCLA, where he was slated to compete for the starting quarterback job. Grich was a six-time All-Star and the winner of four Gold Gloves at second base, and he's woefully underrated these days. Twenty picks later, the club selected Don Baylor with their second-round choice. Pats on the back all around!

-Brian Roberts was one of the supplemental picks, as he was taken with the 50th overall pick in 1999. That selection was awarded to the O's as compensation for losing Rafael Palmeiro to free agency. Thanks to the departures of Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, and Eric Davis after the 1998 season, the team had 7 of the first 50 picks. In a perfect exhibition of both the uncertain nature of the draft and the shaky judgment of that particular front office, Roberts was the only one of those seven to have anything approaching a solid career. The others: Mike Paradis, Richard Stahl, Larry Bigbie, Keith Reed, Joshua Cenate, and Scott Rice. Eugh. For what it's worth, Erik Bedard was the team's sixth-round choice that year.

-Pitcher Pete Harnisch was also a supplemental pick, chosen 27th overall in 1987 as compensation for the loss of Rick Dempsey. He won 111 games in his career, though 95 of them came after the dag-blasted Glenn Davis trade.

-None of the team's 29 picks in 1983 made it to the major leagues. The #1 choice was high school pitcher Wayne Wilson. Whoops.

-Some notable players who were drafted in later rounds by the Orioles but did not sign: Bill Fahey, 1968 (Brandon's dad, made a career as a backup catcher); Dick Ruthven, 1969 (17-10, 3.55 for the 1980 World Champ Phillies); Rick Honeycutt, 1972 (LHRP lasted 21 years in the majors, mostly with the A's and Dodgers); Bob Melvin, 1979 (a decade later, finally joined the O's); Cecil Fielder, 1981 (future Tigers slugger turned down what must have been awesome bonus money as a 31st round pick); Walt Weiss, 1982 (1988 Rookie of the Year with A's); Dell Curry, 1985 (future NBA three-point specialist was also a RHP at Virginia Tech); Joey Hamilton, 1988 (won 74 games in 10 seasons); Mike Lansing, 1989 (.271 hitter with the Expos, Rockies, and Red Sox); Michael Young, 1994 (five-time All-Star SS for the Rangers); Mike MacDougal, 1996 and 1998 (O's attempted drafting the one-time Royals All-Star closer twice); Cliff Lee, 1998 (last year's AL Cy Young - what could have been!).


Andy said...

It's also interesting to look at who went later in that same round when McDonald was drafted #1 overall. (See here)

Only 6 of 30 players drafted in that round never made the majors. Many were not terribly good players anyway, but there was Frank Thomas at #7, Charles Johnson at #10, Mo Vaughn at #23, Chuck Knoblauch at #25, fucking homophobe Todd Jones at #27, and a few other decent major-leaguers in there.

Kevin said...

Andy - Believe me, it took me years to get over the "OMG, the O's could have had FRANK THOMAS" second-guessing. I know fans of the team now who are already wringing their hands about Billy Rowell over Tim Lincecum in 2006.

Commish said...

I don't even want to think about some of our crummy picks. Ugh.

Ben McDonald ran me out of the baseball card hobby. About 1984ish I had finished collecting every regular Oriole card from 1954 to date. I continued collecting each years O's team sets until Upper Deck had their 1990 Ben McDonald rookie error. It was going for some stupid outrageous price and I just said "The hell with it". Probably just as well because the hobby spiraled out of control soon after with all the different sets and variations and stuff. No way would I have kept up. But I had had a fun time going after my collection. I still remember how thrilled I was to find the last card I needed, the 1967 Mark Belanger rookie card, at a card show in Austin.
That Ben McDonald rookie goes for maybe fifty cents now? LOL

Andy said...

whats the error with that card?

JeanneLee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Strasburg is the same as McDonald right now (draft week). Might be different in 10 years, but they are the same right now-cant miss number 1s. And given history and $50 million dollar demands, Strasburg has almost no chance of earning his money.

Kevin said...

Bob - Yeah, I'm finding that I enjoy vintage cards much more than the shiny new stuff at present. Either the card companies are tone-deaf to the average collector, or I'm just not the average collector.

Scott - I don't think Strasburg signs for $50MM. Boras is setting the bar high, but I'd expect the final figure to be $20-30MM. It's certainly possible that Strasburg will never be as valuable as he is right now, and if you look at the pitchers who have been selected #1 overall, none of them were every truly stars in MLB (Tim Belcher was one of the best, if that's any indication). That said, if I were in charge of the Nats, I sure couldn't resist taking a shot with Strasburg.

William said...

Wow...how crappy must the war room have felt about picking 29 players and having none reach the MLB?

Kevin said...

William - I'm sure by the time it became apparent that no one was going to make it, the guys in that war room had long since...moved on.

Commish said...

The McDonald rookie card was supposed to part of a star rookie subset but UD stuck an O's logo on the front instead of the subset one. Keep in mind that the McDonald hype made the Wieters hype look like a frilly skirt tea party, even without the internet factor. It was nuts. So McDonald+rookie+error=sheer stupidity. I had a friend who would go to the big Houston shows (and they were held frequently back then) scouring every table for the card.

Commish said...

I've been googling and am surprised that I didn't find much on the McDonald error. There is a paragraph about it on this page.

Kevin said...

Bob- I never knew about that error either! I'll have to check my 1990 UD Ben McDonald cards.