The next time you find yourself wondering exactly how the Orioles fell into a pit deep enough to result in a dozen consecutive losing seasons, think about Luis Rivera, featured here on a 2003 baseball card. Incidentally, he pitched his final major league game in 2000.
Rivera had been one of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects for three years running (44th, 71st, and 51st, respectively) when the O's acquired him from the Braves along with space-fillers Fernando Lunar and Trenidad Hubbard in exchange for pitcher Gabe Molina and veteran outfielder B. J. Surhoff. Though the team was going nowhere that year and was selling off most of its bankable veterans, the Surhoff trade was especially hard to swallow. He'd been with the club for five years and had deep ties to Baltimore. His wife Polly was local, and his autistic son Mason had been receiving top-notch care at Johns Hopkins. It was heartbreaking to watch B. J. break down and cry at the ensuing press conference, and it's been reported that pending free agent Mike Mussina was furious that the club shipped out the outfielder.
The Birds got very little of value in any of the swaps they made that summer, with only Melvin Mora making any long-term impact for the club. But the trade with Atlanta may have been the worst. Lunar played only 75 games over three seasons, hitting .235 with no power or plate discipline. The 35-year-old Hubbard went 5-for-27 and departed at season's end. What of Rivera, the supposed "prospect" in the bunch? He turned in a whopping 2/3 of a scoreless inning in a single appearance out of the O's bullpen following a September callup. He missed all of the 2001 and 2002 seasons while undergoing two surgeries for a torn labrum within 14 months, and the team released him in early 2003. He's pitched in his native Mexico ever since, with terrible results.
At least the Orioles brought B. J. back in 2003, allowing him to finish his career in Charm City.