Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lou Montanez, 2009 Topps 206 #105

Yesterday afternoon I returned from my too-brief getaway to Ocean City to see a telltale yellow bubble envelope sticking out of my mailbox. It was from Ryan of "'O' No!!! Another Orioles Blog". He had answered my plea and knocked four cards off of my inaugural "Coveted Cluster" list: the Lou Montanez card you see above, as well as Dennis Sarfate's 2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers, Chris Waters' 2009 Upper Deck, and Robert Andino's 2010 Topps Heritage. That's four more players represented in my Orioles collection, and I've dug around the Internet and tabbed four worthy cards to replace them in the Coveted Cluster. But wait...there's more!

Ryan mentioned that he'd be sending along some other Orioles that might be of interest. Well, he was on the mark with that assessment, as the additional cards filled a few dozen empty slots in my collection. There were a ton of newer cards from sets I hadn't bought into (2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions, 2010 Bowman, etc.), as well as a few vintage O's that I'd needed. So big thanks to Ryan, who now gets to play the waiting game while I root through my house with his want list in hand.

After I made such a big deal out of adding Lou Montanez to my collection, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you a bit about his tumultuous career. Andy MacPhail drafted him with the Cubs' first-round pick (third overall) in 2000 out of Miami Coral Park High School in...you guessed it, Miami, FL. Other notable first rounders that year were Adrian Gonzalez (#1), Rocco Baldelli (#6), Chase Utley (#15), and Adam Wainwright (#29). With the 14th pick, the Orioles took Beau Hale, who has been out of baseball for three years now. Moving on...

Lou (then known as Luis) spent seven years in the Cubs organization and didn't reach AAA until his final season in the system. He hit only .224 in 82 games at Iowa, with a .281 on-base percentage and .371 slugging percentage, and was eligible for minor league free agency following the 2006 season. He split 2007 between Bowie and Norfolk, and hit .288 overall with a bit of power (but only .259 at AAA). The O's assigned him to the Baysox for 2008 and he stayed there for the majority of the season; it was the fourth straight year he'd put in time at AA. The 26-year-old had figured out enough about the mid-minors to win the Eastern League Triple Crown, hitting .335 with 26 home runs and 97 RBI. He slugged .601, and the Birds finally gave him the call he'd been waiting for in early August as an injury replacement. He made his debut on my 26th birthday, and received his first start the next day. Though the Orioles lost that game, he made history by becoming the first O's position player to hit a home run in his first at-bat. Lou stuck around until the end of the season, hitting .295 in 38 games.

With Felix Pie's arrival in 2009, Montanez lost out in the numbers game and was sent back to the minors to start the year. But Pie was awful early on and Lou was back by late April. Unfortunately, he couldn't catch lightning in a bottle twice. He hit .204, broke his wrist in late May, and fell behind both a resurgent Pie and an emerging Nolan Reimold. Lou returned in September, playing just enough to drag his average down to .183. This season was more of the same. An afterthought in spring training (he memorably referred to himself as "the third monkey on Noah's gangplank"), he again found himself in Baltimore due to injuries (Pie) and ineffectiveness (Reimold). But 2010 was even worse than 2009 had been for Montanez: a .140 average in 26 games and more injuries. He's once again eligible for free agency, and it sounds like he's searching for a new baseball home and some better luck.

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