Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Earl Weaver, 2003 Topps Gallery Hall of Fame #48

I usually pride myself on my persistence when attending Orioles games. I rarely leave early, be it extra innings, rain delays, or just a run-of-the-mill ugly blowout. But when you combine a sloppy, lousy game with miserable 95-plus degree temperatures, I'm going to ask for a mulligan. I was happy to receive my Earl Weaver replica statue, and to hear the legendary manager's pregame remarks following the unveiling of the life-sized sculpture in the picnic area, but the Birds couldn't do old #4 justice today (save for Chris Davis' monster three-run homer onto Eutaw Street. My sister and I suffered through four drawn-out innings, and the O's were down 7-4 when we finally checked out of the ballpark. Now it's 10-5 and Earl is probably instinctively reaching for the pack of cigarettes he used to keep tucked in his hidden uniform pocket. Oh well...at least I can gush about new Oriole Jim Thome for tomorrow's blog entry!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1977 Topps #546

(Note: I don't actually return from the beach until tomorrow, but my attendance of last week's O's game kept me from doing a proper Vintage Friday seven days ago. Plus, I never really got around to mentioning that I was taking a true, no-blog-updates holiday this week. Mea culpa!)

Here's a head-scratcher for you: why is Jim Palmer's Floating Head superimposed on this team photo? Presumably the very orange main photo was taken at some point during the 1976 season. My first thought was that Palmer could have been injured, and was off on rehab at the time. But ol' Cakes actually made a career-high and league-leading 40 starts that year, so that's not it. With my only plausible theory out the window, it's time to resort to my old standby. Let's get silly!

-Perhaps Jim was double-booked, flipped a coin, and it landed on 'heads'. That meant that he went to the Jockey Underwear photo shoot instead.

-Earl Weaver made fun of Palmer's hair that afternoon, and the pitcher threw a hissy fit and refused to leave the clubhouse.

-He stopped outside of the ballpark to sign a few autographs and a young boy mistakenly recalled the time that he saw Jim give up a grand slam. The righthander got sidetracked explaining the boy's error to him in great detail.

-He was moonlighting as a bartender at the Dundalk VFW.

-Palmer made a fatal misstep; he looked at Lee May sideways. The massive first baseman crammed him in a locker and left him there.

Further guesses will be accepted in the comments.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mike Morgan, 1989 Upper Deck #653

There's something about the bright sunlight casting shadows on Mike Morgan's flushed face that makes me believe that this photo was taken on a sweltering summer day. Just when a mostly-mild June was lulling me into a sense of complacency, yesterday the miserable extreme heat and humidity struck Baltimore. Technically, summer has just begun, which means that the next few months will bring this torment as often as not. I leave the house at 6:30 in the morning, and it's already hazy and uncomfortable. By midday, the temperature pushes triple digits. I walk outside, and the moisture in the air pushes back at me. Once I get home, I shut the door behind me and don't go back out unless it's absolutely necessary.

I'm incredibly grateful that I'll be getting out of town in about 36 hours to spend a week in Ocean City with my family. Breezes coming off of the water, no climbing into a stuffy car that's been baking in the sun, and cold beer and swimsuits instead of coffee and a dress shirt and tie. Just in the nick of time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Roberto Alomar, 1997 Fleer Ultra Top 30 #19

In 1996, Roberto Alomar scored 132 runs in 153 games with the Orioles, breaking Frank Robinson's 30-year-old team record of 122. Runs are something the current O's desperately need, as they've gone 21 innings without scoring any. Two nights ago the suddenly dominant Mets knuckleballer R. A. Dickey held them to one measly Wilson Betemit single. Last night they got a whopping four hits off of Johan Santana, and another against reliever Miguel Batista, but none of those safeties came with runners in scoring position. The team's offensive woes actually go back to the opener of the current six-game road trip, when they scraped together only two runs against Tommy Hanson and the Braves. Put it all together and the Orioles have scored nine total runs in their past five games, only winning two of them thanks to their top starters (Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen) keeping the Braves off of the scoreboard. This just shows how cruel and fickle baseball can be; in the three-game home series against the Pirates that preceded this fallow road swing, Baltimore hammered Pittsburgh's staff to the tune of 27 total runs. But streaks were made to be broken, so here's hoping that the Birds can put the whammy on Dillon Gee tonight.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ben McDonald, 1995 Collector's Choice #339

What do you suppose that crooked grimace on Ben McDonald's face means? Is he tired of smiling for the cameras, or did he have some bad pasta salad from the clubhouse buffet? For his sake, I hope it's the  first one.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sam Perlozzo, 2007 Topps #608

In case you needed a little perspective on the improvements made by the Orioles franchise in recent years, here's a little blast from the past. On this date in 2007, the O's fired manager Sam Perlozzo and appointed Dave Trembley as the interim skipper. That's a pretty stark collection of words right there.

Perlozzo and Trembley were two of a kind, perfectly nice men who had paid their dues in baseball through decades of coaching and minor league managing. Both were overmatched when placed in charge of big league clubs, and both happened to be in the right place when their predecessor got the axe. Inexplicably, the Birds removed the "interim" tag from each of them instead of bothering to seek out the right man for the job.

One of the wisest moldy-oldie sayings in baseball is that a manager gets too much credit for his team's successes and too much blame for its failures. But that didn't make it any easier to sit by and watch Baltimore's substitute teachers misuse (and overuse) their relievers, try to handle aging veteran hitters with kid gloves, and offer bland postgame platitudes about "tipping your hat" to the opposing team's victorious pitcher or dominant slugger.

Current winning record aside, Orioles still have a long way to go before they can truly measure up to the deep major league rosters and minor league talent of their rivals in the American League East. But their strong start in 2012 mirrors the leaps that current manager Buck Showalter has overseen in each of his three previous major league jobs. For all the work the O's have left to do, at least they're not still fishing about for a qualified manager on top of it all.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mike Mussina, 1993 Upper Deck #233

Last night, Jason Hammel pitched the first complete-game one-hit shutout for the Orioles since Mike Mussina dominated the Twins on August 1, 2000. Like Moose, Jason had a no-hitter going until serving up a two-out single in the seventh inning. In 2000, it was Ron Coomer that played the spoiler; last night it was Jason Heyward ruining the fun. There was still plenty to enjoy, as the first-year O's starter ran his record to 7-2 while striking out 8 batters and walking a pair. It took him just 103 pitches, and was already his second no-hit bid of the year following seven hitless innings on Easter Sunday. To offer the cherry on top, this afternoon Wei-Yin Chen also earned his seventh win, collaborating with four relievers to blank Atlanta again in a 2-0 squeaker. In taking 2 out of 3 in the weekend road series, the Orioles' pitchers kept the Braves off of the scoreboard for 20 straight innings dating back to Friday. It's June 17, and the Birds are 39-27 and 1.5 games back of the first-place Yankees. If the season ended today (which would be silly and arbitrary), they would host the Rays in the wild card game. The surging Angels are still two games back of Tampa Bay and four behind the O's in the playoff "race", if you will. There's still a lot of games left to play, but less and less all the time. 66 down, 96 to go. This is fun.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ted Wilborn, 1986 ProCards Hagerstown Suns #27

I know what it looks like, but I swear that this is a real card of a real baseball player. He's not an equipment delivery man who tried on one of the uniforms in the back of his truck. He didn't just get a friend to snap a picture and mock up an amateur baseball card design at Kinko's, complete with smiling clip art sun logo. Not only did Ted Wilborn play professional baseball, but I just learned that he was in the major leagues in 1979 and 1980, some 6 years before posing for a card in an oddball high-A team set.

Ted was a fourth-round draft pick of the Yankees in 1976 out of high school. After he batted .309 with 57 steals in 65 games in his second go-round with the New York-Penn League's Oneonta club, the Blue Jays snatched him up in late 1978 via the Rule 5 draft. At age 20, he appeared in 22 games in three months with Toronto, mostly as a pinch runner. He was 0-for-12 at the plate with a single lonely walk. He was also caught stealing in his only attempt. The Jays managed to stash Wilborn at AAA Syracuse for the rest of the year, where he hit an underwhelming .247 with a .587 OPS. In the offseason, the young outfielder was sent back to the Yankees in a six-player trade that also saw Rick Cerone and Tom Underwood go to New York. Toronto's incoming players in the swap were Chris Chambliss, Damaso Garcia, and Paul Mirabella. The Yanks bumped Ted back to AA, where his numbers were at least serviceable: .270 with a .738 OPS and a team-high 14 triples. His 27 steals were second on the team...but he was thrown out 20 times. Still, the Yankees saw fit to give him a September cup of coffee. In the third (and ultimately, final) start of his big league career, Wilborn went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles off of Aurelio Lopez of the Tigers. He drove in one run and scored another. Despite four pinch running appearances in 1980, he did not attempt any steals. His final major league numbers included a pair of singles in 20 at-bats, for a batting line of .100/.143/.100.

Yet as you can see, Ted Wilborn kept pushing onward in the minor leagues throughout the decade. In all, he played 1,130 career minor league games in a dozen seasons, and spent the last three years of that run (1985-1987) in the Orioles organization. His stats in the minors were a bit more flattering than those in his brief time in the bigs: .268/.329/.365 with 40 home runs and 388 RBI. (Note: some stats from Ted's 93 games at Oneonta are not available.)

Here's one to chew on: Ted's full name is Thaddeaus Inglehart Wilborn.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Jackie Brandt, 1962 Topps #165

I don't have any other ideas on tap, so let's crank up our time machine for This Day in Orioles History. Hold your applause until the end of the blog post. On Friday, June 15, 1962 (that's 50 years ago, you know), the Birds traveled about 40 miles down the road and put a beating on the Washington Senators, winning by a final of 8-3. The visitors tallied 14 hits, including two apiece by each of the first six batters in the lineup.

The Orioles did most of their damage in the fourth inning (four runs) and the seventh (three runs). The big blows were a two-run homer by renowned flake Jackie Brandt (who also had a double and scored twice) and a solo shot by pitcher Milt Pappas, his career-high fourth of the season. Incidentally, Milt would not hit another home run during the 1962 campaign. Pappas also had one of the team's three sacrifice flies, and earned the victory with a complete-game eight-hitter. His defense helped him out by turning three double plays. He improved his record to 7-3, and would go to 8-3 on the year by blanking the White Sox on June 26. However, Milt went into a funk in the second half, finishing on a 4-7 slide with a 4.94 ERA in his final 19 games. The end result for the 23-year-old was a 12-10 record and a 4.03 ERA that was one of the highest of his career.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Erik Bedard, 2008 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee #OPC-EB

Tonight, the Orioles are facing Erik Bedard for the sixth time since trading him to the Seattle Mariners in February 2008. They've never tagged him with a loss, although they did chase him early in a couple of games that they eventually won. Tonight, he's standing between the O's and their first interleague series sweep in two years. I think it's time to give Mr. Bedard a rude welcome back to Baltimore.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dave Boswell, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #44

Dave Boswell passed away on Monday at age 67; the cause of death was a heart attack. He was born in Baltimore and still lived here, and he's the only graduate of Calvert Hall College High School to play in the major leagues. He's best-known for three things that happened during his career, and unfortunately two of them have a negative slant. First, the good: he was a dependable starter for the Twins from ages 21-24, posting a 56-42 record with a 3.24 ERA(108 ERA+) in the 1966-1969 seasons. In 1969, he tied Jim Perry for the team lead with 20 wins, and Minnesota topped the American League West with 97 wins total. And the bad...

His manager in that 1969 season was Billy Martin, who was hazardous to the health of young pitchers. Dave threw 256.1 innings in the regular season, 34 more than his previous career high and 66 more than he'd racked up in 1968. Martin himself acknowledged that the pitcher worked through painful bone chips in his elbow that year, and even tried to shift blame to Boswell for an infamous barfight between manager and player. He claimed that Dave was mixing alcohol and pain medication and became belligerent. Whether that's the truth or not, it rang hollow coming from a notorious drinker and fighter like Billy. Supposedly the dustup, which ended with the diminutive skipper punching out his right-handed workhorse, was the catalyst for Martin's firing at season's end.

As it turned out, Dave's last hurrah was a bittersweet gem that he pitched against his hometown team in the second game of the 1969 ALCS. On Sunday, October 5 in Memorial Stadium, he and Orioles starter Dave McNally matched zeroes for ten and a half innings before Boswell cracked in the bottom of the eleventh. He walked Boog Powell, then gave an intentional pass to Davey Johnson after a Brooks Robinson sac bunt. Mark Belanger popped up for the second out, at which point Billy Martin brought in his relief ace Ron Perranoski. Curt Motton, pinch-hitting for Elrod Hendricks, lashed a single to right field to score Boog, give the Birds a 2-0 series lead, and saddle Boswell with a crushing loss. He had scattered 7 hits and 7 walks in 10.2 innings, striking out 4. The O's completed the sweep the next day and went on to the World Series.

Boswell had a miserable, truncated season in 1970. He went 3-7 with a 6.42 ERA in only 68.2 innings with the Twins, and did not appear in their second straight ALCS loss to the Orioles. Minnesota cut him loose the following spring, and he caught on with the Tigers. His tenure in Detroit lasted less than two months, during which time he threw just 4.1 innings. The O's brought him home to Charm City, where he worked primarily in relief and racked up the final 24.2 innings of his career, allowing 16 runs (12 earned). The Birds released him in early 1972, and he was finished as a big league player at age 27. In parts of 8 seasons, Dave was 68-56 with a 3.52 ERA. If you'd like to read a detailed obituary, click here. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Brian Roberts, 2010 Topps Finest #79

I honestly didn't believe that Brian Roberts would ever play a major league game again, and I've never been so happy to be wrong. Tonight, the erstwhile Orioles second baseman once again became their current second baseman, nearly 13 full months after sustaining a second concussion that put his career and his day-to-day health in serious jeopardy. The weather kept the crowd down around 15,000, but those of us in attendance greeted Roberts with a standing ovation for his first at-bat, and cheered loudly as he went 3-for-4 with a sacrifice fly in his customary leadoff spot in the batting order.

Make no mistake: while I'm thrilled that my favorite active Oriole is back on the field, that's nothing compared to the fact that he's able to do all sorts of things that you and I might take for granted. For months, Brian was unable to push a grocery cart or even watch a baseball game. Not being able to function normally caused him anxiety, and anxiety worsened his symptoms. Talk about your vicious cycles. None of us can imagine the full extent of the anguish and turmoil that he endured. I'm very pleased that I was able to sit in the crowd at Camden Yards tonight and see one of the team's all-time top second basemen hit and throw and catch and run, but a pessimistic and fatalistic part of me will hold my breath every time he makes a sudden move for the rest of his career, however long that may be. The cruel truth of concussions is that each one makes the victim increasingly susceptible to further concussions. Hopefully Brian Roberts has suffered enough, and his eventual retirement will be of his own volition, allowing him to live out the rest of his life in good health and on his own terms.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kyle Simon, 2012 Bowman Prospects #BP56

If you've been following the tenor of my blog for some time, you should know that I wouldn't be caught dead buying Bowman. Fortunately some Orioles arrived from Greg (a.k.a. Night Owl) to help fill my team set needs. This Kyle Simon card would be one of those. Kyle was the Birds' fourth-round draft pick last June out of the University of Arizona. He signed quickly enough to spend the summer at Aberdeen and then Delmarva, allowing 4 runs in 16.2 innings for a 2.16 ERA. So far, the 6'5" righthander has spent the 2012 season in the Frederick Keys' rotation, and he has an underwhelming 2-7 record with a 3.94 ERA. He's got 41 strikeouts and 20 walks in 61.2 innings, and a less-than-ideal 1.54 WHIP. But he won't be 22 until August, so he's got some time to figure it out.

What strikes me about this card is that Kyle appears to be wearing a cartoon bird cap. I would assume that Topps had Photoshopped his picture to reflect the team's new uniforms, as they did with the Team Set variant of their flagship cards. But if you look closely, the bird on this card is the slightly smaller logo used by the team from 1975-1988. So maybe someone knew last year that a change was in the offing, and just grabbed the nearest piece of cartoon bird headwear they could find. That's right, Topps; I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt just this once. Don't say I never did anything nice.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adam Jones, 2012 Topps Opening Day Superstar Celebrations #SC-17

This card depicts the mob scene at home plate following Adam Jones' first career walkoff home run on May 24, 2011. On that occasion, he took a Joakim Soria offering deep to center field for a tie-breaking two run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

Thanks in large part to the continued heroics of Adam Jones, the Orioles just took two out of three from the Phillies, including extra-inning wins in each of the past two games. Yesterday evening, the O's center fielder made the fans wait until the twelfth inning before delivering a two-run homer to give the club a 6-4 win. It was Adam's third game-winning home run in extra frames this year, as he also helped stop the madness in the 17-inning marathon in Boston and the 15-inning slog in Kansas City. Today's game was a relatively brisk 10-inning affair, and again Jones scored the winning run. This time, he hit a smash to third base that former teammate Ty Wigginton couldn't handle. That set the stage for Matt Wieters, who drove a Joe Savery pitch off of the right field scoreboard to drive #10 home. That's a 5-4 final and the Birds' franchise-record ninth consecutive extra-inning win. After a recent stumble, Baltimore is hanging strong at 34-26, a single game back of first-place Tampa Bay. Rumor has it that Brian Roberts will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday.

Oh, and ain't the beer cold?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kevin Millwood, 2011 Topps Heritage #203

Everyone who predicted that Kevin Millwood would pitch a no-hitter in 2012, take one step forward. Yeah, that's what I thought.

Okay, so it comes with a small caveat. The 37-year-old Mariners pitcher tossed six hitless innings against the Dodgers last night, and the score was still 0-0 when he took the mound to warm up in the top of the seventh. But Millwood quickly signaled to the dugout, indicating that he needed to be pulled from the game. It turned out that he had strained his groin in the previous inning. Seattle manager Eric Wedge walked a tightrope for the final three innings, using five relievers to record the last nine outs of the game. Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen did the honors. Kyle Seager singled in the only run of the game in the bottom of the seventh; Pryor was tabbed as the winning pitcher despite walking two of the three hitters he faced. Wilhelmsen earned the save with a perfect ninth inning that included a controversial bang-bang out call at first base with Dee Gordon running down the line.

Last night's game was the first combined no-hitter since Roy Oswalt and five other Astros pitchers teamed up to stymie the Yankees in 2003. After a putrid 2010 season in Baltimore (4-16, 5.10 ERA), Millwood spent most of 2011 at AAA with the Yankees and Red Sox before turning in nine decent starts for the Rockies. Now he's 3-5 with a solid 3.57 ERA in a dozen starts for the Mariners. I'm sure spacious Safeco Field gets some of the credit, but ol' Kev is still faring much better than I would have expected. Now he's a part of the second no-hitter of his career, the first being his April 27, 2003 complete-game effort. In that game, he squeaked by the Giants 1-0. Meanwhile I'm still waiting to see the first Oriole no-no of my fandom. No rush, guys.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Vintage Fridays: George Brunet, 1964 Topps #322

There are three Birdland Birthdays being celebrated today. The first two are Lenn Sakata (58 years old) and the late Mark Belanger (would have been 68). The third player, born 77 years ago today, might be the most interesting pitcher that you never knew. George Brunet was an Oriole for 16 unremarkable relief appearances in late 1963, but that's only scratching the surface of his story.

George Brunet, a native of Houghton, MI, began his pro career as a teenager with the independent Shelby (NC) Clippers in 1953. Two years later he signed with the Kansas City Athletics, the first of nine major league organizations to employ him. He didn't have an easy road to the big leagues: despite debuting with the A's at age 21 in 1956, he bounced up and down for a decade before the Angels finally gave him a full season in 1965 to show them what he could do. In the meantime, he pitched in fabulous locales such as Seminole, OK; Alexandria, LA; Hot Springs, AR; Crowley, LA; Abilene, TX; and Columbia, SC. There were also stops in Little Rock, Portland, Louisville, Vancouver, Oklahoma City, Honolulu (OK, that probably wasn't too bad), Rochester, and Eugene, OR. It makes me tired just to type it all out. Little Rock may have been George's least favorite destination: while pitching for the Travelers (then the AA affiliate of the Athletics) in 1957, the southpaw pitched 52.3 consecutive innings without receiving a single run of support from his team's hitters. The drought lasted from June 21 to August 3 and it helps explain how the Southern Association's leading strikeout pitcher (235K in 213 IP) went 14-15 with a 3.42 ERA!

Brunet's aforementioned 1965 season with the Angels was the best of his career. At age 30, he whiffed 141 batters in 197 innings over 41 games (26 starts). Despite a 9-11 record, his earned run average was a career-low and team-best 2.56, and he also paced the team with a 1.1 WHIP and 131 ERA+. That was enough to keep him with the Halos for four full seasons and parts of two more, representing the closest thing to stability that George would find in his career in the U.S. Yet he couldn't shake his tough luck, leading the American League in losses in both 1967 and 1968 despite ERAs of 3.31 and 2.86, respectively. He had a 3.13 ERA overall in 194 games for California, but just a 54-69 won-lost record.

In addition to the A's, O's, and Angels, George also wore the big-league uniforms of the Braves, Colt .45s, Pilots, Senators (Mark II), Pirates, and Cardinals. Former Seattle teammate Jim Bouton claimed that Brunet admitted to never wearing underwear because he didn't want to worry about losing it. Despite his travels, the lefty never appeared in a postseason game in the majors. He was a September pickup for the NL East-winning Pirates in 1970, but was ineligible for the playoffs due to his late acquisition. After throwing his last big league pitch for St. Louis in 1971, Brunet continued to ply his trade in AAA until 1973. Records are incomplete, but he is believed to hold a minor league record with 3,175 career strikeouts.

But the then-38-year-old didn't call it quits in 1973. At the suggestion of former shortstop Chico Carrasquel, he took his equipment south of the border and continued pitching in the Mexican League up through the 1980s! Add it all up and George Brunet logged 37 years as an active professional athlete. He was 54 when he made his last game appearance on the mound - 5 years older than Jamie Moyer is now, incidentally. His 55 career shutouts were a Mexican League record. He stayed in Mexico and helped teach the game to younger men and children up until a heart attack brought his life to a premature end on October 25, 1991. He was posthumously elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Here's to George Brunet, who proved that age is just a number.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

John Habyan, 1988 Fleer #562

It was only two years ago that I was so frustrated by the Orioles' latest fiasco in Fenway Park that I was fantasizing out loud about committing arson and public urination. Even last year, when the O's spoiled Boston's postseason plans, the boys in orange and black still dropped 6 of their 9 road games in the season series and were cumulatively outscored 72-48. So I don't care how unseemly it might be, I'm going to gloat over the Birds' current seven-game winning streak in the home of the Red Sox. The franchise hadn't won seven in a row in Boston since 1906, back when they were the St. Louis Browns and the games were being contested in the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. Brian Matusz can help Baltimore set a new franchise record and cap a second consecutive three-game sweep in Fenway when he takes the mound later tonight. If I were a Sawx fan, my skin might crawl each time I heard a gloating Orioles fan snidely refer to my home ballpark as "Camden North". Just remember, Beantowners: paybacks are hell.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jamie Moyer, 1995 Score #114

I thought for sure that the Orioles' decision to draft Ryan Ripken (Cal's son) in the twentieth round would be the most interesting news surrounding the team today. It was an intriguing but likely anti-climactic gesture, since the graduating senior from Gilman High School has an athletic scholarship to the University of South Carolina waiting for him. But the O's were just getting warm.

A few hours ago I was delighted, confused, and maybe a bit morbidly intrigued to learn that the Orioles had signed Jamie Moyer to a minor league contract. He'll report to the Norfolk Tides for at least three starts as a sort of trial to see whether he can be of use to the Baltimore organization. He's obviously a long-shot to join the Birds' rotation, but then I didn't think Chris Davis would have more wins than Chris Tillman at this point in the season, either. I certainly didn't foresee the O's having sole possession of first place in the American League East on June 6 thanks to a franchise-record seventh straight win in Fenway Park. Baseball has a way of making people much smarter than me look like complete chumps.

So, 49-year-old Jamie Moyer will join the AAA Norfolk roster, a motley casserole of use-in-case-of-emergency MLB veterans that already includes Bill Hall (age 32), Miguel Tejada (38), Lew Ford (35), Nate McLouth (30), Willie Eyre (33), Pat Neshek (31), and J. C. Romero (36). Oh, and the rehabbing Brian Roberts (34). I didn't even mention Dontrelle Willis (30) and Joel Pineiro (33), neither of whom is currently on the active roster. Either GM Dan Duquette is playing out some elaborate gag or con on the rest of Major League Baseball, or he really loves the movie Cocoon. Either way, I'm just awed by the possibility that the guy who resurrected his big league career at age 30 with the 1993 Orioles could be back on the mound in Camden Yards a couple decades later. That was the team that kickstarted my baseball fandom when I was ten years old. This is such an awesome, terrible idea.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Al Bumbry, 1981 Fleer #172

In my Orioles draft retrospective yesterday, I cut things off after the first ten rounds. I doubled back today out of curiosity, and noticed that they've actually had a pretty good track record in the eleventh round.

  • The second-ever amateur draft occurred in 1966. The O's selected Terry Crowley with pick number 216. "The Crow" never even had as many as 300 plate appearances in a big league season, but lasted 15 years as a valuable bench bat.
  • In 1968, Al Bumbry was the 238th overall pick out of Virginia State University (now Virginia Tech). Despite not becoming a regular until age 26, the Vietnam veteran earned 22.3 bWAR in a career spanning 14 seasons. He batted .281, stole 254 bases, won the 1973 American League Rookie of the Year Award, and was an All-Star in 1980.
  • Skip forward to 1982, and Billy Ripken was chosen 286th overall. His competent glovework at second base kept him around the majors for a dozen years, and he even batted .291 (.342 OBP) in 1990 for the Orioles.
  • Here's a tidbit that I've mentioned previously: in 1987, the O's used the 273rd pick on Mike Mussina, who had just completed his senior year at Montoursville High School in Pennsylvania. He chose to continue his studies at Stanford, and leapt 253 slots to become Baltimore's first-round choice in 1990. Smart man.
  • Jerry Hairston (Jr.) was another two-time draftee for the Orioles. In 1995, the team took a flier on the Illinois high schooler with their 42nd round pick (1,172nd overall!). He did not sign, but the O's gave it another go after his sophomore year at Southern Illinois University. After Round 42, being an 11th-round pick (345th overall) probably looks pretty good. Would you believe that 2012 is Jerry's 15th year in the big leagues? What's more, he's got a World Series ring from the 2009 Yankees and he's also contributed to this year's amazing start by the Dodgers.

When you consider that only six of their eleventh-round draft picks have signed and made it to the big leagues (the others are outfielder Bobby Brown and pitcher Kevin Hart, both of whom were dealt before debuting), it's pretty incredible that they found four quality major leaguers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mike Mussina, 1991 Score #383

It's draft day! How's about I put together a Top Ten list? Too late, I've already made up my mind. Here are the Orioles' best picks in each of the first ten rounds of the June amateur draft, or Rule 4 if you're persnickety about it:

1. Mike Mussina (20th overall, 1990): At least until fellow righty pitcher Dylan Bundy arrives in Baltimore on his flaming chariot. Eventually, I think Matt Wieters will also give Moose a run for his money. If you're a fan of Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement (bWAR), Mussina is the career leader among O's number ones with 78.2. He is followed by the 19th overall pick from 1967, Bobby Grich (67.3). 1999 supplemental rounder and 50th overall pick Brian Roberts is a distant third with 27.4 bWAR to date.

2. Cal Ripken, Jr. (48th overall, 1978): Hopefully this choice requires no explanation. 90.9 bWAR for Junior, as well as more easily digestible numbers like 2,632 consecutive games played and 431 home runs. Lurking behind Cal are Don Baylor, who was chosen after Grich with pick #39 in 1967, and Arthur Rhodes, who was once a high school athlete in the way-back of 1988 (34th overall).

3. Eddie Murray (63rd overall, 1973): Boy, there's not much drama in the early rounds. Once you get past Steady Eddie's 63.4 bWAR, the next-highest scorer is Alex Ochoa at 5.7. Lots of other role players: John Habyan, Kiko Garcia, Chris Ray, Anthony Telford, Jeff Tackett...Zach Britton (85th overall in 2006) could be the runner-up in a few years.

4. Brad Bergesen (109th overall, 2004): Here you can see how top-heavy baseball's draft can be. Bergy has a career bWar of 2.3. In his 2009 rookie season, he was worth 3.0 wins above replacement. That should tell you something about how his career has unfolded. The only other fourth rounders to even play in the big leagues for the O's are Blake Davis, Kyle Hudson, Carl Nichols, Jesse Jefferson, and Bob McCrory. Ouch.

5. Jim Johnson (143rd overall, 2001): That's better. Dirty Jim has succeeded in every role he's been assigned in the Baltimore bullpen, helping him accrue 7.7 bWAR in 284 career innings. Other fifth-rounders of interest: busted prospect Hayden Penn (-3.5 bWAR for the 2002 pick) and scuffling young starter Jake Arrieta (0.8 bWAR so far for the 2007 draftee).

6. Mike Boddicker (152nd overall, 1978): 134 career wins and a 108 ERA+ is a pretty good get, especially since Mike had to spend the better part of four seasons at AAA Rochester before breaking into the stacked O's rotation. He accumulated 29.1 bWAR if you're curious. He's still well ahead of 1999's #187 pick, Erik Bedard (16.8 bWAR).

7. Mike Flanagan (159th overall, 1973): How about that Oriole scouting department in the 1970s? I'm not aware of UMass-Amherst as a hotbed for baseball, but this lefty carved out an 18-year career in the majors, racking up 167 wins and 22.8 bWAR. His former teammate Storm Davis was another savvy pick in the seventh round of the 1979 draft (175th overall), totaling 113 wins and 15 bWAR.

8. Chris Britton (233rd overall, 2001): Woof. Here's another dead spot for the Birds. Chris managed 1.2 bWAR in 78 games as a reliever with the O's and the Yankees. Jay Spurgeon and Chad Paronto are the other big league graduates on this meager list. Recent Oriole Eights include 2011 pick John Ruettiger (yes, Rudy's nephew) and 2008er Bobby Bundy, who was quite good last year but still seems destined to be known as Dylan's older brother.

9. Jack Voigt (221st overall, 1987): That's 1.5 career bWAR and a .726 OPS in 294 games for Johnny Oates' favorite bench contributor. The O's did select infielder Mike Lansing (8.3 bWAR) 219th overall in 1989, but he did not sign. The Expos landed him in 1991.

10. Luis Matos (291st overall, 1996): This pick looked a lot better when Luis was hitting .303/.353/.458 in 109 games as an Oriole at age 24, but injuries and questions about his work ethic accelerated the demise of his career and he was out of the majors within three years, leaving behind a total of 3.8 bWAR. Again, an unsigned pick went on to a better career elsewhere; in 1982, the Birds spent the 260th pick on a high school shortstop named Walt Weiss. He didn't sign until the Athletics tabbed him out of the University of North Carolina three years later, and he went on to win the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year Award (14.6 career bWAR).

So now you have a glimpse at what's gone right and wrong for the Orioles in the previous June drafts. Keep it all in mind as you read the glowing scouting reports on this year's haul.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Frank Robinson, 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Moonshots #MS-FR

I'm pretty indifferent to the Gypsy Queen hullabaloo, but this is a mighty appealing card. There's the deep plum-colored border, which is superior to the bland, muted earth tones that are prevalent in the regular set.  Then there's the focus of the card; it commemorates Frank Robinson's towering home run off of Cleveland pitcher Luis Tiant on Sunday, May 8, 1966. It was Robby's second home run in that day's doubleheader, it gave the O's a 2-0 lead in the nightcap of the twinbill, and it was the only ball that ever left Memorial Stadium on the fly. For decades afterward, a simple orange flag flew at the stadium. It read "HERE" in plain black letters, and it was planted in the left field stands where the ball left the premises. Frank's clout reportedly traveled 541 feet, and according to the Hall of Famer himself, the original flag has been in his possession since the club left Memorial Stadium at the end of the 1991 season.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dave Schmidt, 1989 Topps #677

You have my word that I don't consider myself an overly superstitious fan. But the Orioles, who finally dropped out of first place with last night's ugly 5-1 loss to the Rays, are clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning this afternoon. They have gotten seven great innings of two-hit ball from Brian Matusz, as well as Endy Chavez's first home run since last August, and I don't want either of those things to go to waste.

In that spirit, I give you Dave Schmidt, who earned a pretty goofy save with three scoreless innings in relief of Mark Williamson on April 29, 1988. The Orioles beat the White Sox 9-0 on a Friday night in old Comiskey Park. This game was noteworthy as the first win for Baltimore following a major-league record 21 straight losses to open the 1988 season. Cal Ripken, Jr. did most of the damage with three runs scored in addition to a home run, a double, and a pair of singles. After Williamson limited the Pale Hose to three singles in six innings, Schmidt took the ball and permitted nothing more than a Donnie Hill single in his three frames.

Sure, a 6-game slide is nothing compared to a 21-gamer, but I'd still like to see the Birds snap out of their funk today.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Mark Belanger, 1972 Topps #456

I'm still saddened by the news that the Rockies designated Jamie Moyer for assignment, which will likely bring an end to his 25-year big league career. It represents another signpost in my life's journey. The lefty made his debut with the Cubs on June 16, 1986, several weeks before my fourth birthday. I literally do not have any earthly memories that take place outside of Moyer's time as a major league pitcher.

But I suppose it's just baseball. Dozens of players retire every year, most with careers that last only a fraction as long as Jamie's has. Baseball Reference tells me that in 1982, the year of my birth, 132 men played in their final MLB game. Mark Belanger was among them, playing the last of his 18 seasons in an unfamiliar Dodgers uniform. Since I feel just a little bit older today anyhow, I thought I'd share a few other names with you.

There were 19 players who debuted in the 1960s and hung 'em up 30 years ago, led by Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. "Pops" played for the Pirates in every season from 1962 through 1982, 21 in all. Some day I'll take my (currently hypothetical) children to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and point to his plaque, and mention that he was still playing when I was a baby. I might even let them know that there were only 26 teams and 4 divisions. My kids will assume that I must be 100, math be damned. They've got some nerve.

Pinch hitter extraordinaire Manny Mota, immortalized two years earlier in Airplane!, appeared in one final game for Los Angeles at age 44. Yep, he was born in the 1930s. Also making a brief curtain call was Cuban legend Luis Tiant, who was (reportedly) "only" 41 and made a half-dozen rocky appearances for the Angels.

Besides Belanger, other former Orioles to bow out in 1982 included Grant Jackson, whose lefthandedness helped earn him an 18-year career; Lee May, whose 354 homers were second only to Stargell among that year's retirees; Ross Grimsley, whose comeback with the Orioles lasted 60 innings; and Don "Fullpack" Stanhouse, who also finished up back in Baltimore.