One of the funnest things for fans of sports to do is create fantasy teams with each other—that is, discuss a roster in which every position on the field is filled with what they feel to be the best possible player, kind of like an All-Star roster.
Whether it be throughout an entire league or within a single franchise, imagining what could become of a stacked roster is an interesting and very debatable process. Everyone involved in the discussion might not agree with every aspect of the outcome, making for a friendly argument that likely won't ever come to a mutual agreement.
With that in mind, let's take a look at my take on a Baltimore Orioles' dream team, starting with the position players and moving into pitchers.
Catcher - Chris Hoiles: A fan favorite in Baltimore during his career, Chris Hoiles was a good catcher with a nice bat for someone who played his position. His career .262 average is solid, and 151 home runs is a nice display of power. The number that is best is his .366 OBP, a great number for any player to have. The only problem with Hoiles was his health, which eventually forced him into retirement earlier than most players would have liked.
First Baseman - Eddie Murray: Every general manager's dream: A switch-hitter with power and a plus average. Eddie Murray played the second-most games as an Oriole, appearing in 1,884 contests while donning orange and black. A career .294 average, .370 OBP and 343 career homers also place him second in franchise history in that regard. Murray is one of four members of the 500 homer-3,000 hit club and a member of the Hall of Fame.
Second Baseman - Roberto Alomar: Being arguably the best second baseman of all-time, Roberto Alomar is the easy choice for this position on the O's dream team roster. A .312 average during his time with the club. An OBP of .382. Gold Glove defense. Even 50 homers. What more could you ask for?
Third Baseman - Brooks Robinson: I thought about going with Melvin Mora, but...Just kidding. Really, who didn't see this coming? And really, who needs an explanation for this? Robinson is the best defensive third baseman in history. His bat is above-average. I mean...he's Brooks Robinson.
Shortstop - Cal Ripken Jr.: Again, did you not see this coming? Cal is the greatest Oriole of all-time. The Iron Man leads the franchise in homers and RBI. He set an MLB record with 2,632 consecutive games played. He was the face of the franchise his entire career. It doesn't get much better than Cal.
Left Fielder - B.J. Surhoff: The kind of player any team would love to have, Surhoff could play most positions at a satisfactory rate during much of his career, though he was primarily a left fielder when he was with the Orioles. He has a nice left-handed bat with some pop, as evidenced by his 120 career Orioles homers. He also maintained a solid .291 batting average with an acceptable .341 OBP during his time with the team. He'd likely bat low in the order on this team, which is fine. Every team needs someone to bat there, and Surhoff is no slouch, either in the field or at bat.
Center Fielder - Adam Jones: The Orioles as a franchise haven't had an extreme amount of fantastic center fielders. However, Adam Jones is blossoming into a star and currently is the face of the franchise. He had a breakout season in 2012 and seems to only be getting better. He's a two-time Gold Glove winner at his position and a leader in the clubhouse. His all-around game would be a perfect contribution to this star-studded team.
Right Fielder - Nick Markakis: This call may be a bit shocking to some fans, but I like Nick Markakis on this team because he's an awesome defensive right fielder while also being a great average hitter and on-base guy—something that would seriously boost this team with him batting in the two-hole. His Gold Glove would be greatly appreciated as well, and his bit of pop is enough, as the rest of the lineup will provide the rest.
Designated Hitter - Frank Robinson: Frank Robinson is probably the best power-hitter the O's ever had, and quite possibly the best overall hitter the team ever had. He hit 179 homers in just 827 games with the team, and with a career .300 average and .401 OBP as an O, he'd be one of the best No. 3 or 4 hitters any fantasy team could ask for.
Starting Pitcher #1 - Jim Palmer: The best pitcher in O's history, slotting Jim Palmer in this slot isn't much of a surprise. He won 268 games and maintained a career 2.86 ERA. He never gave up a grand slam, nor did he ever give up back-to-back homers—quite an impressive feat.
Starting Pitcher #2 - Dave McNally: A left-hander, Dave McNally would be a fantastic No. 2 after Palmer on this fantasy O's squad. He racked up 181 wins during his 13 seasons as an Oriole and finished his O's career with a 3.18 ERA. He also had four seasons where he was a 20-game winner, all consecutively.
Starting Pitcher #3 - Mike Cuellar: Personally, I usually don't like slotting lefties back-to-back in a rotation if I can help it, just because I prefer to space them out. But Cuellar really doesn't deserve to be any lower than a third starter. He was also a 20-game winner four times during his O's career, and won 143 games with the team while pitching to a 3.18 ERA.
Starting Pitcher #4 - Mike Mussina: The pitcher known as "Moose" was the ace of the Birds during the '90s before he left via free agency. Mussina won 147 games with the club while pitching to a 3.53 ERA.
Starting Pitcher #5 - Mike Flanagan: A third lefty will finish off this fantasy rotation. Flanny was a quality left-hander who earned a Cy Young award after a season in which he won 23 games. He ended his Orioles career on the field with 141 wins and an ERA of 3.89.
Closer - Gregg Olson: As much as I wanted to go with Jim Johnson here, I couldn't, simply because Olson was a more established closer than Johnson is—Olson has a career with more closing years under his belt than Johnson has so far. Olson is the O's franchise leader in saves with 160 and he's got just a 2.26 ERA in his Orioles career. His highest single-season save total with the club was 37. I do think, though, when it's all said and done, Johnson will be the better closer, historically.
That's my fantasy Orioles team. I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks, and debate any changes anyone would suggest!