The Baltimore Orioles may not have been to the postseason since 1997, but the Maryland franchise has a rich history which includes three World Series victories and a string of first place finishes in the AL East under Earl Weaver in the 1970s.
One question, hundreds of answers. Which Oriole had the greatest offensive season at his position?
Major League baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best ever collection of stars. They are calling it MLB 9s.
Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Baltimore Orioles lineup. Have your say by commenting below or by voting on the MLB site here.
My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:
Catcher: Chris Hoiles (1993)
Hoiles took over the starting catcher’s job in 1991 and developed into a legitimate threat at the plate, as his 1993 season can testify.
Hoiles had career highs in home runs (29), RBI (82), walks (69), batting average (.310) and runs (80). His OBP of .416 and slugging percentage of .585 were both good enough for fifth in the American League, and he even made his way onto the AL MVP ballot.
Highlight Game: June 22, 1993 vs. Detroit. Hoiles recorded his first of three multi-bomb games of the season, going 3-for-4 with six RBI and a walk.
Competition: Mickey Tettleton hit 26 homers in 1989 and Javy Lopez batted .316 with 86 RBI in 2004. I was torn between Hoiles and Lopez, but more walks and fewer strikeouts was the deal-breaker.
First Base: Jim Gentile (1961)
Back in the early 60s there was apparently no such thing as the sophomore slump. Six months after being selected to the All Star Game in his rookie season, Gentile hit 46 home runs for the Orioles, lighting up Memorial Stadium with his ferocious swing. Batting .302, Gentile recorded 141 RBI , 96 runs and 96 walks.
He finished third in the AL in home runs, second in runners batted in, and he lost out in the MVP race to a pair of Yankees called Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle who hit 115 jacks between them.
Highlight Game: May 9, 1961 @ Minnesota. Diamond Jim—a former Brooklyn Dodger—had one of the best ever starts to a game against the Twins in the spring of 1961 when he hit a grand slam in both the first and second inning.
Gentile cooled down the rest of the game, finishing 2-for-3 with nine RBI, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Gentile’s nine-RBI game still stands as an Orioles record, almost 50 years on.
Competition: I would not be annoyed if George Sisler wins the first base battle, because his .407 average was just incredible. Unfortunately, things from the 1920s just aren’t viewed in the same way. It may have been a different era, but Sisler hit 19 home runs in that 1920 season and also stole 42 bases.
Rafael Palmeiro’s 1996 season was a close third for me because of his 39 homers and 142 batted in.
Second Base: Roberto Alomar (1996)
Alomar was the unsung star of the ’96 Orioles team which included a 50-home-run hitter in Brady Anderson, 100-plus-RBI threats in Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken and Bobby Bonilla, and 19-game winner Mike Mussina.
Alomar’s 22 home runs ranked sixth on the team, while his 94 RBI was fifth. But Alomar led the team in batting average (.328), runs (132), doubles (43) and walks (90). An All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glover in ’96, Alomar had the greatest single season of any O’s 2B.
Highlight Game: August 15, 1996 @ Oakland. Alomar racked up four hits with a home run, walk and double in a 3-RBI blowout 18-5 win against the As in California.
Competition: Alomar hit for both average and power and had the ability to run. Brian Roberts (2005) put up similar numbers with a .314 average, 18 home runs and 27 steals, and Delino DeShields swiped 37 bags in 2000 but only launched 10 bombs. It is Alomar’s 132 runs which puts him ahead of the competition here.
Third Base: Melvin Mora (2004)
Mora’s 2004 season was better than that of either 2003 or 2005, but failed to win him an All-Star selection. He hit a career-high 27 home runs and he passed the 100-RBI plateau for the first time.
Mora led all AL batters with a .419 on base percentage, fueled by a .340 average and 66 walks. Mora also scored 111 runs and swiped 11 bags, making him an invaluable bat behind Brian Roberts and ahead of Miguel Tejada.
Highlight Game: July 22, 2004 @ Boston. In the first game of a day-night doubleheader, Mora went 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double, and a walk in an 8-3 victory.
Competition: For me, Harlond Clift ranks second to Mora for his 1937 campaign. He recorded 29 home runs and double-digit RBI and runs. Mora’s 34-point batting average edges Clift into the runner-up spot.
Shortstop: Miguel Tejada (2004)
As great as Cal Ripken Jr. was in 1983, I think Tejada’s 2004 season was the greatest offensive spectacle from a Baltimore middle-infielder.
Tejada hit 34 home runs and drove in a league-leading 150 batters, all while maintaining a .311 clip. He also hit triple-digits in runs scored too, won his first Silver Slugger award and was ranked third in the NL for total bases. In his first season playing for the Orioles after failing to re-sign with the Oakland As, Tejada earned every bit of his $5million contract.
Highlight Game: May 9, 2004 vs. Cleveland. Tejada hit two-run home runs in back-to-back innings against the Indians as part of a 3-for-5 game. He took Jason Davis deep in the fifth inning before rocking David Riske in a four-run sixth.
Competition: Cal Ripken Jr. had the only single season which really came close to Tejada’s. In 1983, Ripken batted .318 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI. The Iron Man may just be the greatest Oriole that ever played the game. He was a two-time MVP as well as a 19-time All Star in his 21 seasons at the club.
His rookie season in '82 was wholely deserving of Rookie of the Year honors and his longevity speaks for itself. If there was a category for 'greatest Baltimore shortstop of all time', it would go to Cal without a moment's hesitation. But for the purpose of this article, Tejada holds the distinction of having the greatest single season ever.
Outfield: Ken Williams (1922)
Playing baseball at a time when like likes of Woodrow Wilson and Warren G Harding were President of the United States, Williams is probably unknown to all but the oldest or die-hard O’s fans.
Don’t let the date ‘1922’ fool you though, because his numbers are well worthy of a mention, even if they were when the team was known as the St Louis Browns, the predecessor of the Baltimore Orioles.
Left-handed Williams led the AL in home runs with 39 and RBI with 155, while stealing 37 bases and batting .332. To put it into perspective, just 12 home runs back in 1922 was enough for a spot in the top eight power hitters. In 2009 you needed 32 to even make the American League top 10.
Highlight Game: April 22, 1922 vs. Chicago White Sox. In the very first homestand of the season, Williams belts three home runs to power the browns to a 10-7 win over the White Sox. The left-fielder hit bombs in the first, sixth and seventh inning, all with one on. It was a career day for Williams, his only three-home-run game of his career.
Frank Robinson (1966)
More than four decades since Robinson’s 1966 season, no right-handed batter has hit more home runs in a single season that Robinson.
Traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson in the winter of 1965, Robinson won his second MVP award in his first year with the O’s.
Robinson led the American League in home runs (49), RBI (122), runs (122), average (.316), on-base percentage (.410) and slugging percentage (.637).
Highlight Game: July 21, 1966 vs. Detroit. Robinson had one of seven multi-homer games of his ’66 season, going 4-for-4 with three runs and three batted in during a 6-4 victory over the Tigers.
Brady Anderson (1996)
Anderson set all kinds of Baltimore Orioles records in the 1996 season. He hit for 369 total bases, 50 home runs and 92 extra base hits. He was the most powerful leadoff hitter the orioles have ever known, with 12 of his home runs coming to start a game. Between April 18 and April 21, Anderson led off four consecutive games with a home run.
Anderson’s ’96 season saw him drive in 110 batters, score 117 runs and steal 21 bases. He also went to his second All-Star Game and led the AL in times hit by pitch with 22.
Highlight Game: May 3, 1996 vs. Milwaukee. Anderson drove in five runs, hit a pair of dingers and laced a double as part of a 3-for-3 day. He scored three times and also walked once.
Competition : Albert Belle’s 37 homers, 117 RBI, 108 runs and 17 steals a decade ago deserves an honorable mention, but for the most part the other O’s outfielders either just ran, hit just for power or just for average. Goose Goslin, who batted .326 with 30 home runs in 1930, narrowly missed a spot in the top three.
Designated Hitter: Aubrey Huff (2008)
Huff rekindled the type of power he displayed during his later years with the Tampa Bay Rays, belting 32 home runs and driving in 108 in 2008.
In his second season with the O’s, Huff led the American League with 82 extra base hits and ranked third in total bases and doubles and fifth in the AL for slugging (.552). He also featured on the top ten lists for hits, RBI and home runs.
Highlight Game: June 30 2008 @ Milwaukee. Huff went 4-for-5 with two home runs, a double and three RBI in an 8-5 win against the Brew Crew. Nothing else mind-blowing for Huff despite a fantastic year, although he did have four four-RBI games and another multi-homer showing at home to the Royals.
Competition: This was another dilemma of how high to value batting average. Harold Baines batted .322 in 1999—18 points better than Huff in ‘08—but he lacked the power or production that Huff provided.
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