As we move through the first full season without Miguel Tejada the Orioles have yet to find a solution at shortstop. A combination of young players has proved serviceable, but the uncertainty at shortstop has been an unfamiliar site for a 25 year old Orioles fan. After Ripken, Bordick and then Tejada, the Orioles have been solid up the middle for my life as an O's fan.
Regardless of the seemingly unending struggles, the Orioles have had a rich history with infielders, both in groups and with individual talent. Including one of the best defensive infields in MLB history, with Ripken, Bordick, Alomar, and Palmero around the horn. This glory-day reminiscing has led me to my Open Mic for this week, ‘The All-time Baltimore Orioles Infield.’ I based my selections on thier on-filed success as well as their importance to the franchise during their respective careers.
P- Jim Palmer (1965-1984)
Where do you start? In 19 seasons Palmer compiled some staggering numbers. He won 20 games eight times (4 seasons with 15 wins) 3 Cy-Young awards, four strait gold gloves and is the only pitcher to win a WS game in three different decades. He was easily the best all-time Orioles pitcher leading the team to six AL pennants in his career. He finished with a 268-152 record with a 2.86 ERA. A true first ballot hall of famer, he was elected in 1990 with 93% of the vote.
C- Rick Dempsey (1976-1986,1992)
Easily the most un-heralded player on the list, Dempsey is a house hold name for young and old O’s fans alike. A hard nosed, scrappy player, Dempsey over saw some of the best Orioles pitching staffs in the teams’ history. He had an above average arm and was a solid defensive catcher, while putting up average numbers at the plate. He had his biggest moment in 1983 when he won the World Series MVP. He was 5-13 with four doubles and a Hr against Philadelphia. He served several times as an O’s coach and is currently an analyst for MASN.
1B- Eddie Murray (1977-1988, 1996)
1b-Boog Powell (1961-1974)
A man who does not get his just due because of his rocky relationship with the media, Eddie will always be considered an all time great by O’s fans. A consummate professional, who Cal Jr. credits with teaching him how to be a true professional in his early years. As an O’s first baseman Murray is often over shadowed by the BBQ slinging Boog Powel, who was in his own right a hall of fame player. Murray however has better numbers in every category, both offensive and defensive. An 8 time all-star Murray only lacks in the MVP award, which Powell won in 1970. I give Murray the start over Powell because he was a more consistent hitter with a better fielding percentage and most of all, I was able to see Murray play.
2B-Roberto Alomar (1996-1998)
For my money there has never been a better defensive second baseman in baseball. Alomar did not just make the difficult play look easy, he made every difficult play look easy. His range was unbelievable and his quick tags helped mediocre O’s catchers throw out more runners then they should have during his three seasons in Baltimore. While he enjoyed most of his success with Toronto, the twelve time all-star gave O’s fans 3 good seasons of memories; who could forget his behind the back flips to second or his glove hand flips to Cal as his momentum pulled him towards left field or his embarrassing ‘spitting incident’ during the O’s stretch run in 1996. He won 12 gold gloves and hit .300 for his career, all while playing his position with a confidence and grace that has not been matched since. While he is not a career Oriole like the others on the team, it is hard to leave off the best to every do it at second base.
**I include him over Brian Roberts because Roberts is still a young player, but if he continues on his current track with the O's it will be a hard to leave him off in 3 or 4 years, as many O's fans don't consider Alomar a true Oriole like Robinson, Ripken, Palmer etc....**
SS-Cal Ripken, Jr. (1981-2001)
By far the easiest choice on the team, what can you say about the all-time face of a proud franchise? Cal Ripken, Jr. is considered by many one of the best shortstops in ML history: 19 time all-star, two time gold glove winner, two-time AL MVP, 2632 consecutive games played and a hall of fame vote of 99% in 2007. Cal not only set the standard for dedication and commitment he did it at a hall of fame level for his entire career. He led by example on and off the field and has continued his dedication to the game after his retirement, revamping a national little league that has come to rival AAU in amateur status. Recently his name has been mentioned as a possible future owner for the team, as O’s fans we can only dream.
3B-Brooks Robinson (1955-1977)
The third baseline has never been so protected as it was during Brooks 22 seasons in Baltimore. He won a record 16 gold gloves at third and went to 15 all-star games. He won the AL MVP in 1964 and was the MVP of the 1970 World Series. He is still considered by many the best all-time Oriole over Ripken and Palmer, and is recognized by many as the best defensive third baseman ever. He was voted the starting third baseman on the all century team, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983 with 92% of the vote.
While it is not difficult to pick five hall of famers for an all time team, these players not only did it with their bat and glove, they represented the Orioles franchise well. Aside from Alomar, everyone on the list is still involved with the team and has never seen themselves as anything but Baltimore Orioles. The O’s recent struggles have been hard to swallow but the Orioles are a proud franchise with a rich history of success and hall of fame players. And as Andy Mcphail continues to build the farm system and pitching rotation O’s fans are looking forward to a Tampa Rays-like season in the not so distant future.