Orioles Victory Number 30: 15-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays
2077 Upper Deck Masterpieces Cal Ripken, Jr./ Tony Gwynn
Well now. That was an emphatic victory. Fifteen runs, a solid start from Andrew Cashner and big games from three of their remaining trading chips. Jonathan Schoop homered (his 6th game in a row with a big fly) among his three hits, Adam Jones hit a 3-run shot and Danny Valencia added three hits. Not a bad day's work against a feisty Tampa team.
Whenever Schoop or Jones has homered over the past few days there is that lingering feeling that it might be the last time they do it in an Orioles uniform. If the brass is serious about this rebuild then Schoop is dealt in the next couple of days or at the winter meetings. With a year of control left he could fetch a fairly decent return. Jones would be solid addition to any team looking for outfield help and then who knows what happens in the off-season.
At the ballgame on Thursday I had the discussion with my brother in law (who was wearing a Jones jersey) about the centerfielder's legacy in Baltimore. While it's unlikely that his number is retired (a honor reserved only for those who are in the baseball hall of fame) there is no doubt he would be inducted to the Orioles Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible. Seventy-eight players, coaches, broadcasters, staff members and fans (Wild Bill Hagy!) hold that honor and Jones would hold his own against any of them.
As for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown...well it could be awhile until another player synonymous with the orange and black will be inducted. Mike Mussina has the best chance, but there is a chance he goes in as a Yankee. If he did it would be one more blow to the collective conscious of Orioles fans in their never-ending battle with New York. After Mussina, there is a whole lot of nothing.
There could be a few players with tertiary ties to the ball club much like Vlad Guerrero (one season, 145 games) and Jim Thome (one season, 28 games). I could see a faded Mike Trout, fifteen years from now, playing out one more season with the Os as veteran leadership for yet another rebuilding team.
Of course, with baseball you never really know. The Orioles might catch lightning in a bottle with one of the hordes of prospects they've brought in or that they've draft over the next few seasons. It's unlikely, but you never know. After all, in 1978 teams thought there were 47 players worth drafting before Ripken and in 1981 57 players went before Gwynn. So, maybe the next great Oriole is lurking in Bowie or Frederick or Delmarva. Time will tell. Until then, fans will have to be content with the bronze statues that are already in Legends Park.