Saturday, May 1, 2021

Orioles Victory Cards 10, 11, 12: Some guys who were O's that were famous somewhere else

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 10: 4-2 over the New York Yankees

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 11: 4-3 over the New York Yankees

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 12: 3-2 over the Oakland A's 

1997 Bowman Jayson Werth

Wow, I managed to get a little behind didn't I? For the first time in the vaunted history of this series I missed a few wins. Oh, well, life happens and we move on. After intense discussions with the editor (me) and the writing staff (also me) we've decided to just make one post covering all three wins as opposed to flooding folks' time lines with multiple posts. Also, it's the easiest solution. That's what we like. Easy solutions. 

We do have a bit of a theme in today's trio of cards. They feature three players who wore the Orioles uniform (at least in Spring Training) but had the bulk of their career and fame elsewhere in the league. 

First up: Jayson Werth. Yup, before he transformed into a doppelganger of the Rated R superstar, Werth was 1st round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1997. He made it up to AA ball in Bowie with the Orioles before they traded him to Toronto for the less-than-memorable lefty John Bale. You would be forgiven for forgetting that deal since it happened at the same time Alex Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers for $252 million. It wasn't even the biggest news for the Orioles that day. In the following day's Baltimore Sun there was more ink dedicated to the O's selecting Jay Gibbons in the Rule V draft than the Werth/Dale trade, which garnered a few paragraphs in a larger story about the team's larger offseason plans.

It would be a few more years till Werth made his major league debut with the Blue Jays in 2002. He scuffled around up North for awhile before heading to the Dodgers for a few season. It wasn't until signed as a free agent in Philly before the 2007 season that his career took off.

Werth ended up playing for 15 seasons slashing .267/.360/.455 with 229 HRs, 700 RBI, and an even 300 doubles. Bale, well he pitched in 14 games out of the bullpen for the Orioles in 2001, went 1-0 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.313 WHIP. The O's traded him in April of 2002 for Little Sarge, Gary Matthews, Jr. 

2008 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects Gold Jake Arrieta

Ahh Jake Arrieta. Good times. One of the all time bad deals in hindsight trades in franchise history. Unlike Werth, Arrieta did make it to the majors with Baltimore, even starting an Opening Day game for them. He was supposed to be one of the anchors of the pitching staff as the O's moved into a new era of competitive play in the AL East. 

He never seemed to harness his potential (or the strike zone) in Charm City and was sent to the Chicago Cubs in a 2013 deadline deal with Pedro Strop for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman. The O's were trying to make the playoffs for the second season in a row and felt that Feldman, who had pitched for manager Buck Showalter in Texas, would bring "more stable starting pitching". 

Feldman went 5-6 down the stretch as the O's weren't able to keep pace with the Yankees and Rays, ending the season in third place. His tenure in Baltimore didn't last past the season as he signed with Houston in the winter. Clevenger, who grew up in Baltimore and attended Mount St. Joseph's high school, kicked around the organization as a back-up catcher for two more seasons before being dealt to Seattle in 2015 for C.J. Riefenhauser and Mark Trumbo.

I think we all know what Arrieta turned into in Chicago - a Cy Young winner and World Series Champion. He threw two no-hitters in a Cubs uniform and seemed to have no-hit stuff every time he took to the mound for a couple of seasons (I remember going to see back-to-back starts in Wrigley where he took no-hitters past the fifth inning). He became a strike throwing machine, the complete opposite of his time in Baltimore.

Baltimore (4 seasons): 1.472 WHIP, 9.3 hits per 9 innings, 4.0 walks per 9 innings, 4.72 ERA
Chicago (6 seasons): 1.044 WHIP, 6.6 hits per 9 innings, 2.8 walks per 9 innings, 3.22 ERA

Pretty sure there was a clear winner in that deal.

2000 Topps Power Players Albert Belle

Unlike the previous two players, Albert Belle came to the Orioles in the prime of his career. Starting in 1991 he became one of the most feared right-handed sluggers in the American League. For seven years in a row he contributed at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. The previous season with the White Sox he slashed .328/.399/.655 with 49 home runs and 152 RBI. He led he league in games played (163), slugging (.655), OPS (1.055) and sacrifice flies (15). 

It was a risk the Orioles felt they had to take. After consecutive appearances in the ALCS in 1996 and 1997, they had taken a step back in 1998, finishing in fourth place with a 79-83 record. They lost Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, and Eric Davis from their line-up. They needed a little power, and Belle was the best bat available. He signed a five-year, $65 million deal on December 1st, 1998, the largest contract in franchise history at the time. 

Unfortunately, he didn't last all five years in an Orioles uniform. It started well as he slashed .297/.400/.541 with 37 HRs and 117 RBI. Not quite as lofty as the previous year, but still pretty impressive. The O's struggled to win games and finished with a 78-84 record, well out of the race for the AL East title. 

Part of the justification for signing Belle to a large deal was his durability. He was the active leader in consecutive games played when he signed with the O's and he ran that streak to a respectable 392 games before Orioles manager Ray Miller benched him in June of 1999. The flip side of Belle's intensity was his boorishness with other players, coaches, and fans. Miller had enough after the two were arguing in a game against Florida. 

While the argument garnered attention, his production was slipping a bit as well due to a hip injury. Still, it wasn't a horrible season as he ended up at .281/.342/.474 with 23 HRs and 103 RBI in just 141 games. That same injury would force him to retire the following spring at just the age of 34. The media in Baltimore didn't seem to broken up about his departure, 


08 Mar 2001, Thu The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland)

That was Baltimore Sun columnist John Eisenberg on the day it was announced that Belle wouldn't be able to play baseball any longer. Well, they didn't lose 100 games that season, only 98. Chris Richard and Jay Gibbons led the team with 15 home runs while Jeff Conine had the team lead with 97 RBI. Belle was a complicated person who battled his own demons, but publishing a column like that on the same day it was announced that a hall-of-fame career was cut short seems a little, to use Eisenberg's own words, "mean-spirited". 
Belle hasn't had much to do with baseball since his forced retirement with his name only popping up occasionally in regards to some legal issues.
There ya go. Three players who wore the Orioles uniform. I was caught up with the wins when I started this column and see now that I am once again behind. The 2021 O's are hot, baby!

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Elena Antonio said...
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