Last week, I was scrolling Twitter killing time in between appointments for my job when I stumbled across a really fun idea. Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus (@pizzacutter4 on Twitter) had given the idea to choose a baseball franchise and select a player from each of the last 25 years.
Pick one franchise. One guy from each of the last 25 years. No repeated players. Must form a coherent 25-man. Don't cheat on positions. Go.
— Russell A. Carleton (@pizzacutter4) January 27, 2017
The trick was that you couldn’t repeat a player, and had to form a 25-man roster. I accepted the challenge for the Orioles, and here’s what I came up with. Below you’ll find my roster, which is of course up for debate. I was surprised that certain players didn’t make the cut, but there were some that were absolute no-doubters.
1992 – SP – Mike Mussina
The best starting pitcher for the Orioles in the last 25 years had to fit on this roster somehow, and he just so happened to take the earliest spot for me. There were other seasons I could’ve gone with Mussina, but the right-hander posted an 18-5 record with a 2.54 ERA in 32 starts during the 1992 season. He was an All-Star, finished 4th in Cy Young voting and 21st in MVP voting. He also posted a ridiculous 8.2 WAR according to Baseball Reference, the highest of his career. Mussina would be my top starter on this roster.
1993 – C – Chris Hoiles
Many forget that Hoiles was perhaps the best offensive catcher in Orioles history, and his ’93 campaign was a perfect example of that. The backstop hit .310 with 29 HR and 82 RBI while playing 126 games for the O’s. He led the team with a 6.8 WAR and was a top-20 guy in the MVP vote. He’s my starter at catcher on this roster.
1994 – SS – Cal Ripken Jr
Here’s another name you knew would pop up on this roster. Ripken’s 1994 numbers won’t look great, but no one will have outstanding stats because it was a strike-shortened season. Still, the Iron Man was well on his way to a great year by hitting .315 with 13 HR in 112 games. Let’s just all agree Ripken belongs as the starting shortstop and captain of the infield on this roster. He gets a spot no matter what.
1995 – SP – Kevin Brown
This was an interesting name that popped up on my radar when doing this exercise. I wouldn’t have immediately pegged Brown when looking back over the past two-plus decades, but his ’95 season was very strong. He went 10-9 for the O’s with a 3.60 ERA in 26 starts (remember, another short season). There aren’t a ton of great starting pitching options for the O’s as fans are all too aware, but Brown fits the mold and slides in as another member of this roster’s rotation.
1996 – CF – Brady Anderson
The ’96 season was a good one for the O’s offensively, but it was probably best for this roster’s starting centerfielder. Anderson clubbed a team-high 50 HRs and hit .297 on his way to 110 RBI and a 9th place finish in the MVP vote. His All-Star campaign was his best as a big leaguer and led the way for an O’s offense that saw seven players club at least 20 homers.
1997 – RP – Jesse Orosco
We’re taking our first left-hand turn with this next choice and getting into the bullpen. Part of this exercise requires you to select a full roster, not just load up on position players or starters. So here’s our left-handed specialist out of the ‘pen, and there weren’t many better. Orosco appeared in 71 games in 1997 and pitched to a 2.32 ERA while finishing 12 games. It was his age 40 season and while he wasn’t closing games, he was about as dangerous as they came as a set-up man.
1998 – 1B – Rafael Palmeiro
Here’s another name you knew would likely pop up on this list. Raffy’s ’98 season may have been enhanced, but it was also fantastic. A .296 average, 43 HR and 121 RBI in his age 33 season while playing all 162 games and leading the charge offensively for the Orioles. Despite all of Palmeiro’s baggage, he was one of the more lethal hitters of all-time with his smooth left-handed stroke.
1999 – LF – B.J. Surhoff
We’re quickly entering the dark ages of Orioles baseball, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t quality players on the rosters. Our starting left fielder is one of my favorites. Surhoff hit .308 with 28 HR and 107 RBI while playing every game in ’99. He formed one of the most threatening outfields in the game alongside Brady Anderson and Albert Belle. Left field was also one of the tougher positions to fill in for this roster, but seeing Surhoff’s ’99 campaign made it a bit easier.
2000 – IF – Delino DeShields
Here’s another name that comes from out of nowhere. Our first reserve player is DeShields, who was actually second on the 2000 team in WAR to Mussina. He hit .296 and stole 37 bases as the primary second baseman. He’ll provide good speed and defense coming off the bench on this roster.
2001 – RP – Buddy Groom
We’re staying a bit obscure here and dipping back into the bullpen. Groom was essentially the closer for the abysmal 2001 team that nearly lost 100 games. He only amassed 11 saves however, but did pitch to a somewhat respectable 3.55 ERA in 70 games. We have to fill out an entire bullpen here, folks. It’s not as easy as it looks.
2002 – SP – Rodrigo Lopez
We also need to fill out a rotation, so here’s another way to do it. Pick Lopez’s best season. A 15-9 record with a 3.57 ERA in 28 starts. Lopez amassed nearly 200 innings and anchored a truly awful starting staff. He’s going to be in the back end of our rotation on this roster, we know that. We’re just going to close our eyes and hope for the best.
2003 – RP – B.J. Ryan
Back into the weeds here to grab another bullpen arm. The 2003 Ryan season came before his role as the closer produced better results, but we need to fill out the relief staff with arms. Ryan pitched in 76 games in ’03 and had a 3.40 ERA, producing 63 strikeouts over 50.1 innings. Not awful at all. He also gives us another lefty in the pen to pair with Orosco.
2004 – IF – Miguel Tejada
We’ve got more firepower for the bench here with Tejada, who had a fantastic first season in Baltimore. He produced a .311 average with 34 HR and 150 RBI while finishing 5th in the MVP vote and winning the Silver Slugger Award. Acquiring Tejada was a big deal for the O’s at the time, as he’d won the MVP two seasons earlier. It’ll be hard leaving him on the bench behind Ripken on our roster, but he provides depth in the infield and a good bat as a threat late in games.
2005 – 2B – Brian Roberts
Perhaps the best overall season for Roberts came in 2005, when he hit .314 with 45 doubles. He’s our starter and completes a double play combo with Ripken up the middle. Roberts may have had better seasons in stolen bases and in doubles, but he hit a career-high 18 homers in ’05 and posted his best WAR season at 7.2. I’d love to include Jonathan Schoop, but the current O’s second baseman doesn’t make the cut as of yet over Roberts.
2006 – RP – Chris Ray
Diving back into the bullpen for another obscure name in this season. Ray had 33 saves in 61 games with a 2.73 ERA for the Birds. There really isn’t much else to say. We need bullpen arms, and this one jumped out as a possibility, so I went with it. (Ed Note – in case you hadn’t heard, Chris Ray brews beer now!)
2007 – SP – Erik Bedard
This choice was a bit more obvious than you might realize. The Southpaw was the best player the O’s had in ’07, right before they parlayed him into a trade with Seattle that netted Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. Bedard went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA over 28 starts in 2007, and the Mariners thought they’d be getting that going forward. He finished fifth in Cy Young voting, and never returned close to form after that. He gives us a lefty in the rotation on this roster, and that’s about it.
2008 – RF – Nick Markakis
Oh how I long for Markakis roaming right field in front of that scoreboard at Camden Yards. Call it a sentimental pick, but Markakis’ 2008 season was really strong. He hit .306 with 48 doubles and 20 HR. He also led the team in WAR at 7.4. Markakis is our starter in right field, no question.
2009 – RP – George Sherrill
Once again, we’re filling in the bullpen. Sherrill was actually traded during the ’09 season from the O’s to the Dodgers, but he still gets the nod after posting a 2.40 ERA in 42 games while logging 20 saves for the Birds. Flat Breezy can serve as a middle reliever on our roster.
2010 – SP – Jeremy Guthrie
Another surprise addition to the rotation here. Would you believe me if I told you Guthrie led this roster in WAR during 2010? He went 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts, but logged more than 209 innings. Guthrie was the leader of a rotation that included Kevin Millwood, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and a combination of Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. Prime dark ages pitching right there. Don’t worry, Guthrie is at the back end of our staff, which admittedly isn’t great.
2011 – C – Matt Wieters
There were a couple of options for backup catcher, but I gave the nod to Wieters. He’ll hold it down behind Hoiles on our roster. Wieters’ age 25 season included 139 games and a .262 average with 22 HR. He also led the 2011 O’s in WAR at 4.9. Charles Johnson or Lenny Webster might have been options as the backup catcher, but I went with Wieters, who I will miss dearly.
2012 – RP – Darren O’Day
The bullpen gets a boost here as the team starts to get competitive again. O’Day would be a nice option in just about any season, but his 2012 is where we slot him based on some other players we have to fit on the roster. It might not be his best statistically, but he posted a 2.28 ERA in 69 games. Nothing to be ashamed of there at all.
2013 – DH – Chris Davis
What else can be said? I want power in my DH spot, and Davis’ 53 HR and 138 RBI provide that. He also posted a .286 average, a career high. Davis won the Silver Slugger Award and was 3rd in the MVP vote in 2013. Stand tall and hit the ball hard, Chris. You’ll be slotted in nicely on this roster.
2014 – OF – Adam Jones
I need someone who can back up in the outfield, so who better than the O’s current leader in that department? Jones gets the 2014 slot after hitting .281 with 29 HR and 96 RBI. I can’t get him a starting spot, but he can provide depth in all three positions in my mind. Jonesy is a great leader on the current roster and I wasn’t going to leave him off this one either.
2015 – 3B – Manny Machado
Perhaps the best player on the roster, Machado’s best season came in 2015. It was the only one where he played 162 games, posting a 7.1 WAR and finishing 4th in MVP voting. He hit .286 with 35 HR and 20 stolen bases. Machado would look good alongside Ripken on the left side of an infield, right? I think so.
2016 – CP – Zach Britton
The greatest season for a relief pitcher can’t be ignored. He’s our closer and he closes out this roster as well. Britton’s absolutely sparkling 0.54 ERA in 67 innings provides the anchor for the bullpen, along with his 47 saves. We might be a bit heavy on left-handers in the bullpen, but I won’t shy away from making the closer a Southpaw as well. I picture Britton finishing a lot of games for this roster.
There you have it. That’s my roster based on the rules presented. I’m sure you’d have tweaks and ideas to make it a bit different. There’s certain names from certain seasons that come up as obvious. Britton’s 2016 campaign is actually the most obvious to me, with Anderson’s 1996 and Davis’ 2013 perhaps right behind. How would your roster differ from mine? Check out the replies to Carleton’s original tweet to find rosters for other teams as well. It’s a fun exercise, and certainly helps us kill time before spring training starts.