In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I've decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We're going to have a 30-day series creating an all-time team for each MLB club. We'll break down one team per day throughout April, continuing today with the Baltimore Orioles.
As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I'm making a Baseball Stars team for each. That's right, the old-school Nintendo video game "Baseball Stars," which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squad.
To the lineup.
Lots of good options here. Matt Wieters deserves a long look. Rick Dempsey obviously should be named. Gus Triandos had several good seasons and gets a bonus for his quick and hilarious mention in The Wire. Ultimately, though, I land on Chris Hoiles. All 894 games of his career came with the Orioles and he ran a .366 on-base percentage, helping him to a career 119 OPS+. There were better backstops, but it's a video game and he could hit.
Damn, we've got some names here. George Sisler, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro and Boog Powell are the four from which we'll choose. If there was no competition, I wouldn't do this, but since it's so close I'm bouncing Sisler for recency bias reasons. Powell was great and he's beloved, but he was inferior to Murray and Palmeiro with the stick. Murray played 13 seasons to Palmeiro's seven, so it's Eddie Murray.
Roberto Alomar had a short stint and Brian Roberts must be mentioned, but five of the top six WAR seasons at second for the Orioles belong to the woefully, historically underrated Bobby Grich. Why was he so undervalued? The batting average/OBP divide is mostly the culprit. Grich hit .266 in his career, but he drew tons of walks, pushing his OBP to .371. He ran a 127 OPS+ with stellar defense in his seven years with the O's.
We don't really need to discuss this, do we? Cal Ripken.
Nor this, right? Brooks Robinson.
In 1964, Boog Powell hit .290/.399/.606 with 39 homers and 99 RBI. He was primarily a left fielder, before he moved to first base. We'll take it!
Brady Anderson is known too well for his 50-homer season and not enough for being a quality player for several seasons. And few around these parts are bigger fans of Adam Jones, but Paul Blair is the pick. Blair played 13 seasons for the Orioles, winning eight Gold Gloves. He ranks eighth in franchise history in WAR among position players.
Another easy one here. It's the immortal Frank Robinson.
Technically the game didn't have a DH, but for the AL teams I'm definitely including it. It gives me a spot for Rafael Palmeiro.
The top is easy. Jim Palmer was easily the best pitcher in Orioles history and it's not particularly close. Mike Mussina could've been if he hadn't left in free agency, but he still amassed enough value with the Orioles to be our No. 2. For the third spot, I'll go with Dave McNally. He was an integral rotation member of four pennant-winning and two World Series-winning Orioles teams. In 13 years with the club, he won 181 games with a 3.18 ERA over 2,652 2/3 innings. The final spot goes to Mike Flanagan, the 1979 Cy Young winner.
Gregg Olson is the career leader in saves while Zack Britton and Jim Johnson had good runs with the job. We're going with Hall of Famer knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, though. In five seasons, he appeared in 185 games, pitching to a 2.42 ERA. He actually started 43 of those games and had 19 complete games. He's one of the more versatile and interesting pitchers in history to study.
Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup:
- Grich, 2B
- Ripken, SS
- Frank, RF
- Murray, 1B
- Rafael, DH
- Boog, LF
- Brooks, 3B
- Hoiles, C
- Blair, CF
SP: Palmer, Moose, DaveMc, Mike F
Bench: Sisler, Brady (Anderson), Adam (Jones), Manny (Machado), Mark (Belanger).
That's a pretty strong team. I guess I could put "Matt" (Wieters) in over Sisler because I need a backup catcher, but whatever. It's a video game.
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with your own team (@MattSnyderCBS).