Nick Markakis will return to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the park he called home for nine major league seasons. At the end of last season, I’m sure Markakis, the Orioles, and O’s fans expected him to be patrolling right field through the end of his career. Instead, negotiations broke down, and whether right or wrong, the Birds allowed their longest-tenured player to sign with the Atlanta Braves.
Markakis returns, with his new team to open a three-game set. The O’s sit at a game under .500, and 7 games behind the New Yok Yankees. The Braves come in at 46-52, 6.5 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.
This got me thinking about the return of some other former Orioles, who were part of the winning teams of 2012-2014:
Cruz was a one-year steal, a guy whose value fell into the Orioles comfort zone because of a run-in with performance enhancing drugs. Baltimore took on the mercenary, and were rewarded with a .271/.333/.525 line, with 40 HRs, 108 RBI, 137 wRC+ and a 370 wOBA. Cruz collected Most Valuable Oriole honors, and parlayed the season into a four-year, $57MM contract with the Seattle Mariners.
Cruz returned to Camden Yards on May 19, 2015, and received the “love” he was hoping to find. The crowd recognized him fondly, some standing.
Of course, it should be noticed that his first lovey-dovey at bat ended in a harmless single, but Cruz silenced the crowd later in the third inning with a 3-run home run, staking the Mariners to a 4-1 lead. The game ended up being a bit of a laugher, ending 9-4 in favor of the Orioles, as the Birds put up 8 unanswered runs, and benefited from some “adventurous” defense in right field from Cruz.
Hey, as returns go, this one was OK. Cruz had a good game at the plate, Orioles fans got a chance to thank him for the magic of 2014, and the O’s went home in the win column.
This one was a little more contentious. Roberts was the lone bright spot on many terrible Orioles teams. He was a legitimate All Star (none of this Ty Wigginton pity pick nonsense), and for a time, was the premier leadoff hitter in the American League, and an absolute terror on the base paths. When Roberts’ contract came up at the end of the 2008 season, fans were divided. Some didn’t want to part with Roberts. Others couldn’t stomach handing a lucrative deal to a middle infielder on the wrong side of 30. We all know how that ended. Roberts spent most of that contract recovering from one injury or another, most notably concussion symptoms.
After 2013, the Orioles did not pursue a contract with Roberts, and he went on to play for the Yankees (until, of course, his contract came too close to vesting a pay increase, and they cut him). Roberts got a mixed reception – some cheers, some boos. I’ll never understand the boos. I can handle being disappointed with Roberts’ last five years.
Photo Credit: USA Today / Joy R. Absalon
Roberts answered his critics in the stadium by launching a homer onto the flag court in right field, but the Orioles would go on to win 3-2.
This one was hard. Jim Johnson saved 101 games in 2012-2013 for the Orioles, but fell apart, and was dealt to the Athletics for Jemile Weeks and the freedom to not have to close ballgames with Jim Johnson. A dump of $10+ in salary, the exit was “unceremonious” at best. Like Brian Roberts, Johnson was a divisive subject toward the end, and after, his Orioles tenure.
Johnson was greeted with a smattering of cheers and boos, and gave up a home run to David Lough, the first batter he faced. Though Johnson ended up retiring the side, he also allowed a single and a four-pitch walk. A tough night, to say the least.
Let’s not forget that Johnson is now pitching for the Braves, and is a chance that we will Cue the Pretender, again.
The Orioles, incidentally, won 6-3, behind a strong start from Kevin Gausman.
Dave Trembley replaced Sam Perlozzo as Orioles manager in 2007, and suffered the same fate: having to coach the Baltimore Orioles while they were terrible. Trembley, who is often referred to as “a good baseball man” and the like, was a good guy. He wasn’t a particularly good manager, and he wasn’t good enough to overcome the terrible shortcomings of the Dark Period Orioles rosters.
Trembley went 187-283, and was fired 54 games into the 2010 season. His most notable highlight is undoubtably this.
Trembley returned to Camden Yards as the third base coach of the Houston Astros, as a member of Bo Porter’s staff. The Orioles greeted him with a 4-3 Orioles victory.
Looking back, it’s clear that the Orioles win when they greet a familiar face back to their old stomping grounds. You can’t argue with that: it’s SCIENCE… or poorly cherry-picked data points that mean nothing. One of the two. In any event, I’m convinced that Nick Markakis’ return to Camden Yards will result in a standing ovation and an Orioles victory. Get ready for a weird night, Birdland.