The Baltimore Orioles, like many MLB teams, have a tendency to acquire big name players who are ultimately at the tail end of their careers. While the trend of signing “washed up” players was more popular for the Orioles in the mid-2000’s, some fans may argue that the recent Jim Thome trade will prove to be a step back for the organization.
But what if all of the old players that the Orioles have picked up over the last decade were in their prime? What is the ultimate Orioles “dream team” since 2002? All players over the last decade qualify, even if they were only in Baltimore for a season.
Challenge: compile the most dominant starting lineup possible, (using only Orioles from the last ten years), keeping in mind all players are assumed to be at the height of their careers.
Here’s my lineup:
Catcher: Javy Lopez
Lopez played three seasons in Baltimore, providing veteran leadership behind the plate. However, he never really put up the numbers that he had in Atlanta. Matt Wieters is the future for the Orioles as of now, but considering the impressive career Lopez had, he makes the “dream team of the last decade.”
Best season: 2003 (Braves) – 43 HR, 109 RBI, .328 BA
First Baseman: Rafael Palmeiro
While he didn’t have as much success as he did during his earlier years in Baltimore, Palmeiro was still a solid first baseman for the Orioles in the mid-2000’s, averaging just over 20 HR and 75 RBI in his second go-around. Palmeiro was heading into the tail-end of his career when the Orioles picked him up again, like many other players on this list. However, this question is only concerned with what they did when they were at their best.
Best season: 1999 (Rangers) – 47 HR, 148 RBI, .324 BA
Second Baseman: Brian Roberts
Roberts has been one of the Orioles most consistent players of the decade, providing strong play at second base to go along with a reliable bat. Playing all twelve seasons with Baltimore, Roberts is the first player on the list to have not been on another team when he was in his prime.
Best season: 2005 (Orioles) – 18 HR, 73 RBI, .314 BA
Shortstop: Miguel Tejada
An RBI Machine, Tejada proved to be the foundation for the Orioles in the 2000’s. While his MVP season occurred in Oakland in 2002, his numbers were just as impressive in Baltimore. Like Palmeiro, he was one of the Orioles that came back to play again for the franchise later in his career.
Best season: 2004 (Orioles) – 34 HR, 150 RBI, .311 BA
Third Baseman: Melvin Mora
Tony Batista was close here, but Mora was a more consistent hitter and all-around player for the Orioles. He formed a solid left side of the infield tandem with Tejada. While he also doesn’t hit as many homeruns as current third baseman Mark Reynolds, Mora’s versatility earns him a spot on the all-decade team.
Best season: 2004 (Orioles) – 27 HR, 104 RBI, .340 BA
Leftfielder: B.J. Surhoff
The Orioles haven’t had much depth in left field as of late, but Surhoff was a guy who could hit for both power and average. This is becoming a common theme now, but Surhoff was yet another player who came back to play in Baltimore for a second time. However, his numbers for Baltimore from 2003-2005 didn’t compare to his numbers from 1996-1999. The late 90’s Surhoff makes this team.
Best season: 1999 (Orioles) 28 HR, 107 RBI, .308 BA
Centerfielder: Adam Jones
All-star Adam Jones has been the best at this position for Baltimore since Brady Anderson. He seems to only be getting better at this stage of his career. This was an easy one. Jones is currently having his best season for the Orioles. His 20 home runs are only five off his career high, set last year.
Best season: (Current season so far) 20 HR, 45 RBI, .290 BA
Rightfielder: Sammy Sosa
Sosa is one of the best power hitters of all time. Only with the Orioles for one season (2005), it was easy to see that he was struggling, hitting a career-low .221. But that one, unsuccessful season qualifies him for the team. We can use him during any of his stellar seasons with the Cubs. I’m taking him in 2001, even though he won the MVP in ‘98 during the home run race against McGwire that baseball fans will never forget. By the way, sorry Nick Markakis.
Best season: 2001 (Cubs), 64 HR, 160 RBI, .328 BA
Designated Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero
In his prime, this guy was unstoppable. Even last year, in his only season with the Orioles, he still put up respectable numbers. This was tough, but I’d take Vlad over Thome in this spot, simply because of his impressive .318 career batting average. He is a more versatile hitter, even though he can’t compare to Thome’s 600+ career home runs. This was the most difficult category.
Best season: 2000 (Expos), 44 HR, 123 RBI, .345 BA
Starting Pitcher: Kevin Millwood
It was sad to see the lack of solid options at this position. But most fans know that bad starting pitching has been the main reason the Orioles haven’t seen the postseason for so long. Mike Mussina stopped pitching for Baltimore in 2000, otherwise he would have been a lock here.
Best season: 1999 (Braves), 18-7, 2.68 ERA, 205 SO