Today we’re going to start the Rushmore series that we previewed last Friday by exploring Earl Weaver’s boys, the former St. Louis Browns (1902-1953) and Milwaukee Brewers (1901), and winners of the 1966, 1970, and 1983 World Series.
The Orioles are actually the worst original AL franchise, at least by all-time winning percentage. And they haven’t won a title in a third of a century, yet there are some who remember the days of Ripken and Palmer and Brooks and Frank. Some of us think of the O’s as better than they are. Let’s see why.
Guys It’s Not
There are some truly great Orioles, the aforementioned quartet are just a few. Eddie Murray is fourth in their all-time WAR. Of course, he played for the Dodgers and three other teams. George Sisler, a Brave and a Senator, is next. Bobby Wallace played ten seasons for other franchises. Mike Mussina and Urban Shocker were Yankees. Mark Belanger, next on the list, played 57 games for the Dodgers. And you’d really have to misunderstand Frank Robinson’s career to put him on any Baltimore-only Rushmore. He actually had nearly double the WAR in Cincy as he had in Balto. Ken Williams, Paul Blair, Harlond Clift, Bobby Grich, etc. They were all great Orioles, and they all played for other franchises. So let’s look to see who’s on Baltimore’s façade.
Oriole/Brown/Brewer Mount Rushmore
Cal Ripken: If there’s one face of this franchise, it has to be Cal, the Iron Man. He played in the Al-Star Game every summer, won MVP Awards eight years apart, and totaled 95.5 WAR for the O’s.
Brooks Robinson: The 78.4 WAR anchor of what might have been the greatest defensive infield ever, Brooks played for the O’s as a teen through his early 40s and represented them on two of their three Series winners, including a 1970 WS MVP among his accomplishments.
Jim Palmer: Bursting onto the scene by throwing a World Series shutout when he was still a teen in 1966, Palmer is the only guy to represent the O’s on each of their championship clubs. He won 20+ eight times in nine years from 1970-1978. And with 68.1 career WAR, he’s clearly deserving. However, I wonder what Palmer’s numbers would have looked like had he pitched in front of an average defense. Whatever they’d be, he’d still make this list. How can I be so sure? Look who’s next.
Manny Machado: Those with short memories might forget that Brian Roberts and his 30.3 WAR played a year at the end with the Yankees. And Adam Jones came to the plate 147 times for the Mariners before their ill-fated swap before Erik Bedard. BBREF has a great feature where they show pictures of the top-24 players in franchise history by WAR. They make an exercise like this pretty easy to accomplish, except when there aren’t four guys in the top-24 who only played for that franchise. As we move through this project, you might also be surprised at just how frequently this happens. Of course, by the time you read this, Machado’s picture may be on the O’s list. As of this writing, he’s just 0.8 behind Dave McNally for that 24th spot. And he owns three of the best 67 seasons ever by an Oriole position player. Cal Ripken can match that level. So can Brooks, Sisler, and Bobby Grich. That’s it. Machado is in his last arbitration year and can be eligible for free agency after next season. Maybe he’ll lose his place on this list. If he does, welcome Chris Hoiles to the Oriole Mount Rushmore.
My Oriole Rushmore
Earl Weaver: I thought about Eddie Murray, even Frank Robinson wrongly. In the end, I took Weaver because all he did was win. And likely because I’m biased. There were four AL titles and one World Series, and the most amazing part of his record is that from 1968-1982 he finished first six times and second another seven. Truly remarkable.
Up next Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks.