The 40 Greatest Orioles of All-Time - No. 40 - Jeff Conine

40. Jeff Conine, 1B/OF (1999-2003)

Jeff Conine came to the Orioles at age 33, traded from the Royals for pitcher Chris Fussell, who never did make it in the majors. Following a rough 1998 in Kansas City, Conine got back to business in Baltimore, hitting pretty well and playing first base, third base and the corner outfield spots in his four-plus years with the Birds.

In '99, Conine hit .291/.335/.453 with 13 homers and 75 RBI, followed by a .283/.341/.438 season in 2000 (13 HR, 46 RBI in 119 games). It was his 2001 that established him as an Oriole. In Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season, Conine was by far the team's best player, posting a park-adjusted OPS+ of 126 (the next highest eligible hitter on the team was Chris Richard at 109), and finishing ninth in the league with a .311 average. Conine led the team that year in batting average, OBP (.386), slugging percentage (.443), RBI (97), walks (64), hits (163) and runs scored (75).

Conine regressed some in 2002, batting .273/.307/.448 with 15 homers in 116 games, and returned in 2003, playing 124 games with Baltimore (.290/.338/.460, 15 HR, 80 RBI) before being traded to the Florida Marlins, where he won another World Series title with the same franchise he had won his first with in 1997.

Conine's total career has been a mild journeyman effort. He was drafted in the 58th round of the 1987 amateur draft by Kansas City. He never really got a shot with the Royals, and was drafted by the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft, picked 22nd overall. He played pretty well for Florida through that '97 season, when he was traded back to Kansas City and had a down year plagued with injury. After that, the Royals sent him to Baltimore, where he played pretty well again, before being traded back to Florida. He has now, for what will be his age 40 season, come back to Baltimore for the upcoming season.

The other thing always worth mentioning about Conine is that after Ripken retired, the players recognized Jeff Conine as the team leader in 2002. He is a respected player.

Another footnote about Conine's time with the Orioles is Mike Hargrove's 2000 experiment to convert Conine to third base. Conine had tried to play third with Florida in 1995, too, which just led to the Marlins getting Terry Pendleton. He wasn't a whole lot better at it this time around, either.

As for the rest of Conine's career, his 2001 with the Orioles was one of his best seasons, along with the 1994-1996 run with Florida. He never hit 30 homers, only drove in 100 runs once (though he's had three seasons of 95-97 RBI), and never once had a truly great season, but he's had some damn good ones, and on the whole, has been an above average hitter for his career. In fact, the only seasons where Conine's OPS+ wasn't at least league average were 1997 and 1998. In 1997 he was just below (98) and in '98 he was hurt (85). Considering he has rebounded from those two seasons to not have a bad one since, I'd say it's been a pretty good career for Niner. He's also a fantastic racquetball player.

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