The 40 Greatest Orioles of All-Time - No. 34 - B.J. Surhoff

Note: I'm burning through these because, for one, I'm bored, and for two, I'd like to get it at least mostly completed before the spring training games get rolling.


34. BJ Surhoff, OF/3B (1996-2000, 2003-2005)

All-Star: 1999

Surhoff is someone whose prime years were ours, and he'll probably be best remembered, or at least most positively, by Orioles fans.

The Brewers drafted Surhoff as a catcher out of North Carolina with the first pick in the 1985 draft. Surhoff had played for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, and was a serious prospect. He came up in 1987 at age 22, hitting .299/.350/.423 with seven homers and 68 RBI in 395 at-bats for Milwaukee. He had decent speed and was a fine athlete, good enough to spell Paul Molitor at third base right away, and also pick up some games at first base, in the outfield, and even one at shortstop in 1988.

As a hitter, though, Surhoff failed to develop for the Brewers, never quite reaching the potential he had shown in his rookie season. From 1988 through 1993, Surhoff was a mediocre hitter at best. In 1995, at age 30, he finally found his stroke, hitting .320/.378/.492 with 13 homers and 73 RBI in 117 games, mostly split between the outfield and first base. Surhoff used this late bloomer breakout season to ink a three year deal with the Orioles on December 20, 1995.

Surhoff was to be moved to third base, which he adapted to quite well. At the hot corner for "the best infield of the 1990s" (according to Bill James), Surhoff hit .292/.352/.482 with 21 homers and 82 RBI for the playoff-bound Orioles. Cal Ripken Jr. moved from shortstop to third base in 1997, and Surhoff shifted to left field, which he took in stride with another solid year. In 1998, he was reliable again, with 22 homers and 92 RBI to go along with a .279/.332/.457 line.

Surhoff re-signed with Baltimore after the 1998 season, given a no-trade clause. In '99, he set career highs for home runs (28), RBI (107), doubles (38), hits (207) and runs scored (104). He was part of an tremendous outfield alongside Albert Belle (.297/.400/.541, 37 HR, 117 RBI) and Brady Anderson (.282/.404/.477, 24 HR, 81 RBI), but the Orioles struggled to a 78-84 finish anyway.

In 2000, Surhoff, again playing well, was asked to waive his no-trade clause. Though he had no desire to move his family out of Baltimore, which had become his home, Surhoff agreed to accept a trade to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for catcher Fernando Lunar and right-handed pitcher Luis Rivera. Rivera wound up pitching two-thirds of an inning for the Orioles, and Lunar was a complete bust as well.

After having spent his entire career in the American League, Surhoff headed to the NL to help Atlanta's stretch run by adding a left-handed bat. In his 44 games for the 2000 Braves, Surhoff hit .289/.352/.414 with one home run, struggling to adjust to the new scenery. Surhoff was a starter for the 2001 Braves, but his numbers were falling at age 36. In 141 games, he hit .271/.321/.405 with 10 home runs and 58 RBI. 2002 saw him play in just 25 games.

At age 38, Surhoff signed a one-year deal to return to Baltimore as a veteran role player. For two seasons, he held that position down well. The Orioles re-signed him again for the 2005 season, but 40 proved to be it for Surhoff, as he hit just .257/.282/.356 with five homers in 303 at-bats, his worst season with at least 300 plate appearances since 1988.

Surhoff spent nine seasons with the team that drafted him, most of it being considered a great disappointment, which he was as a No. 1 overall pick that had a nice rookie effort. At 30, he found some power, and it kept him a starting job for a long time. A guy that could have easily flamed out didn't, and wound up having a pretty decent 19-year career, with all but one of his best seasons spent as a Baltimore Oriole.

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