The 40 Greatest Orioles of All-Time - No. 5 - Frank Robinson

5. Frank Robinson, OF (1966-1971)

1966 American League MVP
1966 American League Triple Crown
1966 World Series MVP
All-Star: 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971

Right out of the way immediately: Frank Robinson is the best player to ever wear an Orioles uniform. Bar none. Better than all of them. His Oriole career was six seasons long, though, so he doesn't rank as the greatest Oriole. But overall careers, he's the best. 2943 hits, 586 homers, .294/.389/.537 line. His 162 game averages were 34 homers and 105 RBI. He was a phenomenal hitter.

Robinson, of course, came to Baltimore in the greatest Orioles trade ever, for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson. Robinson was about to turn 30, had just hit .296/.386/.540 with 33 homers and 113 RBI for the Reds, and they decided that he was ready to go downhill.

He did, a little. Eventually. In 1966, his first year in Baltimore, he won the American League MVP award and the Triple Crown, hitting .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBI. He also had a .410 on-base percentage and slugged .637, with 34 doubles, 182 hits and 122 runs scored. The 49 homers were a career high for Robinson.

But he did get a little worse after that, struggling some with injuries. He hit .311/.403/.576 with 30 homers and 94 RBI in 129 games in 1967, and struggled to .268 with 15 homers in 130 games in 1968, but the thing there is '68 was the big pitching season, so Robinson's down year was still miles ahead of the league average. His first two seasons as an Oriole are the two best offensive seasons by adjusted OPS+ that Baltimore has ever seen, with scores of 199 and 188. The rest of his Oriole career, he was at 153, 165, 151, and 153.

He rebounded in 1969 to hit .308/.415/.540 with 32 homers and 100 RBI, and hit 25 and 28 homers in his final two seasons. He was simply a tremendous hitter the likes of which Baltimore had not seen before, year-in and year-out, and has not really seen since, even with some great hitters coming through and having superb careers.

Robinson was ranked by Bill James as the third-best right fielder in baseball history, of course behind only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Instead of a proper write-up in the book, James put together a few quotes about Frank Robinson, which I'll reprint here.

"He plays the game the way the great ones played it -- out of pure hate." - Jim Murray

"He was a super guy who didn't give anybody any trouble. He got along well with the sportswriters. What could they write bad about him? He was an outstanding player." - Art Fowler in We Played the Game by Danny Peary

"There were several black players on the Reds [but] only Frank Robinson emerged as a leader. He was a quiet guy, but he was definitely a leader because everyone admired him." - Johnny Klippstein in We Played the Game by Danny Peary

"I thought that Frank was a terrible example for a young team off the diamond because of his social behavior. He could be very crude. There was a lot of drinking on that team, period, and Frank did nothing to help the situation." - Joe Tait in The Curse of Rocky Colavito by Terry Pluto

Frank Robinson was a great player immediately. He was 20 years old when he came out of nowhere to hit .290/.379/.558 with 38 homers for the 1956 Reds.

Most similar player to Frank Robinson by similarity score is Rafael Palmeiro, though the two are not all that close. No one is really like Frank Robinson. After Palmeiro comes Mel Ott, Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, Dave Winfield, Al Kaline, Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx. Of course, only Palmeiro and Bonds are not already in the Hall of Fame. Robinson himself was elected to the Hall in 1982.

Robinson also took over as the manager of the dreadful '88 Orioles, after Cal Ripken, Sr., was fired. He then led the miraculous '89 turnaround team that went 87-75 a year after going 54-107, and stayed on through a somewhat disappointing 76-85 year in 1990. He was fired 37 games into the 1991 season, with the Orioles at 13-24. Robinson's managerial career started in 1975 with the Indians, where he was player/manager, and he did the same thing in 1976. In 1977, he was just the manager, and was fired after starting 26-31. He managed the Giants from 1981-1984 as well.

His best managerial job, outside of the '89 Orioles, is the job he's done since taking over the Expos in 2002. Let's be serious: Getting that team to .500 three out of four years is no small feat. I don't necessarily agree with a lot of the things he does as a manager there, but it's worked outside of 2004.

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