4. Eddie Murray, 1B (1977-1988, 1996)
1977 American League Rookie of the Year
All-Star: 1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986
Gold Glove: 1982, 1983, 1984
Silver Slugger: 1983, 1984
They called the man Steady Eddie for a reason. First Orioles run (1977-1988):
Hits per season: 173, 174, 179, 186, 111, 174, 178, 180, 173, 151, 171, 171
Home runs per season: 27, 27, 25, 32, 22, 32, 33, 29, 31, 17, 30, 28
RBI per season: 88, 95, 99, 116, 78, 110, 111, 110, 124, 84, 91, 84
Runs scored per season: 81, 85, 90, 100, 57, 87, 115, 97, 111, 61, 89, 75
The fifth season where he's low every year was the strike-shortened 1981 year, when Murray played 99 games. The third-to-last season where he's low, he was hurt in 1986, playing 137 games. His rate stats were .294/.360/.534 in 1981 and .305/.396/.463 in 1986. This one might make it even more clear:
Adjusted OPS+ by season: 123, 140, 131, 138, 156, 156, 156, 156, 149, 135, 120, 136
I am fascinated by Murray's four-year run of being at 156 every single season. Eddie Murray was a great hitter, one of only four men in history in the 3,000-hit/500-homer club (with Aaron, Mays and Palmeiro*?). He was incredibly consistent for his career.
Murray was a switch-hitter, and hit the second-most home runs ever by a switch hitter (Murray's 504 trails Mickey Mantle's 536, of course). But it's not just the hits and homers. Murray's rankings, for his career, among all of baseball:
Games: 3026 (6th)
At-bats: 11336 (6th)
Runs: 1627 (35th)
Hits: 3255 (12th)
Total Bases: 5397 (9th)
Doubles: 560 (20th)
Home Runs: 504 (20th)
RBI: 1917 (8th)
Bases on Balls: 1333 (30th)
Runs Created: 1965 (17th)
Extra-Base Hits: 1099 (15th)
Times on Base: 4606 (14th)
Sac Flies: 128 (1st)
Intentional Walks: 222 (6th)
It's really astonishing how good Eddie Murray was. He never had a jaw-dropping year, though. His career high for homers was 33, in 1983. His career-best RBI mark was 124, in 1985. His best average over a full season was .330, which came with the Dodgers in 1990. He had 30 homers five times, 100 RBI six times, and hit .300 seven times.
Murray was, for a long time, a Baltimore fan favorite, but the Orioles really had no choice but to trade him before the 1989 season. In December of 1988, Baltimore traded Eddie Murray to the Dodgers for Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell. To be perfectly blunt, we got jack shit out of trading Eddie Murray, who still had a lot of life left in his bat and his career. Murray produced for three years in LA, though two of them were certainly down years by his standards with one great one in the middle, and then went to the Mets for two seasons. In 1993, at age 37, he had 100 RBI for the final time.
He signed with Cleveland as a free agent, and helped the Indians in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, at age 40, Eddie Murray came back to Baltimore in a July trade for Kent Mercker. He ended his career with the Angels and another brief stint with the Dodgers.
But back to Murray's falling-out in Baltimore, which time has certainly forgiven. In 1986, Eddie Murray pulled his hamstring and put himself on the DL. Then-owner Edward Bennet Williams went public, loudly, criticizing Murray for his conditioning and dedication to the team and to recovering from his pulled hamstring.
When Murray came back, the team happened to slump. That was just the start. The glory years of the Oriole Way were out the window, and everyone needed something to blame. Eddie Murray got the lion's share of it. He was considered lazy, selfish, and a general asshole.
Eddie Murray, rightly, felt a little betrayed. He almost refused to speak with the media, and was getting booed in Baltimore, a city to which he had given not only great baseball performance, but millions of dollars to help improve the inner city.
After the dreadful 1988 season, Murray's request to be traded was granted. He later didn't do himself any favors with the media when he was with the Mets, a team with which in 1992, Murray played in the first exhibition game at Camden Yards. If you wanted to count that game, Eddie Murray drove in the first run in Camden Yards history with a sac fly in the first inning. He hit a homer in the fourth, off the right field foul pole, which had come over from Memorial Stadium. He received a mixed reaction.
When Murray came back to Baltimore in 1996, he not only received a standing ovation from the crowd, he hit a home run in his first game with the team. He hit his 500th career home run to right field at Camden Yards, one year to the day that his old friend and teammate, Cal Ripken, Jr., had broken Lou Gehrig's consecutive games playes treak.
Murray helped the Orioles turn it around in '96, and got them into the playoffs, where they upset Cleveland (the team Murray came back from) before losing the ALCS. In his last at-bat as a Baltimore Oriole, Eddie Murray homered against Andy Pettitte in game five of the ALCS.
Eddie Murray's reputation was also restored by his return to the Orioles. A great number of the players gave Murray credit for getting the team together and helping them turn their season around. Murray retired before the 1998 season, and joined the Orioles as bench coach. On June 7, 1998, the Orioles, who had long since retired Murray's No. 33 after his trade to the Dodgers, but had done so rather quietly, held a big formal ceremony to do it again. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, 30 years after the Orioles drafted him in the third round.
One other interesting little statistical note about Murray: Only he, Aaron, Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Mark McGwire and Fred McGriff have homered off of 300 different pitchers.
I don't see Eddie Murray as any sort of curmudgeon or a bad guy at all. I think his reputation was hurt by a situation that probably wasn't much his fault at all. I do see Eddie Murray as a man of conviction, who felt wronged and made it clear how he felt. He wasn't going to back down or keep his mouth shut. In the end, though, Eddie Murray is remembered as one of the true Oriole greats, and a serious Hall of Fame bat.
"Eddie just didn't like to talk about what he did. He didn't care to give up his little secrets. He was the best clutch hitter that I saw during the decade that we played together. Not only on our team, but in all of baseball." - Mike Flanagan
"When I first came to the big leagues, he really helped me out and showed me the way. His professionalism - and the way he was there for his team and ready to play - really had an impact on me as a young player. ... He showed me how to play this game, day in and day out. I thank him for his example and for his friendship." - Cal Ripken, Jr.
"You've never seen a guy look so bad in BP. He saved it for the games." - Jim Palmer
"He was one of the worst batting practice hitters I ever saw. There were times he couldn't even hit the ball out of the cage. He later related to me, 'I knew I could hit a fastball down the middle over the right field fence, so why spend all my batting practice doing what I know I can do?'" - Flanagan