#25 - Davey Johnson, 2B (1965-1972)
For most of us, Davey Johnson is nothing more than one of the greatest Orioles managers, one whose time in Baltimore was cut short when he was basically run out of town by owner Peter Angelos after having won the AL Manager of the Year award. Decades before that, he was a key part of some great Orioles teams. His eight years in an Orioles uniform included two World Series championships, two other American League pennants, three Gold Gloves, and three All-Star selections.
Johnson was signed by the Orioles as an amateur free agent in 1962, when he was 19 years old. He rewarded the Orioles by putting in a performance worthy of third place in AL Rookie of the Year in his first full season in 1966. It was actually nothing that great - a .257/.298/.351 batting line that made him worth one win above replacement - but hey, the Orioles won the World Series! That makes everything look better.
As he gained experience in the big leagues, his power improved slightly, along with his plate discipline. Wouldn't it be nice if some more young Orioles players did this? From 1969-1971, his age 26-28 seasons, he went on to bat a combined .281/.354/.409, good for a 113 OPS+ over that stretch. This is more impressive in the context of second basemen.
Those three years also saw Johnson win his three straight Gold Gloves. He was even an All-Star starter in 1970, along with four of his O's teammates. Three great years at the plate and in the field coinciding with the team making the World Series every year? There were many reasons why those Orioles teams were so great. Johnson fit in with the rest of the greats.
In particular, the 1970 postseason may well have been the greatest stretch of his entire career. As the Orioles took Minnesota to school in the ALCS, Johnson had a pair of home runs, and in their World Series win over Cincinnati, he reached base ten times in 21 plate appearances, including a pair of doubles.
Though the Orioles didn't make it back-to-back World Series championships in the 1971 season, Johnson was even better still, putting up the year of his Orioles career as he batted .282/.351/.443, hitting 18 home runs on the season.
Before Johnson turned 30, the Orioles traded him to the Braves along with three other players, including Pat Dobson and fellow future Orioles manager Johnny Oates. They received Taylor Duncan and Earl Williams. This was not a trade that worked out. Johnson went on to put up an even more monster season for Atlanta in 1973, slugging 43 home runs while batting .270/.370/.576. The Orioles made out OK, though, because it was Bobby Grich (still to come on our list) who replaced Johnson at second base.
Johnson's time as manager did not influence where he was ranked on the list, since it's players only. Those two seasons are definitely part of his legacy as an Oriole, though. In two years, his O's teams had a .574 winning percentage and made it to the ALCS in both seasons. In his entire managerial career, he's only had a team finish below second place in a full season one time. Had the bullpen in 1997, particularly Armando Benitez, not totally collapsed in that ALCS, Johnson's Orioles could well have gone on to win the World Series, putting him amongthe great World Series-winning Orioles managers.
His 995 games played as an Oriole stand as 17th on the franchise leaderboard. Over eight years as an Oriole, his final batting line was .259/.330/.379. He turned double players with Luis Aparicio and Mark Belanger. He is not one of the first players you think of as great Orioles - for fans born after his playing career, like me, I don't even think of him as a player at all - but he's undoubtedly among the greats in the history of the franchise.