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2005 O's Review: Infield/Catchers

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Miguel Tejada

When the team was winning, I bought into the Tejada as team leader stuff as much as anybody. And I love Tejada, I really do. He's a hell of a player and he seems like a good guy. But...

Our very own zknower made note toward the end of the season that Tejada was dogging it. I agreed, and said I think he dogs it more than he's given credit for. At the time, I even questioned his leader tag. And I still do.

Look, I'm not trying to say Tejada's a lazy player. No one that plays as many games in a row as he has can be lazy, I don't suspect. And sure, he's prone to being human. The team had long since tanked and were playing out the string. Maybe he was just sick of the losing.

Tejada had a good year. He had 150 RBI last season and that's a hell of a lot more than the 98 he put up this year, but he wasn't really 52 runs worse than he was in 2004. It was a lot of things coming together that kept Tejada under 100 RBI. In 2004, he hit .311/.360/.534. In 2005, he hit .304/.349/.515. 150 RBI takes some luck. Miggy didn't have a whole lot of that this year. He hit .330 in both June and July, and amassed just 25 RBI. He hit .277 in August and got 17. He had 31 RBI in April (.347, 8 HR).

He didn't hit many homers after June is part of the problem, with 19 at the end of June and seven more the rest of the way. He also slugged just .411 in August and .368 in his weak September where he was as guilty of mailing the results of the games in to the papers as anyone.

To break it down real easy, pre-All Star Break Tejada was hitting .329/.373/.604 with 19 homers and 62 RBI. Post-All Star Break Tejada hit .276/.322/.416 (a 239-point drop in OPS, which is staggering) with seven homers and 36 driven in.

He had his slump this year, but he still ended up having a pretty good season at the end of it all. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it was almost entirely in the first half, when the team was worth a damn. Tejada, good as he is, was not immune to the crippling stink that overtook the team.

Brian Roberts

If you want me to name the Orioles 2005 MVP, here he is. Brian Roberts was a revelation at second base, with a solid glove and a bat that took us all by surprise. In fact, by the THT Win Shares method, Roberts was the best second baseman in the American League (28 win shares; Mark Ellis of Oakland was runner-up with 21), and the only guy better than him in the majors was Jeff Kent (30).

Who will forget April 16 against the Yankees, or - my favorite - June 28, again against the Yankees? Even Michael Kay said that Brian Roberts is a "legitimate Yankee Killer." For the season, Roberts hit .417/.491/.917 (1.408 OPS) with five homers, three doubles, three triples and 15 RBI against the hated Yankees.

Like Tejada, and basically everyone else, Roberts trailed off in the second half. But if you ask me, and I really mean this, Brian Roberts was a by God hero this season. Even the way it all turned out, I can still remember leaping out of my chair and watching Mike Stanton waddle away in June, and I can remember going crazy every time Roberts cracked one of his bombs early in the year. I watched in awe as Brian Roberts apparently become the best baseball player on this very earth for a short while.

And Brian Roberts Mania struck the nation. Terry Francona called him "an awesome kid." There were numerous national stories about the 5-foot-9 Oriole second baseman who was hitting homers at an alarming rate. Brian Roberts was our golden boy. He gave us this huge, renewed sense of hope that we hadn't felt in so very long. Brian Roberts came up through the Orioles system and it is likely that only here or in a worse organization would he even have been given a starting job and relied upon to fill that role for the forseeable future.

If this makes it all sound like I love Brian Roberts to death and he became my favorite baseball player via home runs, Yankee killing and generally being one badical mofo, then good, because that's my point. Brian Roberts may never hit .314/.387/.515 again in his life. He might not even get very close. But Brian Bob will always have at least a half of a season where he captured Orioles fans and did something very special for us. Brian Roberts is ace, and I can't wait to see him again next year.

Melvin Mora

The Melvin Mora honeymoon had to end sometime, and this was the year. Still a fine hitter, has turned into a good third baseman, and he finished the year strong after struggling with injury. He also spent a majority of the season stuck between Roberts and Tejada in the lineup, which sounds like an enviable position where you're going to see fastballs, but I think maybe he just didn't get to work counts quite as much as he'd like to. Pitchers dictated to him instead of the other way around. I think Mora would've done a lot more damage hitting fourth early in the year and staying there, but we had other, stupider, older ideas for our cleanup hitter at the time.

As I said in the OF rundown, Mora and Jay Gibbons were pretty much the only two guys that showed up in September. Melly Mel hit .295/.385/.524, his best month since June, which is when he originally went down with injury. He struggled badly in July and especially August (.641 OPS during the dog days). There was a time in the year where I said we should trade Mora this offseason and see what we can get. I think I'm going to step back on that one. Maybe I was being irrational, but I was watching a 34 years old in February Melvin Mora standing at the plate like he was lost. After watching him in September, you could make a mildly educated guess that a lot of that was still him working through being hurt. Now I say hang on to him, because if the O's want to spend money to compete next year, you won't find someone better to man the hot corner for 2006.

Rafael Palmeiro

LEAVE NOW AND NEVER COME BACK!

The Big Walt

I love myself a big fat man that can hit home runs. Young is 322 pounds. He's 6-5. Frank Thomas is listed as 6-5, 257. They're both big ol' southern gents, Young from Hattiesburg, MS, and Thomas from Columbus, GA. Young has a lot of poundage on the Big Hurt, and that's saying quite a bit. Then again, Cecil Fielder was listed at 261, and that was serious bullshit.

I don't know that I expect Young to ever be a star, but he could certainly have some years where he hits 20-30 homers and is completely useful to have around. He won't ever be as good as Frank Thomas was, but he could be like a post-explosion Fielder I guess (1992-96 Cecil). Anyway, I'm definitely rooting for him. The young man is a hoss.

Alejandro Freire

Alejandro Freire arrived in the major leagues at the age of 31 this season, and commentators and pundits the world over debated as to how to pronounce his last name, settling on "Fray-day." He didn't do much in 72 plate appearances, and on October 7 he was outrighted back to Ottawa. A career minor leaguer.

Chris Gomez

Remember when Mora got hurt, and Roberts said it was OK because they had Gomez? That was not true. It was not OK. It is also inexcusable that a team with a payroll the size of Baltimore's with a guy like Walter Young screwing around in Ottawa would let Chris Gomez see 42 games (27 starts) worth of action at first base. Gomez hit one home run this season, and though his numbers are fine for your utility infielder, he's also not getting any younger and sooner or later he's going to be completely useless, and it will seem to come at the drop of a hat. Since he's coming back next season, anyone want to place bets on whether the O's will dump him if that happens, and if they do, how many excruciating Chris Gomez moments we'll have to sit through before they get the sand enough to do it?

On Gomez's Similar Players Through Age 34 list, six of the top ten were done after their age 34 season. The only exceptions are Dickie Thon (35), Craig Reynolds (36), Mike Bordick (37) and Jim Gantner (39). The odds are just not in Gomez's favor, probably. But he's a good guy and he did the best he could this year. It's not his fault he's not Roberts or Mora or a first baseman.

Bernie Castro

Runs fast. No pop whatsoever. At best could be a 2005 Podsednik type. Anyone that would rather have him than Brian Roberts is a whacko.

Javy Lopez

Javy Lopez is old, man. He's 35 in a couple weeks. I like Javy, but I'm worried about $7.5 million for a 35-year old catcher. Luckily, 2006 will be the final year of his contract, so the whole thing can't buy the Orioles in the ass too hard.

There isn't a lot to say about Javy's 2005 season. He was moderately useful when he was healthy, but that hand injury kept him out a long time. He did deliver some seriously clutch moments when he came back and had a good April and August. In the other months, however, he was really bad. OPS by month:

April .957
May .637
June .645
August .863
September .710

And if you just want to talk batting averages, he hit .338, .220, .226, .337, .237. There's a lot of cause for concern, and I'm worried how much Javy will really have left for 2006, and how big of a problem he could be.

Sal Fasano

I talked Big Sal up a lot. His fielding was pretty lame, yes, but he did an admirable job filling in for Lopez, thankfully not leaving us with more Geronimo Gil at the plate than we had to endure anyway. Fasano hit 11 homers this season and had a higher OPS+ than Javy did (111-110, but let's just give Sal a win here, huh?).

I don't care if he's back next year. At 34, he's no spring chicken either, and this may have been his one season where he did anything. I have my doubts he'll hit again, since he's a mistake hitter and nothing else.

Geronimo Gil

Please. No mas. .192/.220/.312! NO MAS!!!

Eli Whiteside

He's Mr. Whiteside. The Orioles had a bunch of tallish catchers this year, with Lopez at 6-3 and the other three all at 6-2. Whiteside was the thinnest, at 208 pounds. Fasano is 246, Lopez 230, and Gil 229. Whiteside might be the 2007 catcher or he might be a career nobody. He's already 26 so I don't have a ton of faith in him.