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Random Orioles: The O's-Rockies Connection

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In order to come up with an interesting reason to watch any of this weekend's O's-Rockies games/snoozefests, I put my detective hat on and went digging. I wanted to find the guys that had played for both Baltimore and Colorado. Since the Rockies don't have a very long history, I figured it wouldn't be that hard, and it wasn't.

I'm probably missing a handful of totally insignificant guys (unlike some of the All-Stars I've come up with here), but I just did this quickly. Truth be told that was about all I wanted to do. This wasn't for any good reason. But then, I never do much for any good reason, I don't guess.

(For more on the current Rockies, visit Purple Row, the Colorado wing of SB Nation.)

Anyway, here they are!

Late Additions! (thanks to wetnap in the comments)

Todd Zeile

Zeile was an Oriole for all of 29 games. A journeyman third baseman/first baseman/catcher - well, let's just say Zeile was a pro hitter. Zeile came over from Philly in August of 1996 with the incomparable Pete Incaviglia for Cal Maduro and Garrett Stephenson. Maduro would later wind up back with the O's.

Zeile's career line as an Oriole was .239/.326/.436 with five homers and 19 RBI. Before the O's, he had been with St. Louis, the Cubs and the Phillies, and after he played for the Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies (.273/.353/.425, 18 HR, 87 RBI, plus a 0.00 ERA in 1 IP in 2002), Yankees, Expos and finished his career back with the Mets last year.

The last two years of Zeile's career were pretty awful, but there was a period when the guy was a pretty good hitter. He'll be remembered fondly by most O's fans, I'd have to think, for hitting .364 with three homers in the 1996 ALCS, when we were robbed of glory by he whose name shall not be spoken.

Gregg Zaun

Zaun was a 17th round pick in the '89 draft by Baltimore, and played for the team in 1995 and part of 1996 in a backup role. In '96, he was sent to the Marlins for Terry Mathews as a player to be named later. His Colorado career wasn't much more glorious, consisting of 15 games in 2003. He is currently with the Blue Jays and has also played with the Rangers, Royals and Astros.

Zaun is sort of a tough guy-type, I guess. I mean look at that scowl over there. The other thing I find interesting about that photo is he's wearing an Expos catching helmet, and never did play a major league game with Montreal. I find it surprising that that's the first photo that comes up on a Gregg Zaun photo search. For his largely anonymous career, Zaun has hit .250/.339/.375 with 39 homers and 222 RBI coming into 2005. So far this season, he's hitting .239/.337/.387 with four round trippers.

Chuck McElroy

Ah, yes, the bespectacled McElroy, a symbol of geeky athletic prowess. Mr. McElroy always looked like he should've been working for IBM or, I dunno, SquareSoft or something, rather than being a big league reliever. But you know something, Chuck held on for 13 years with a career 3.90 ERA and 111 ERA+.

McElroy pitched one full year for the O's (2000) and part of the next before he was released and signed with the Padres to finish 2001 and his career. McElroy's best season was 1994 with the Reds (2.34 ERA, 177 ERA+), but he had an outstanding season with Colorado in 1998 (2.90, 175). He also played for, in order: Philadelphia, the Cubs, Cincinnati, Anaheim, the White Sox and the Mets.

I'm having a really good time pretending the C on that cap stands for Chuck.

Mike DeJean

Oh, this guy. Thanks, Mike. Thanks so much for necessitating Jason Grimsley. No, Mike, we don't care about your seventeen successful games with the Mets last year. No, shut up, Mike. You suck.

DeJean came up with the Rockies in 1997 at the age of 26, five years after being drafted in the 24th round by the Yankees. His 37-game stint with the Orioles in 2004 was a complete and utter bomb. It would probably be considered comical if it didn't result in Denny Bautista being shipped off because he was so bad that we had to find a new righty setup man. In 39 2/3 innings, DeJean posted a 6.13 ERA, gave up 49 hits, walked 28 and struck out 36. He was truly pathetic. He was beyond Steve Reed.

DeJean's Colorado career was better than that, as he had two solid seasons to start before a magnificently hideous 1999. How he actually pitched in 56 games and posted an 8.41 ERA is something I'd love to hear the explanation of. He gave up 83 hits in 61 innings and walked more (32) than he struck out (31). He also gave up 13 homers, but homers are homers in Coors so whatever.

He did have a stint as the Brewers closer in 2002, saving 27 games, and again in '03 (18 saves) before he finished the 2003 year with the Cardinals. Mike is currently a Met, and sucks as bad this year for them as he did last year for us. DeJean may be washed up at 34.

Jeffrey Hammonds

Mr. USA here was the number four overall pick of our beloved Orioles in the 1992 amateur draft. He was a highly-regarded prospect. Hammonds would stink up our fields in part-time duty for four seasons (well, that's not quite fair, he was OK in '94) before his big breakout yielded a .264/.323/.486 line with 21 homers and 15 steals over 397 at-bats in 1997. The next season, he was sent to Cincinnati for Willie Greene. Greene didn't exactly produce for us. Greene sort of fell off the planet as soon as he got to us, and he was a pretty good hitter the year before and that year for Cincinnati. Something in the Baltimore water killed Willie's career. Sorry, Willie.

Anyway, Hammonds would spend one more season in Cincinnati, performing pretty well but getting hurt, which has been the story of his career at his very best. He was a Rockie for one season in 2000, batting .335/.395/.529 with 20 homers and 106 RBI. Seeing this, the genius Milwaukee Brewers decided to give Hammonds eleventy jillion dollars. He was never healthy again. He spent some time in San Francisco and I think he was with the Nats this spring. He might have even made the team. Maybe he's in Triple-A. Maybe he's on someone's DL. If Jeffrey Hammonds retired, he is probably on the DL at his house.

Aaron Ledesma

1990 second round draft pick of the New York Mets, became a utility infielder. He appears, statistically, to have been a pretty decent defensive shortstop. I don't really remember seeing him play, so I can't recall. His Mets career was 33 at-bats in 1995, but he exploded for the O's in 1997 after signing as a free agent, batting .352/.437/.500 over 88 at-bats. The Orioles can also claim 100 percent of Ledesma's career home run total, which is two.

In 1997, he was the 62nd pick in the expansion draft for the Devil Rays, and had about 300 at-bats there two seasons in a row. Ledesma was then involved in a four-team trade in 1999, going to Colorado along with Rolando Arrojo, Jeff Cirillo and Scott Karl. The Devil Rays got Vinny Castilla (that was a winning pickup), the Brewers got Jamey Wright, former Oriole Jimmy Haynes and Henry Blanco, and the A's got Justin Miller.

Ledesma now owns a small autobody shop in his hometown of Union City, California. I'm lying - I have no idea what Aaron Ledesma is doing now.

John Wasdin

As far as consistently crappy pitchers go, Wasdin is one of the cream of the crop in recent times. He's also the only guy on this list that spent time with both the O's and Rockies in the same season, which was 2001. He stunk with Colorado and came to Baltimore, where he stunk a bit less but still wasn't very good. Wasdin was the 25th pick of the 1993 draft, taken by Oakland.

He has been involved in three trades in his career. The first, in 1997, he was traded by Oakland with cash money to get Jose Canseco back home in green and gold. In 2000, the Red Sox dealt him to Colorado with Jeff Taglienti, Jeff Frye and Brian Rose for Arrojo, Rich Croushore, Mike Lansing and more cash money. In 2001, he was traded by the O's to Philly for Chris Brock, a similarly awful pitcher.

Wasdin is currently a Ranger despite his awful performance for them in 2004. With a career 5.33 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, it is a wonder he has lasted in the majors this long. He also pitched in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants in 2002. His Japanese career was 10 games (seven starts) with a 4.54 ERA and a 1-4 record.

Sal Fasano

We all know Babe Fasano since he's currently contributing to the very Baltimore Orioles team that is in first by God place. Fasano's Colorado career was a scant 25 games in 2001, and he hit three homers. Fasano also spent time that year with the A's and Royals.

In March 2000, the A's bought Fasano from Kansas City. In May 2001, Kansas City bought him back. A month later, he was traded with Mac Suzuki to Colorado for Brent Mayne. Fasano has become one of my favorite Orioles this season, if only because he possesses the ability to sit all the way down on his ass when he's catching, and he also seems to go out of his way to keep Dan Cabrera's head in the game. Plus, the homers. Who doesn't love homers?

After stopping in Colorado, he wound up with the Brewers, though he never played a major league game for them, and was then traded to Anaheim in 2002. He played two games with one at-bat (a strikeout), and was out of the majors until this season. I love some Sal Fasano. Big up, big guy.

Jack Cust

The Amazing Jack Cust was going to swat homers at a ridiculous rate when he was a Rockies "prospect." Boy, was he going to do some damage. Everyone knew he couldn't field. What I'd never heard is he couldn't run. Like, he actually could not run without falling down.

Cust's Colorado career was a dignified 35 games in 2002, when he swatted one homer and walked 12 times, striking out 32 times in 65 at-bats. Everyone knew the man would K, but I don't think his power ever got there to make up for it. He hit four homers in 2003 after ending up with Baltimore (something I was excited about, I won't lie), but of course he could not run. Actually he was hitting pretty well for us over his 73 at-bats. But I just don't think it's meant to be with Jack Cust. He's still only 26, but he has completely fallen off the radar. Kind of like when he tried to run, he'd fall down. Man, I'm not letting him live that down.

Cust was traded from Colorado to Baltimore for the next guy.

Chris Richard

Richard almost became a decent platoon player. Couldn't hit lefties for beans but he was a bright spot of the 2000 and 2001 Orioles, coming over from St. Louis in a Mike Timlin deal in 2000 and promptly slugging .563 over 199 at-bats with 13 homers. The next year, in 483 at-bats, he hit 15 homers. Sounds familar. Sounds like...Gibbons.

But, to be fair, Richard blew out his arm and has never really come back from it. He was out most of 2002, sent to the Rockies, and played in 19 games. That's the last we've really seen of Chris Richard.

Richard had something in common with Jim Palmer, actually: pancakes. Palmer ate pancakes every day he pitched, and Richard once said, "I pretty much eat pancakes everyday." Richard didn't quite make the Hall of Fame like Palmer did, but he did go all the way to the majors, so if you have a son who's a ballplayer, load 'em up on pancakes I guess.

Charles Johnson

Without any question the best player to play for these two teams, and that's saying something because CJ is an overrated player. Johnson was drafted in the first round (28th pick) by Florida in 1992, and spent four-plus seasons there before going to the Dodgers in the enormous Mike Piazza deal as part of the Marlins firesale.

Johnson then was traded with Roger Cedeno to the Mets for Todd Hundley and the immortal Arnold Gooch, then as part of that deal, was sent to Baltimore for Armando Benitez. And I know a lot of O's fans don't have fond Benitez memories, but we sure could've used that guy after he was gone. Johnson was pretty decent in 1999 for the O's, and was actually playing some of the best ball of his career in 2000 before he was traded with Harold Baines to the White Sox for that wonderful package of Brook Fordyce, Jason Lakman, Juan Figueroa and Miguel Felix. The latter three would never see the light of major league baseball's day.

He returned to Florida for two seasons and then wound up in Colorado for two more, where the thin mountain air helped extend his career. Johnson had a bit of a messy divorce from the Rockies because he was making far too much money, and passed through the Red Sox system before becoming a Devil Ray. He was recently released.

Steve Reed

Pass.

Travis Driskill

Remember 2002? We were really bad. Driskill was sort of a bright spot, which is outrageous because he was not very good. Driskill's '02 saw him post an 8-8 record with a 4.95 ERA and 88 ERA+. He gave up 21 homers in 132 2/3 IP.

Driskill went to Texas Tech and was a fourth round pick of the Indians in 1993. He was sold to the Yakult Swallows of Japan in 1998, but returned to the States and Cleveland later that same year. He passed through Houston's system before winding up with the O's. He didn't make his major league debut until that 2002 season. Driskill remained an Oriole for part of the 2003 season, pitching out of the pen and poorly.

He threw in five games for the Rockies last year, giving up 13 hits in 8 1/3 innings with a 6.48 ERA. He didn't give up any homers, though, which was unquestionably an improvement. I have no clue what he's doing now.

I remember thinking Driskill had a lot in common with Jason Simontacchi, very early late-bloomer kind of success with absolutely nothing to actually back it up. Not to be egotistical, but I think I was right.

Rene Gonzales

This one is thanks to a good friend of mine who knows all about Rene Gonzales, as I had actually forgotten the world's most utility of all infielders.

Number 88 spent four glorious years with the O's, including the horror of '88 and the amazing bounce-back of '89, after coming up with the Expos. He moved on to play for Toronto for a year, California for two, Cleveland for one, back to California, over to Texas, and then two games (.500/.500/.500) with the Colorado Rockies at age 36 in 1997, his final two games in the majors.

Sometimes things don't add up, and one of them is how Gonzo got to Baltimore. In June of 1986, the Orioles traded Dennis Martinez and a player to be named later to Montreal for a player to be named later. The Orioles sent John Stefero to complete their end; the Expos sent Rene Gonzales.

Rene Gonzales for El Presidente.

So there you have it. A ridiculous and overall useless history of players that have been both Orioles and Rockies. I am now exactly as excited for this series as I was before I did this. Nonetheless, it would be nice to just beat them three times and send them back to their crazy go nuts home run planet out there in the frontier.