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Random Oriole: Jesse Orosco

An unforgettable role player. From 1992-2003, Orosco pretty much defined LOOGY. Of course, his career started in 1979.

Orosco was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 1978 draft, then promptly traded to the Mets in February 1979 along with Greg Field for a 36-year old Jerry Koosman (better known as the guy who shared Nolan Ryan's rookie card, but a damn fine pitcher in his own right).

Koosman won 20 games for the Twins in '79 with an ERA+ of 130, showing he wasn't quite finished. ERA+-wise, that was Koosman's third best season, after 1968 and 1969. Koosman would pitch through 1985, when he was 42, and finish with a career 3.36 ERA (110 ERA+) and 222 wins, plus 2,556 strikeouts, which is 25th all-time.

Since the Twins got two pretty good years out of Koosman before sending him to the White Sox, it would likely reason that they would have won the deal for Orosco and a guy that never made the majors.

But unfortunately for Minnesota, they gave up what would become one of the best relievers in the game from 1982-1986. Orosco came up in '79 and was back again in '81, but in '82 he stuck, posting a 2.72 ERA in 54 appearances (109 1/3 IP). In 1983, he won 13 games in relief to go along with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA, his best season ever. That year, Orosco finished third in NL Cy Young voting and 17th in the NL MVP balloting. He was an All-Star in both 1983 and 1984.

In '86, of course, he won the World Series with the Mets, earning two saves against the Red Sox and pitching 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out six.

Orosco had his worst season in 1987, and was involved in a big three-team trade that involved Bob Welch and a young Kevin Tapani, among others, between the Mets, Dodgers and Oakland, landing in Los Angeles.

Orosco spent just one season with the Dodgers, but it was a good one and proved he wasn't washed up, posting a 2.72 ERA and nine saves, winning a second championship in the famous Kirk Gibson Series.

After his year with the Dodgers, Orosco signed with Cleveland to act as a lefty setup man, having his best year since '83 with a 2.08 ERA and 79 strikeouts. His next two seasons in Cleveland were a bit more on the mediocre side, and he spent three years with Milwaukee afterward.

Finally, at age 37, Orosco had another bad year. Who would have blamed anyone for writing him off?

Baltimore inked Orosco to a one-year deal for 1995, and he delivered in the LOOGY role, pitching 65 games (led the league in the shortened season) and struck out 58 in 49 2/3 innings. He came back to Baltimore for four more years, three of them very good (including an exceptional 1997 at age 40 - 2.32 ERA, 189 ERA+), before another bad season in 1999.

Finally, Orosco had to be done. He was 42 years old. He was traded back to the Mets for Chuck McElroy, but the Mets sent him to St. Louis for Super Joe McEwing before the 2000 season started. Orosco was pretty good for the Cardinals. At 44 and 45, he returned to the Dodgers on a couple of one-year deals, and delivered again.

The 2003 Baseball Prospectus wrote about Orosco:

Feel free to set a target age for his retirement. We'll take the over, a bet that looks even sweeter after the Padres signed him to a one-year deal.

Just like they cursed Josh Phelps' development by making him their cover boy in 2003, they cursed Orosco's freewheeling hobo's career. Orosco was dreadful for San Diego, worse for the Yankees, and really bad for the Twins, though it is worth noting the full circle his career took: drafted by the Twins in 1978, he never played a game for them until 2003.

And then it was over. He signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks for 2004, but retired before spring training began. Orosco bowed out quietly after setting the mark for most games pitched (1,252), saving 144 games and putting up a career 3.16 ERA. We may not soon see another Jesse Orosco, but it's possible I suppose. I can't think of anyone off the top of my head that seems reasonable to have another career like his, such an early peak and extended for another 20 years, with mostly good results along the way. The good years far outweighed the bad.