First things first: I love Melvin Mora. I really do. I think his comments toward the end of the season were unnecessary and counter-productive, but Melvin Mora has been plenty necessary and productive as a player, and as one of the team's veterans and leaders, he probably felt he was right to speak up the way he did. And maybe he was. That's not my issue anyway.
The fact is, though, we gave Melvin Mora a contract extension this year, and he rewarded us with a garbage season, his worst since 2001, which was his first full year with the Birds. Melvin's a wonderful guy and has given us a lot of things to cheer for in some dark days, but it's the truth. Melvin stunk this year.
Here are his full Oriole seasons. OPS+ is park-adjusted, and works just like ERA+. 100 is league average.
AB AVG OBP SLG 2B HR RBI OPS+ 01 436 .250 .329 .362 28 7 48 90 02 557 .233 .338 .404 30 19 64 99 03 344 .317 .418 .503 17 15 48 148 04 550 .340 .419 .562 41 27 104 149 05 593 .283 .348 .474 30 27 88 122 06 624 .274 .342 .391 25 16 83 91
So as you can see, that was just plain bad. And this is no fluke, either. In 2001, he was 29. This year, 34 and very, very obviously in the midst of a serious and swift downfall.
Last season, before he got hot toward the end of the year, I brought up the idea to trade Mora. My reasoning was that due to his rather bizarre career pattern, I could see him having a very sudden and very painful fall back to earth. I regretfully appear to have been right about that. I supported the idea to give Melvin the extension because I like Melvin Mora. And while I think it's wonderful to just plain old be a fan and like the players that play well -- and even sometimes the ones that stink because damn, they've got a cool name, or one time they hit a homer that made you jump out of your pants, or whatever the reason may be -- it appears to have been a poor baseball decision.
It's not all doom and gloom. Mike Lowell bounced back to have a fine season with Boston this year. Melvin could very well be back in the swing of things in 2007 and beyond. But part of me really sees him as a huge problem. A .733 OPS is not what you want out of your third baseman. It's like Joe Randa in a mediocre season (I like Randa, too, for what it's worth, but mostly because I think his name is cool). Mora was given that contract because of All-Star play, even though he had a sharp decline from 2003/04 to 2005. It just got worse this year. In '05, he was still a good player. In '06, not so much, and he's one of the reasons the Orioles were so bad this year. They'd have been bad even if Melvin had played like Albert Pujols, but the Orioles were really, really bad. Again. Part of that falls to guys who were supposed to be impact players, and Melvin Mora was one of those guys. Roberts not being the Superman he was for the first half of 2005 didn't help, and the pitching staff certainly didn't, but I don't think it's unfair to say that Melvin Mora deserves a little blame, too.
If you were GM, what would YOU do? The plan, again, is to put some money into this team and try to build a contender. Mora might not be good enough for that, and he certainly wasn't this year. Do you try to upgrade third base and push Mora to the bench, extension and loyalty be damned? Do you just trust or hope that he can get back to at least 2005 form (which is probably best case scenario at his age)? Do you find someone on the cheap that can be there in case you need to bench Melvin during the season? There's no one in the minors ready to play third base, and God knows we don't need to see Chris Gomez out there every day.
Honestly, I hate to bash Mora, but the numbers speak for themselves. He did not contribute this season, at least in the box scores, and truth be told, that's where it really counts. You can learn to love any player that helps your team win, I think. It's much harder to admit that someone you like isn't getting the job done.
So, really, what do you do?