3. Jim Palmer, RHP (1965-1984)
1973 American League Cy Young
1975 American League Cy Young
1976 American League Cy Young
All-Star: 1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1978
Gold Glove: 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979
Jim Palmer won 268 games and is unquestionably the greatest pitcher in Orioles history. He won 20 games every year from 1970 through 1978, except for 1974 when he went 7-12 in 26 starts. He was great in his prime, very good overall, and is a Hall of Famer. He was a true staff ace for many, many years. He ate pancakes before his starts. He has done charity work and I think he's probably a good person. In fact I'm almost certain of that.
But I don't like Jim Palmer. I don't think anyone on the planet loves Jim Palmer more than Jim Palmer. I think he's a terrible commentator, I think he's arrogant, I think he's a motormouth, and I just plain am not a fan of Jim Palmer the baseball player or the baseball personality. Like I said, I'm sure he's a fine human being in the larger picture, but I'm just talking about the baseball player/personality. And I am not a Jim Palmer fan. I will not even begin to argue that he's not one of the greats, though. But as good as he was, I'm pretty sure that had I been around for Palmer's career, I'd like him even less.
Some Palmer quotes:
"I hate the cursed Oriole fundamentals... I've been doing them since 1964. I do them in my sleep. I hate spring training."
"Most pitchers are too smart to manage."
"I read where Roger Clemens said (making it to the Hall of Fame) was a goal of his. To me, that's like planning for the ninth inning when you're in the first. I don't know many players who have set out to make the Hall of Fame, and I've played with both Frank and Brooks Robinson. I remember talking to Brooks about it one time, and it was like it hadn't even occured to him. If Brooks Robinson didn't have the right to think about it, who did?"
The last one in particular is the type of thing bothers me about Palmer. If Roger Clemens wanted to make the Hall of Fame from the minute he put on a baseball glove, good for him. He's going to, also. If Brooks Robinson never really thought about it, then great. Brooks Robinson had every right to think about it, which Palmer seems to think is the reason he didn't. It's a difference in personalities, really. Robinson was rather modest, and I think even if Brooks Robinson thought about it every day of his life, he'd have never said he did. Roger Clemens said he thought about it. Jim Palmer took issue over basically nothing at all.
Jim Palmer accused Brady Anderson of using steroids, without proof. Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver had a love/hate relationship, though most of what came out of Palmer was in the form of hate. Weaver and Palmer were destined to not really get along, but Weaver at least gave Palmer credit for the type of player he was. I don't know that Palmer ever gave Weaver any credit for being a great manager.
Yes, Jim Palmer was the best pitcher in Oriole history, though if Mike Mussina had stayed we might have a different story, but then again maybe not. Yes he won a ton of games, helped the Orioles immensely in the best run in franchise history, and he was a smart pitcher. I don't even care that he posed in underpants, which gained him his biggest fame.
Jim Palmer's commentary these days is at times simply honest and true, and at times a backhanded slap to the team he's calling the games for. He is rarely complimentary to the team's play, which of course, let's be fair, it rarely deserves to be complimented these days. But Palmer seems to almost refuse to say a nice word about the Orioles when they're on the field.
Since I've made more than clear that I am not a Palmer fan, let's end this with some quotes that are in his favor, and he deserves that. I've said it at least two or three times so far: The man could pitch.
"Palmer is the greatest 'situation' pitcher I've ever seen. He makes them beat him on a single and one run at a time. Most of the homers he gives up are solos because he only works to their power when the bases are empty." - Ray Miller
"Jim knows how to rise to the occasion, plus Jim Palmer will be in the Hall of Fame, and it's hard to go wrong when you pitch a Hall of Famer." - Earl Weaver
"Jim Palmer was the ultimate pretty-boy athlete. Unnaturally handsome with clear blue eyes and a square, smiling face, he was also highly intelligent and articulate." - Bill James
Aw, who am I kidding? Let's end with these two.
"In his articulate way he whined about the Cy Young voting every time he didn't win it, feuded with his manager, and pulled a face whenever teammates misplayed a ball behind him. He was sort of the exact opposite of Don Zimmer, who is ugly as boiled sin but solid, authentic, tough, and lovable." - Bill James
"The Chinese tell time by 'The Year of the Horse' or 'The Year of the Dragon.' I tell time by 'The Year of the Back' and 'The Year of the Elbow.' This year it's 'The Year of the Ulnar Nerve.' Someone once asked me if I had any physical incapacities of my own. 'Sure I do,' I said. 'One big one - Jim Palmer.'" - Earl Weaver
Palmer was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 and holds just about every important Orioles pitching record. The gap between Palmer and the No. 2 man (Dave McNally) in wins is huge, 268-181. He is behind Mussina in winning percentage (but not by nearly enough for it to make a difference in the 1900 innings Palmer has on him) and ERA+ (same thing as the winning percentage).
We've had a little Palmer discussion already. No, I don't think Palmer is anywhere near as good as Frank Robinson, and I'd put him behind Ripken and Murray, too. But Palmer was damn good, there's no arguing that. I'd put him behind those three in terms of their careers as players, but that's also it as far as players who played for the Orioles.