I've encountered a number of articles around the web regarding the top 10 best things about this decade, be it movies, baseball players, or one-hit wonders. It's fair to say that I'm not above stealing someone else's idea, but given the that Orioles have spent the last decade in the toilet, it seems more appropriate to name the worst players of the decade, not the best. If there is one thing this Orioles fan likes to do, it's revel in failure. But if you're looking for a silver lining to the All-Awfuls, here it is: None of them came from the 2009 team and none of them will be on the team in 2010.
Catcher: Brook Fordyce
The candidates: Charles Johnson (2000), Brook Fordyce (2000-2003), Geronimo Gil (2002), Javy Lopez (2004-2006), Ramon Hernandez (2006-2008), Matt Wieters (2009)
Fordyce came to the Orioles in 2000, traded from the White Sox along with a handful of scrubs for Charles Johnson and Harold Baines. In 312 games from 2000-2003, Fordyce hit .257/.306/.379 (OPS+ 81). 2001 was especially awful for Fordyce as he hit just .209/.268/.322 in 95 games. Whatever the Orioles had in mind for Fordyce. it didn't work out. He was a complete failure as both offensively and defensively as he only managed to catch 58 base stealers out of 307 (18.8%) as an Oriole.
First Base: Rafael Palmeiro
The candidates: Will Clark (2000), Jeff Conine (2000-2003), Rafael Palmeiro (2004-2005), Kevin Millar (2006-2008), Aubrey Huff (2007-2009)
The numbers on the field may not back this up, but the only possible answer is Rafael Palmeiro. His positive steroid test in 2005, the subsequent denials and throwing of a fellow player under the bus, the ear plugs to drown out the boos, and his quiet departure from the team all help make the decision easy. Straight numbers-wise, the award probably goes to Aubrey Huff. He wasn't good in 2009 and league average in 2007 while splitting time at first with Kevin Millar. Although honestly, none of them was great shakes, so Palmeiro wins for emotional abuse of the fans.
Second Base: Jerry Hairston
The candidates: Delino DeShields (2000), Jerry Hairston (2001-2004), Brian Roberts (2003-2009)
This award has to go to Jerry Hairston. We all know the value of Brian Roberts, and Delino DeShields had a very solid 2000 at 2B. Hairston could never quite take advantage of his chances. He went from getting the majority of the playing time at 2B in 2001 and 2002 to losing time to Brian Roberts to being used as a utility man to being traded for Sammy Sosa. Overall he played 474 games for the Orioles in this decade with an OPS+ of 89.
Third Base: Cal Ripken
Candidates: Cal Ripken (2000-2001), Tony Batista (2002-2003), Melvin Mora (2004-2009)
Ok so here's the thing. Both Cal Ripken and Tony Batista were pretty lousy in their two year spans. I want to give the Awful Award to Tony Batista, I really do. But I don't think that I can. Cal Ripken was straight up bad in 2000 and 2001. As bad as Batista was, Cal was worse. From 2000-2001, he hit .246/.290/.347 with 29 HR and 32 2B. Batista hit .239/.290/.425 with 57 HR and 56 2B. The power is really the only difference, but it's enough to give Cal the edge in the awards voting. Argue with me if you like, but know that I feel bad enough about it already.
Shortstop: The Five Headed Monster
Candidates: Mike Bordick (2000-2002), Deivi Cruz (2003), Miguel Tejada (2004-2007), Brandon Fahey/Juan Castro/Alex Cintron/Luis Hernandez/Freddie Bynum (2008), Cesar Izturis (2009)
Deivi Cruz had this award all but locked up until 2008 rolled around. In 152 games in 2003 he hit a lousy .250/.269/.378 with 14 HR and 13 BB, a dark spot at SS between Bordick and Tejada. But after the trade of Tejada, the Five Headed Monster set out to prove that no matter how bad one player can play a position, five guys can play even worse. In 2008 they hit a combined .217/.257/.277 with 3 HR and 18 2B. Well done, guys, you put together one of the worse offensive seasons at SS in history.
Outfield: Jay Payton, Luis Matos, and Sammy Sosa
Candidates: Brady Anderson (2000-2001), Jeff Conine (2000-2003, 2006), B.J. Surhoff (2000, 2003-2005), Albert Belle (2000), Chris Richard (2000), Melvin Mora (2001-2003), Chris Singleton (2002), Gary Matthews Jr. (2002-2003), Jay Gibbons (2001-2007), Luis Matos (2001-2006), Larry Bigbie (2001-2005), David Newhan (2004-2006), Sammy Sosa (2005), Nick Markakis (2006-2009), Corey Patterson (2006-2007), Jay Payton (2007-2008), Adam Jones (2008-2009), Luke Scott (2008-2009), Nolan Reimold (2009), Felix Pie (2009)
The Orioles outfield has pretty much been a hot mess this entire decade. If I ever get the urge in 2010 to complain about Reimold, Jones, Markakis, or Pie, someone please direct me to this list. I mean, look at some of those names. Minus the oldest names and the newest names, it's basically a list of players I can't stand. I immediately wanted to crown Jay Gibbons the winner , but honestly he wasn't the worst, not by a long shot. That honor goes to the other Jay, Jay Payton. From 2007-2008, Jay Payton played in 258 games for the Orioles in the outfield, second only to Nick Markakis' 318 games. Over the two year span he hit .250/.292/.363 with an OPS+ of 72. That combined with his chronic whining and the time he picked a fight with Melvin Mora in the dugout give him the title of worst Oriole outfielder of the 2000s. Congrats, Jay Pay!
Much like his BFF Cal, Brady Anderson's last two years as an Oriole were nothing be proud of. Unlike Cal, there have been enough lousy outfielders since then that Brady escaped this list. Luis Matos and Sammy Sosa, come on down! From 2000-2006 the injury prone Matos played in 494 games for the Orioles with a robust line of .256/.313/.375. One decent season afforded him 2.5 more years of horridness before the Orioles finally got rid of him. Sosa only spent one year (and not even really that) as an Oriole, but it was one of the more pathetic seasons I can recall. Anyone wondering why he was obtained for the bargain price of Jerry Hairston and Mike Fontenot found out why after seeing him play. He missed a number of games due to injury, the games he played were awful, and by all accounts he stirred up quite a bit of strife in the clubhouse with Miguel Tejada. Sosa was MIA for about the last month of the season, and one of my favorite stories from the Baltimore Sun of the whole year was about how the Orioles couldn't find Sammy Sosa.
Hell of a lineup. We Orioles fans have had it rough this decade. I think we're finally due for some happiness, don't you?
(Note: I tried to include pitching in this but it was just too daunting of a task. Perhaps some other time.)