In today's Bird Droppings, zknower pointed out the funny/sad fact that Kevin Millwood is considered, by the Wall Street Journal anyway, as a "key loss" for the Orioles this off-season. It got me wondering when exactly the Orioles last had what many of us would consider a key loss on this team. Obviously there haven't been many stars playing for the team over the past decade or so, but even bad teams have one or two good players now and then. It seems to me, however, that every off-season when a player leaves the Orioles, all I have to say is good riddance. For example, here are the players who made an appearance for the Orioles in 2010 who are no longer on the team or in the minor league system: Matt Albers, David Hernandez, Julio Lugo, Frank Mata, Cla Meredith, Kam Mickolio, Kevin Millwood, Lou Montanez, Scott Moore, Will Ohman, Corey Patterson, Miguel Tejada, Justin Turner, and Ty Wigginton. When you look at that pathetic list, it makes some sense that WSJ chose Millwood.
So who was the last good player to leave the Orioles? And I mean good, not serviceable. The last player that I was sad to see leave because I knew it made the team worse, and in a big way. I think the last two good players to leave the Orioles have to be Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard, both traded in the off-season of 2007. But even then, it didn't really upset me and it didn't really affect the team not to have them around. Tejada was past his prime, although he put up a few decent seasons with the Astros before coming back to Baltimore and stinking up the joint. And while there is no denying Bedard's talent, his injuries have limited him to just thirty starts over the past three seasons, none in 2010. Besides that, players leaving in trades aren't exactly what I have in mind, because in addition to whatever pieces come back to the team, you also don't feel the sting of rejection when someone is traded.
Without looking up any names or numbers, the name I thought of as the last good player to leave the Orioles was Mike Mussina (I know that Cal Ripken was here after Mussina but retiring at the logical end of a Hall of Fame career certainly doesn't count). Mussina last pitched for the Orioles in 2000. Has it really been a solid decade since a player of consequence left the Orioles of his own accord? Has it really been that long since there has been someone good enough to leave? Surely my mind is playing tricks on me, and a glance through the Orioles page at Baseball Reference will remind me of someone I'm forgetting, right?
Wrong. There isn't anyone. Take a look for yourself, I can't find one player who, if he had stayed with the Orioles, would have made a substantial difference to this team. I suppose someone could make the argument for Aubrey Huff, but he was a bad player with the Orioles and I certainly wasn't sorry to see him leave. Other than that, not one name jumps out at me.
What a shame. What horrible baseball we've been watching.
Along the same topic, I wonder who will be the next good Oriole to leave the team as a free agent? Is he even on the team right now? Brian Roberts is already old enough that by the time he leaves it won't matter. Nick Markakis is signed for four more years, and while he seems to enjoy Baltimore, if he puts up good numbers and the Orioles don't improve, he'd be a very attractive thirty year-old free agent. Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz will both be free agents in 2016. My money is on at least one of them becoming a good major league baseball player, but that's still six seasons away and hard to speculate on. But it's entirely possible that sixteen years of baseball could pass between the time the Orioles graduated a true impact player to free agency (and not because they've locked up a bunch of talent, either).