It once seemed unthinkable that Markakis could ever play elsewhere. Wasn't he a favorite of Peter Angelos and Buck Showalter? Surely they would do anything to keep him. A month ago the O's and Markakis were reportedly talking about a four-year deal, so of course it would get done.
Yet something changed, and a few days ago the Baltimore Sun reported that there was a less than 50-50 chance that Markakis would come back. Sure enough, now he is gone. The Sun also said that there were some second thoughts in the organization about whether they should offer him a fourth year.
Markakis is occasionally maligned in these parts (OK, mostly by me) for not living up to what we once hoped he might be, but now that the moment of his departure is finally here, I'm sad. He could have been the next career-long or near-career-long Oriole, maybe not appreciated by the rest of baseball, but always loved here. There's no shortage of those kinds of players from the great Orioles teams of the past. I really thought Markakis would be one from the O's of the 00s and 10s.
As it is, only nine players have ever played more games for the Orioles than Markakis. It'll be a couple seasons more before Adam Jones passes him on that list.
Barring a late-career return, Markakis passes into the O's record books with a final batting line of .290/.358/.435 over nine seasons and nearly 6000 plate appearances. He hit 316 doubles and 141 home runs and received one glorious pie in the face the night the Orioles clinched the AL East title. No year was ever as good as that age 24 season in 2008, where he hit .306/.406/.491. Now he is gone and we will probably never see his like again.
I was at Camden Yards for Opening Day 2006, the first game Markakis ever played. He got in as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. I figured I was watching the next great Oriole's major league debut, and you know what? I was. I'll miss him.