clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Friday Bird Droppings: Where great MLB careers have met their end in Baltimore

New, 796 comments

Will Felix Hernandez’s stint with the Orioles go the way of Vladimir Guerrero’s and Sammy Sosa’s before him?

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

It’s been a couple days since the Orioles announced a slew of minor league signings, and there’s one that’s got me particularly excited. That’s right, I’m a Malquin Canelo fanatic!

...I kid, of course. No offense to Mr. Canelo. But I’m referring to six-time All-Star Felix Hernandez, the former Mariners phenom who debuted at 19 years old and served as the club’s dazzling ace for over a decade, winning the Cy Young in 2010 and finishing in the top 10 of the voting five other times. The man was beloved in Seattle, where at every home start M’s fans packed the King’s Court at Safeco Field, adorned in yellow and maniacally waving K signs for every strikeout.

It’ll feel weird to see a player so inherently connected with another team suit up in a Orioles uniform, and it could end up being a brief stint, if Hernandez’s 5.82 ERA from his last two seasons is any indication of his current effectiveness. But it won’t be the first time a superstar major leaguer came to Baltimore to wind down the dying days of his career.

In the last 20 years alone, we’ve seen Hall of Famers and near-Hall of Famers play out the string in a brief, ineffective stint with the Birds. Vladimir Guerrero might be the most prominent example, signing with the Orioles in 2011, seven years after he’d snubbed them in free agency to sign with the Angels. Guerrero had been a force of nature in that span, winning AL MVP in 2004 and bashing over 200 home runs, but by the time he came to the Orioles he was broken down, incapable of playing the field, and a shell of his former self offensively, hitting just 13 home runs in 145 games to end his MLB career.

Going back further, few O’s fans could forget — much as they’d like to — the ill-fated Sammy Sosa experiment in 2005. The one-time Cubs slugger, who’d amazed the baseball world (along with Mark McGwire) with his pursuit of the single-season home run record in 1998, fell out of favor in Chicago after an embarrassing corked-bat incident and his rumored connections to PED use. Still, he’d hit 35 or more homers for 10 consecutive years when the O’s acquired him. In one season with Baltimore, he knocked just 14, along with a pitiful .221/.295./376 batting line, and his career was basically over.

There are more examples. Derrek Lee was a prolific hitter before he came to the Orioles in 2011; then he struggled to a .706 OPS and didn’t last the season in Baltimore. Miguel Tejada, who’d had one excellent stint with the Orioles from 2004-07, returned in 2010 and scuffled mightily, then came back yet again in 2012 and never got out of Triple-A. Hall of Famer Tim Raines even donned an O’s uniform for a grand total of four games in 2001, acquired in a late-season trade so he could play alongside his son, Tim Raines Jr. And Jim Thome finished his 22-year, Hall of Fame career with 28 games for the Orioles in 2012. His numbers were mediocre, but he was a delightful guy and veteran presence for a postseason-bound club, so I’m not going to call that one a failure.

On the pitching side, there’s two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, who tried to revive his career with the Orioles in 2014 but tore his Achilles while on a rehab assignment, never to pitch again. And former Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis inked a minor league deal in 2012 and went 0-3 with an 11.37 ERA in four games for Triple-A Norfolk before retiring.

So if history is any guide, Felix Hernandez is more likely to end his career with the Orioles — probably in ineffective fashion — rather than enjoy a miraculous renaissance in the black and orange. But hey, maybe he’ll buck the odds. That’s why they play the games, right?

Links

Félix Hernández brings quite a resume to Baltimore - Steve Melewski
If you’re wondering why King Felix is much more exciting than the typical minor league signing, Melewski runs down the righty’s sterling resume. Here’s hoping Hernandez pitches well enough that the King’s Court will make its grand return, this time at Camden Yards.

Mariners legend Félix Hernández signs with the Baltimore Orioles - Lookout Landing
Kate Preusser of our fellow SB Nation site Lookout Landing points out the possible pitfalls in the Hernandez signing — for instance, his tenuous Hall of Fame candidacy could be all but destroyed if he gets lit up as an Oriole. Personally I think he’s already on the outside looking in, but yeah, a rough stint in Baltimore could remove all doubt.

5 of Weaver’s best tirades as O’s manager - Orioles.com
I know it was just a parody radio-show outtake, but I feel like “Terry Crowley is lucky he’s in f---ing baseball, for Christ’s sake!” should have made this list.

Alex Cobb Q&A: Leaving the O's and unfulfilled expectations – The Athletic
His tenure in Baltimore may have been forgettable, but Alex Cobb is a class act, as he proves in this thoughtful interview with Dan Connolly. Hopefully Cobb will get to enjoy the kind of success with the Angels that he never did here.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! And happy birthday to my favorite person in the world — or my favorite grown-up, at least — my wonderful wife and Camden Chat OG, Stacey! If there had to be a global pandemic that confined everyone to their homes for months on end, I’m very lucky I’ve gotten to spend it with her.

Three former Orioles were born on this day, including Hall of Fame second baseman and 45th greatest Oriole of all time Roberto Alomar (53) and righty relievers Chris Brock (51) and Ryan Webb (35).

Other famous folks with Feb. 5 birthdays include recently passed baseball legend Hank Aaron, who would have turned 87; soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo (36) and Neymar (29); actresses Laura Linney (57) and Barbara Hershey (73); former Saturday Night Live cast members Chris Parnell (54) and Tim Meadows (60); and Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach (79).

The O’s have made some minor moves on this day in history, signing a variety of low-level free agents like Jesus Sucre, Mark Parent, and Calvin Maduro. Perhaps the two most successful Feb. 5 signings were Mark McLemore, who was a jack-of-all-trades off the O’s bench for three years, and platoon outfielder Jim Dwyer, who made contributions to the Birds through most of the 1980s.