Yesterday, Rob Neyer linked to Matt Waters' account of the All-Aughts Team. Other than the points Neyer makes regarding the starting pitchers and relievers, I really have no quibbles with the list. Thus, to spice things up, let's do one for the worst decade in Orioles history! It quickly becomes apparent why this is the worst decade in Orioles history.
CA: Ramon Hernandez - .264/.328/.427 from 2006 to 2008. What, you prefer Brook Fordyce? A case can be made for Javy Lopez (.293/.343/.468 thanks to a great 2004), but since he was only a full-time catcher for two seasons, let's just move on to next decade, shall we?
1B: Jeff Conine - After joining the Orioles in 1999, Conine hit .287/.341/.442 across six seasons and two Orioles stints. He saw time at 1B, LF, RF, 3B and DH, and was very much a fan favorite.
2B: Brian Roberts - A career .284/.356/.418 hitter, Roberts has spent his entire career with the Orioles (2001-2009) and made two All-Star teams. Roberts also wins the Player of the Decade Award.
SS: Miguel Tejada - After three stellar offensive seasons, the Orioles relationship with their highly paid shortstop soured thanks to attitude, age, declining defensive abilities and injuries. He batted .311/.362/.501 in his four Oriole seasons, making three All-Star teams.
3B: Melvin Mora - The only player to play for the club in every season this decade, Mora has batted .281/.357/.443 over 10 seasons with the club and earned two All-Star berths. After a slow start to his career, Mora came into his own in 2003 and enjoyed an excellent three season peak from age 31 to 33. Unfortunately, the Orioles chose the end of that stretch to sign him to a 3-year, $25 million contract extension that covered his inevitable decline.
LF: Larry Bigbie - I know. Here is the list of Orioles everyday left fielders this decade: B.J. Surhoff (2000), Brady Anderson (2001), Melvin Mora (2002), Larry Bigbie (2003-2005), Jeff Conine (2006), Jay Payton (2007), Luke Scott (2008), and Felix Pie (2009). Bigbie wins for sheer "longevity", and he did hit .271/.335/.406 in 352 career games, including a combined .289/.350/.438 line in 2003 and 2004.
CF: Luis Matos - As bad as the choices are in left field, center field is worse (Anderson, Mora, Chris Singleton, Corey Patterson, Adam Jones). Matos posted a .256/.313/.375 line over seven seasons, including a pair of sub-60 OPS+ performances in 2004 and 2006. I'm tempted to give this to Adam Jones on the strength of his .344/.400/.608 line to start 2009.
RF: Nick Markakis - Thank goodness Markakis established himself as a budding star, or Jay Gibbons would have rounded out the worst All-Decade outfield of all-time (also known as the Orioles 2003 and 2004 outfield, which I proudly proclaimed as "promising" when I worked for the club that season. Somehow, I didn't parlay that stint into a full-time baseball operations position). Markakis struggled through April and May of his rookie season, but since June 1, 2006, he's batted .305/.371/.490 while playing stellar outfield defense and is due to make an All-Star team any day now. Unfortunately, no one outside of Boston is voting. Vote Nick!
DH: Aubrey Huff - You were expecting Sammy Sosa or David Segui? After joining the club prior to the 2007 season, Huff has batted .288/.346/.494 in his three seasons with the Orioles, including a .304/.360/.552 mark to anchor the O's offense last season.
Pitching: There really isn't much to choose from here. Of all the 116 pitchers that have appeared for the Orioles this decade, exactly 24 have a winning record over the past ten years, plus 13 with a .500 mark. Eliminating everyone with fewer than 10 starts leaves only Erik Bedard (40-34), Willis Roberts (17-15), and Rodrigo Lopez (60-58). Matt Riley (4-4), John Parrish (12-12), Adam Loewen (8-8) and Jeremy Guthrie (21-21) have managed .500 records.
SP: Erik Bedard - Always tantalizing, but frequently injured, Bedard posted a 40-34 record with a 3.83 ERA across 658.0 IP. However, he is a leading candidate to make the 2010s list thanks to returning Adam Jones and Chris Tillman from the Mariners.
SP: Rodrigo Lopez - Across five seasons and 912.2 IP, Rodrigo accumulated a 60-58 mark and 4.72 ERA. In 2002, he finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting and was three times an Opening Day starter.
SP: Sidney Ponson - Sir Sidney compiled 73 wins, 85 losses and a 4.86 ERA in 1,375.1 IP across parts of eight seasons. He looked to have finally put all his talent together in 2003, compiling a 14-6 record and 3.77 ERA before a trade to the Giants. After resigning with the team that offseason, his lifestyle caught up with him; he was arrested three times in nine months for a series of alocohol related incidents and the team released him in September 2005.
SP: Jeremy Guthrie - Guthrie has been the club's de facto ace for the past three seasons, compiling a 21-21 record and 3.85 ERA in 67 starts for the Orioles.
SP: Daniel Cabrera - Cabrera burst on the scene in 2004, tossing 6.0 scoreless innings in his debut, a 1-0 win over the White Sox. Ominously, he walked as many as he struck out in that initial start, and he finished in the top 3 in the AL in walks in each of his five seasons, twice leading the league. His good starts--most notably a one-hit shut out of the Yankees in his final start of 2006--never quite happened frequently enough. He ended his Orioles career 48-59 with a 5.05 ERA.
RP: B.J. Ryan - Ryan posted two of the better Orioles relief seasons in club history his final two years with the club. As a set-up man in 2004, Ryan made 76 appearances, notched a 2.28 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 87.0 IP and struck out a whopping 122 batters. In 2005, he took over the closer role and picked up 36 saves, striking out 100 in 70.1 IP with a 2.43 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
RP: Jorge Julio - During a late-2003 Orioles vs. Mariners match-up, Julio faced off with John Olerud in the bottom of the 9th. As my friend, Mark, commented sarcastically, "This is the best hitter facing off with the best pitcher. This is why we came to the game." Julio picked up the save that day, one of 83 in his Orioles career, but he's known far more for his 4.20 ERA and 1.40 WHIP and thus his tendency to live on the edge.
RP: Buddy Groom - There are many comparable choices for this last slot, but Groom symbolizes much about my relationship with the Orioles: he was on the team (and pretty terrible) in 2003, drove fans crazy, was repeatedly rumored as trade bait, and averaged less than an inning per outing. He also has a winning record! From 2000 to 2004, Groom served as the lefty specialist for the O's, compiling a 15-13 record in 330 appearances and 285.1 IP. His ERA (3.91) and WHIP (1.29) weren't too shabby--as far as Orioles relievers go--either.
Manager: Well, Lee Mazzilli posted the best record (129-140, .480) and led the club to its only 3rd place finish, Mike Hargrove (275-372, .425) had the longest tenure, Sam Perlozzo (122-164, .427) took over and was fired in midseason, and Dave Trembley (132-174, .431) is currently the manager. I guess we'll go with Mazzilli, which is shocking.
This team isn't that terrible on offense (the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Tool shows them scoring 5.25 runs/game), but considering that it's an All-Decade team, it shouldn't be. Unfortunately, there's not much to suggest that that even 10 years worth of Orioles pitching could make the team much more than a .500 ballclub. Now that we're all sufficiently depressed, I have two words for you: Matt. Wieters. Feel better now?