With Opening Day just over a week away, let’s look at the All-Time Opening Day lineup for the Baltimore Orioles.
In just 10 days, the Baltimore Orioles will cross the white lines at Camden Yards for their Opening Day contest against the Minnesota Twins. Roster battles still need to be decided before Buck Showalter sets his starting lineup, and the team hasn’t named an Opening Day starter yet. One position not for grabs is center field. Adam Jones is set to make his 11th straight Opening Day start for the Orioles, the longest streak on the current Orioles’ roster.
As we wait for the official word on the 2018 roster, let’s take a look at the All-Time Baltimore Orioles Opening Day lineup, by compiling the former Orioles who have made the most Opening Day starts at each position for the ‘Birds since 1954. (Projected 2018 Opening Day starter in italics)
Catcher- Rick Dempsey- 10 starts
Before he became a member of the Orioles’ broadcast team, Rick Dempsey played 12 seasons in the orange and black. He was named the MVP of the 1983 World Series, the defining moment of his Orioles’ career. Dempsey is just one of six catchers to win the honor. Known as a defensive gem, he led the league in caught-stealing percentage, gunning down 53.4% and 57% of runners in 1976 and 1977.
2018 starter- Caleb Joseph (2)
1st Base- Eddie Murray- 10 starts
Murray, an MLB Hall of Famer, amassed 504 career home runs (343 with the Orioles). He was the 1977 Rookie of the Year, a three-time Gold Glove award winner, and was a member of the 1983 World Series team. Murray became the third player all-time (behind Hank Aaron and Willie Mays) to hit 500 HR and accumulate 3,000 hits. No one else in Baltimore history will ever wear the number 33 again as the Orioles retired his number, enshrined him into their Hall of Fame, and immortalized him with a statue outside the ballpark. Murray isn’t just one of the greatest first basemen to ever play in Baltimore, he’s one of the best to ever do it, period.
2018 starter- Chris Davis (6)
2nd Base- Brian Roberts (9)
Despite playing his final season with the New York Yankees, Brian Roberts may be one of the most beloved Orioles of all-time. Over the span of his 13-year career in Baltimore, Roberts hit more than 50 doubles three times, and worked a career K/BB ratio of 791/581, helping him to a .349 career OBP. He stood just 5’9” and overcame open-heart surgery at five years old, but was well known for being one of the scrappiest leadoff hitters in baseball. The Orioles haven’t had a player like Roberts since he left for New York.
2018 starter- Jonathan Schoop (5)
Shortstop- Cal Ripken Jr (14)
The “Iron Man” played 21 seasons, all with the Baltimore Orioles. What can I say that we all don’t already know? His resume doesn’t seem plausible: two-time MVP, World Series champion, Rookie of the Year, 19 All-Star appearances, eight Silver Slugger awards, and an MLB record 2, 632 consecutive games-played streak. The Hall of Famer slugged 431 career home runs and finished with a slash line of .276/.340/.447/.788. He had six additional Opening Day starts at third base, giving him 20 for his career. Cal Ripken will forever be known as one of the greatest baseball players of all time and a favorite among Orioles’ fans.
2018 starter- Manny Machado (5)
Third Base- Brooks Robinson (20)
Before we were blessed with the poetry of Manny Machado’s defense, the world witnessed Brooks Robinson. Words won’t do the MLB Hall of Famer justice, instead, let’s just admire his glove work and arm.
The 16-time Gold Glove winner experienced two World Series championships (‘66 and ‘70) during his 23-year career.
2018 starter- Tim Beckham (1)
Left Field- Gary Roenicke (6)
A former first-round pick of the Montreal Expos, Roenicke played eight seasons with the Orioles, hitting .250 with 106 home runs in Baltimore. He is best known for splitting time in left field with fellow Orioles Hall of Famer, John Lowenstein, in a platoon situation. Over his 12 year major league career, Roenicke drew 406 free passes while striking out just 428 times. During the 1983 World Series championship season, Roenicke was sat down at the plate only 35 times 366 plate appearances.
2018 starter- Trey Mancini (1)
Center Field- Paul Blair (12)
I’m not sure a flyball ever found its way over the head of the late Paul Blair. He won eight Gold Gloves during his tenure in an Orioles’ uniform and was famous for playing shallow and tracking down balls with unmatched quickness. Blair won two World Series rings with the Orioles before claiming two more as a member of the New York Yankees. His best offensive season came in 1969. Blair posted career highs in home runs (26), doubles (32), slugging (.477), OPS (.804), and runs driven in (76).
2018 starter- Adam Jones (11)
Right Field- Nick Markakis (8)
The departure of Nick Markakis still stings to this day. Markakis, now 34, remains a fixture in the Atlanta Braves lineup. He has appeared in at least 155 games every year of his 12 year career, except for two seasons (147 and 106 games played). Over nine seasons in Camden Yards, Markakis accumulated 1,547 hits (.290 average), 141 home runs, and 316 doubles. While his power has taken a significant dive since joining the Braves, Markakis continues to do what he does best: get on base and mash doubles. I strongly believe there are a lot of Orioles’ fans that will never forgive the front office for not re-signing him, and rightfully so.
2018 starter- Colby Rasmus (1)
DH- Harold Baines (4)
Baines played 22 years in pro baseball, seven of those for the Orioles (across three different stints). Though he is best known for his time with the Chicago White Sox, Baines put up some of his best offensive numbers with the Orioles. He hit a career .301 with 99 doubles, 107 home runs, and struck out just three more times than he walked (278-275). Despite not making the Hall of Fame, Baines will forever be known as one of the greatest designated hitters of all time. Only Edgar Martinez has more home runs at the position, and only David Ortiz has more hits.
2018 starter- Anthony Santander (1)
Starting Pitcher- Jim Palmer and Mike Mussina (6)
When I was growing up, I wanted to pitch just like Mike Mussina (however, it was usually more like Ubaldo Jimenez). Mussina pitched for 10 seasons in an Orioles uniform, compiling a record of 147-81 with a 3.53 ERA. The franchise has not had a starting pitcher that comes close to Mussina since he left for New York after the 2000 season. He won 270 games over the course of his entire career, and was just as well known for his defense. He won seven Gold Glove awards at his position. As an Orioles, Mussina failed to reach the 200 IP mark only twice.
Before becoming the Orioles “tell it like it is” color commentator on MASN, Jim Palmer was the best pitcher the organization has ever and will ever see. Palmer recorded more wins than any other pitcher during the 1970s (186) and won a Baltimore-record 268 contests. Another Orioles-lifer, Palmer won three World Series titles, three Cy Young awards, and lead the American League in wins and ERA twice. On August 13, 1969, Palmer pitched a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. He is the only pitcher in MLB history to win a World Series game in three different decades.
2018 Opening Day starter- TBD (Prediction post will be up on Thursday)