WAR & The Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame
Mike Bordick learned last week that he would be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame this summer. “I don’t know what I did to actually deserve that,” Bordick told The Baltimore Sun. “But it’s definitely a great honor.”
My reaction was much like Bordick’s, I must admit. I mean, I knew he was a fan favorite, starting shortstop for the last winning Baltimore club and a solid defender, but the most valuable thing Bordick ever did for the team in my memory was get traded for Melvin Mora. A hot start in 2000 earned him his only career All Star appearance before the trade, but Bordick’s .260/.319/.394 slash line in 739 games with The Birds hardly made him a shoe in. Checking out the previous inductees using the WAR statistic, Bordick earned his honor and some additional respect from me at the same time. Bordick’s glovework resulted in the seventh best total of WAR Runs Fielding in the 57-year history of the modern Orioles, trailing only Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Paul Blair, Bobby Grich and Rick Dempsey. The first handful of names on that list won 38 combined Gold Gloves for Baltimore, with only Dempsey (like Bordick) getting shut out of the honors. When you add in Bordick’s offense, his overall WAR total as an Oriole is 13.1. To put that in perspective, Bordick is the 40th Orioles Hall of Fame member to be selected chiefly for his accomplishments as a player, and his 13.1 WAR figure beats eleven previous inductees, or 27.5%. So he’s hardly a fringe member of the fraternity.
“Who is a fringe member?” you might ask. Well, while 80% of the Orioles HOF members recorded at least 12 WAR in Baltimore uniforms, a bunch of relief pitchers that made it did not. Stu Miller (9.4), Dick Hall (8.7), Tippy Martinez (6.3) and Ed Watt (5.1) all earned World Series rings with The Birds, though, so I can understand their selections. Gene Woodling (8.4) got booed out of town in his first stint with the team, returned to win Most Valuable Oriole honors the second time around, then served as a coach, so okay. Harold Baines (8.5) and Dennis Martinez (8.2) made fringe cases for Cooperstown largely with other teams, but we’re talking about a Maryland native and El Presidente, so I get it. That leaves the lowest WAR total in the Orioles HOF –and it pains me to point this out because I love the Big Bopper. The 2.5 WAR logged by Lee May as an Oriole has been matched or exceeded by 166 players in club history. In other words, guys like Chris Ray and Chris Richard have more of a claim on a spot than big Lee. Oh well, I was 10-years-old when he played his last game for the club, and I prefer to remember his league-leading 109 RBI in 1976 and 123 homers from 1975-1980. (Let’s just forget that May’s homer in Game Four of the 1970 World Series prevented the Orioles from sweeping the Reds.)
Lastly, it’s worth noting that current Orioles Brian Roberts (22.0), Nick Markakis (18.3) and (surprise) Jeremy Guthrie (14.8) look like they’re in after their playing days are over according to WAR. Recent Birds like Melvin Mora (26.9), Miguel Tejada (17.0) and (double surprise) Erik Bedard (13.8) also seem to meet the established standard. That is, unless you look at the omissions.
Here are the guys who should be in: Ben McDonald (13.0) comes in just a shade below Bordick, but may not be able to overcome the perception that he was a disappointment due to Wieters-esque expectations. Gary Roenicke (15.6) and Merv Rettenmund (16.4) did an awful lot of good for some memorable Baltimore clubs and deserve the honor based on who’s already in. In fact, only two other eligible players with over 15.0 WAR for the Orioles have not had the ceremony yet. They would be finger wagging Rafael Palmeiro (24.1) and the guy with the fifth-highest WAR total in Baltimore Orioles history…former New York Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina.
Hats off to the Oriole Advocates for doing what they do (and for recognizing Mike Bordick) but let’s get Mussina, Palmeiro, Rettenmund, Roenicke and McDonald in there, too.