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Past, present O's comprise all-decade team

Past, present O's comprise all-decade team

BALTIMORE -- The past decade wasn't kind to the Orioles, a 10-year stretch with no winning records and just one year in the standings above fourth place. Baltimore had plenty of standout individual performances over the course of those 10 years, though, which made it an interesting exercise to deliberate and try to choose the Orioles' all-decade team.

The panel involved with selecting the team has seen lots of Orioles baseball over the years. Bill Stetka served on the public relations staff for much of the past decade, and Jim Henneman has had a long Baltimore tenure that includes stints as a beat reporter and official scorer. Jim Hunter has spent 13 seasons on the club's broadcast team informing his selections.

There was no debate about the team's infield of the decade. The entire panel was unanimous in selecting Ramon Hernandez as catcher, Jeff Conine at first base, Brian Roberts at second, Miguel Tejada at shortstop and Melvin Mora at third. Henneman went further, calling Roberts "without question the player of the decade" for Baltimore, a choice echoed by Hunter.

Hernandez was chosen over Javy Lopez and Charles Johnson, who spent just a partial season with Baltimore in 2000. Hernandez and Lopez were both free agent additions for the Orioles, and the former narrowly outproduced the latter. Lopez set a club record for RBIs (91) from a catcher, and Hunter noted that Baltimore used 26 backstops over the course of the past 10 seasons.

Stetka said that Hernandez won "by a whisker" over Johnson, who hit 21 home runs in 83 games for the Orioles in 2000.

Conine, who spent five seasons with the Orioles in the decade, was chosen over Rafael Palmeiro's two-year stint in 2004 and '05. Conine played several positions for Baltimore, but he played first base more often than anywhere else, and he was named Most Valuable Oriole in 2001. Conine drove in 410 runs with the Orioles, and 335 of them came in the past decade.

By all accounts, Roberts doesn't have much competition. The two-time All-Star has been with the Orioles since 2001, and he registered 1,274 hits, 729 runs and 256 stolen bases over the past nine seasons. Roberts has played more games at second base than anyone else in franchise history, and last year he logged the highest doubles total (56) by a switch-hitter.

Tejada, who recently signed a deal to return as the team's third baseman, spent four years of his substantial peak with the Orioles. The shortstop hit 102 home runs and drove in 429 runs with Baltimore and was an All-Star in 2004, '05 and '06. Tejada set franchise records for the most hits (214) and RBIs (150) in a season before ultimately being traded to Houston.

Orioles All-Decade team
POS Player
C Ramon Hernandez
1B Jeff Conine
2B Brian Roberts
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Melvin Mora
OF Jay Gibbons
OF Adam Jones
OF Nick Markakis
DH Aubrey Huff
SP Rodrigo Lopez
SP Erik Bedard
SP Jeremy Guthrie
SP Sidney Ponson
SP Daniel Cabrera
SU B.J. Ryan
CL Jorge Julio
MGR Mike Hargrove

Mora, the last of the no-doubt selections, arrived in 2000 as a utility guy and later spent six seasons as the starting third baseman. Mora ranks in the top 10 in several career offensive stats for the Orioles and hit a career-best .340 in '04. Mora's run in Baltimore ended this offseason, and he played more games at third for the O's than anyone but icon Brooks Robinson.

And that's where things began to get interesting. Aubrey Huff narrowly outpolled Luke Scott for the designated-hitter's job, and Hunter noted that Huff was the only guy to spend more than one season as the team's DH. Huff won the American League's Silver Slugger Award for the DH role in 2008, and he drove in 252 runs for the Orioles in nearly three seasons with Baltimore.

Scott was also chosen by at least one voter for an outfield perch, but he was outpolled by two members of the current team. Both Nick Markakis and Adam Jones were selected to the All-Decade team, as was former Rule 5 Draft pick Jay Gibbons. B.J. Surhoff also received a vote, and Stetka noted that former franchise mainstay Brady Anderson only played two years in the decade.

Markakis, one of two position players on this list who were drafted and developed by the Orioles, was called "clearly the standout at the position" by Henneman. The former first-round Draft pick registered 704 hits, 77 home runs and 362 RBIs for Baltimore over the past four seasons, and his 51 outfield assists over that time ranks among the highest totals in the league.

Jones has have been with the Orioles for only two seasons, but he's already made his mark. Stetka noted that Jones was the only All-Star selection for a Baltimore outfielder last decade, and his Gold Glove was just the second in franchise history for an outfielder. The best is likely still to come for Jones, who may well vie with Markakis for this honor next decade.

Gibbons played more games, hit more home runs and drove in more runs than any Baltimore outfielder during the decade, but he also saw quite a bit of time at DH. Gibbons had three 20-homer seasons for the Orioles in the past 10 years.

Picking a five-man rotation was perhaps the most difficult part of this all-decade team, and Stetka rattled off a litany of statistics that illustrate the point. Only four pitchers won at least 10 games and had a winning percentage higher than .500 during the decade, and two of them were relievers. There were only five other pitchers who won five games with a percentage over .500.

Three pitchers -- Rodrigo Lopez, Erik Bedard and Jeremy Guthrie -- showed up on all of the ballots. Henneman noted that Lopez had the best four-year stretch of the decade and wound up with a double-digit win total three times. Lopez went 60-58 with a 4.72 ERA for the Orioles, and Bedard went 40-34 with a 3.83 ERA during his five-year tenure with Baltimore.

Guthrie, the team's Opening Day starter in each of the past two seasons, has a 4.15 ERA in three years with Baltimore. Sidney Ponson and Daniel Cabrera both rounded out the list, but neither one was picked without reservations. Henneman noted that Ponson had two of the best years of the decade, and he said that Cabrera's enduring presence served as a tiebreaker.

Ponson and Cabrera logged the most years and ranked 1-2 in starts, 2-3 in wins and 1-3 in innings pitched for Baltimore, but Stetka took the opportunity to take a different tack. He nominated both Brian Matusz and Brad Bergesen for the team on the strength of one partial season, and he said he expects to see both as strong candidates in the next decade.

Things returned to a strong consensus in the bullpen, where B.J. Ryan was chosen as setup man and Jorge Julio as closer. Both Stetka and Hunter chose Julio, noting that his save-total (83) was unmatched over the decade. Chris Ray, Ryan and George Sherrill all had standout seasons as closer, and Henneman thought Sherrill's brief role was enough to be his choice.

Henneman noted that Ryan was perhaps the most dominant pitcher the Orioles had all decade, and Stetka pointed out that the southpaw averaged 70 games and held opponents to a .222 batting average in four seasons as the setup man.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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