In my 1989 A.L. MVP redo, I made reference the Orioles surprise run at the A.L. East title that year after their miserable 1988 season and that gave me my next subject for a Where'd They Go? entry.
Pretty much can sum up the Orioles '88 season by looking back at their first 21 games of the season.
April 4: Brewers 12, Orioles 0
April 6: Brewers 3, Orioles 1
April 8: Indians 3, Orioles 0
April 9: Indians 12, Orioles 1
April 10: Indians 6, Orioles 3
April 11: Indians 7, Orioles 2
April 12: Royals 6, Orioles 1
April 13: Royals 9, Orioles 3
April 14: Royals 4, Orioles 3
April 15: Indians 3, Orioles 2
April 16: Indians 1, Orioles 0
April 17: Indians 4, Orioles 1
April 19: Brewers 9, Orioles 5
April 20: Brewers 8, Orioles 6
April 21: Brewers 7, Orioles 1
April 22: Royals 13, Orioles 1
April 23: Royals 4, Orioles 3
April 24: Royals 3, Orioles 1
April 26: Twins 4, Orioles 2
April 27: Twins 7, Orioles 6
April 28: Twins 4, Orioles 2
It finally ended on April 29th in Chicago with a 9-0 win over the White Sox and their rookie starter Jack McDowell. Six of the 21 losses came against the Royals who Baltimore would go 0-12 against in 1988. Hey but after an 0-21 start you have no where to go but up but "up" for the Orioles was playing 32 games under .500 the rest of the season, ending up with 107 losses. Here's a look bacK at the team who epitomized losing for me as a kid.
C: Mickey Tettleton (.261/.330/.424, 15.8 VORP, 9 Win Shares) - Released by the A's right before the start of the season, in limited playing time Tettleton showed some of the power he'd display in future years, breaking out the following season with 26 homeruns. Traded to the Tigers after the 1990 season he'd play their four years and then three years in Texas, his career over after 1997.
1B: Eddie Murray (.284/.361/.474, 46.0 VORP, 21 Win Shares) - Once Cal Ripken is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, this Orioles team will be one of three teams from the 1988 season with more than one Hall of Famer on it's roster. Murray was still very productive into his 30's but this would be his last full season in Baltimore as he was traded to the Dodgers during the offseason for Juan Bell, Brian Holton, and Ken Howell (ehhhh). Tested the free agent waters mutliple times going for L.A. to the Mets after 1991 and then to Cleveland after 1993. He would make a return visit to the Orioles in 1996 via trade to hit his 500th homerun. Split time between the Angels and Dodgers in 1997, his final season. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
2B: Billy Ripken (.207/.260/.258, -16.3 VORP, 4 Win Shares) - I have to imagine having Billy play the full season with brother Cal was a publicity stunt as there was no way Billy should have been playing a full season with Major League team, even one as bad as the Orioles, circa 1988. Outside of a decent 1990 season the younger Ripken never developed. Left Baltimore after 1992 he bounced around the Majors to Texas, Cleveland, Detroit, with even a return visit to the Orioles in 1996 mixed in.
3B: Rick Schu (.256/.316/.363, 4.4 VORP, 5 Win Shares) - Rene Gonzales played more games at 3rd but Schu made more starts, not that it really mattered. Originally pegged as the guy to the replace Mike Schmidt in Philadelphia as the Phillies actually moved Schmidt to 1st base in 1985 but he never lived up to the hype. Out of organized baseball from 1992 to 1995 made a brief appearance with the Expos in 1996.
SS: Cal Ripken (.264/.372/.431, 55.7 VORP, 25 Win Shares) - Had an off year in '87, Ripken bounced back to have a nice season in the Orioles terrible year. No need to go into the details of his career and will be a first ballot HOF selection next year.
LF: Pete Stanicek (.230/.313/.310, -3.6 VORP, 3 Win Shares) - Orioles had no set outfield all season long with Stanicek making just 46 starts in left but that was the most on the team. This was the only significant playing time he had in the Majors and his baseball career was over quickly after.
CF: Fred Lynn (.252/.312/.482, 16.1 VORP, 6 Win Shares) - Actually didn't finish the season in Baltimore as he was traded at the waiver deadline to Detroit for Chris Hoiles to make way for Brady Anderson. Could still hit for power at this point but it was obvious his career was starting to wide down. Finished his career in 1990 with San Diego.
RF: Joe Orsulak (.288/.331/.422, 12.2 VORP, 9 Win Shares) - Orsulak made a career out of being a servicable, platoon outfielder. First year in Baltimore he'd play there thru 1992 and the join the Mets. Was actually part of a deal in 1997 between the Marlins and Expos that sent Cliff Floyd to Florida and that would be his last season.
DH: Larry Sheets (.230/.302/.343, -7.1 VORP, 6 Win Shares) - Yup not a good sign when your DH puts up those numbers although Eddie Murray actually made the most starts at DH. Sheets was living off his 31 homeruns in the previous year in the homerun explosion of '87. Out of baseball after 1993.
Jose Bautista (91 ERA+, 16.5 VORP, 7 Win Shares) - Had put up some fairly impressive numbers in the minors but Bautista's low K rate showed that he wasn't going to be effective in the Majors. Managed to have a couple of decent years with the Cubs as a reliever in 1992/93. Bounced around mutliple teams and orginzations, last appearing in the Majors in 1997 with St. Louis.
Jeff Ballard (89 ERA+, 8.3 VORP, 6 Win Shares) - Tied for the team lead in wins with a grand total of eight he was another young pitcher the Orioles were counting on but had a sub 3.0 K/9 ratio. Some how managed to win 18 games the following year despite awful peripherals. Played a couple of seasons in Pittsburgh, his career over after 1994.
Jay Tibbs (72 ERA+, -10.4 VORP, 1 Win Share) - When you throw almost 160 innings and end up with a single Win Share you know you were bad. Win/Loss record is always deceiving but in the case of Tibbs' 4-15 record it wasn't. Hell how'd he manage to win four games? Actually went 5-0 with a 2.84 ERA the following year in only eight starts but I couldn't find out if he got hurt. Finished career with Pirates in 1990. Despite a short career was involved in four different trades.
Mike Boddicker (101 ERA+, 15.1 VORP, 7 Win Shares) - Another veteran who did not finish the season with the team, he was dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline for prospects Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling in a trade that would be scrutinized by Sox fans for several years although he was very effective during his time in Boston. Left Boston as a free agent after 1990 for Kansas City, finishing up his career in 1993 in Milwaukee.
Closer: Tom Niedenfuer (111 ERA+, 10.9 VORP, 7 Win Shares) - Always to be remembered for his two game winning homeruns given up to Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark in the 1985 NLCS. By this point Niedenfuer was no longer the strikeout artist he was but still effective. Signed with Seattle after the season where had an awful year, then finished up his career with a decent year in St. Louis.