Quick, name a retired Baltimore Orioles player. I bet 9 out of 10 people chose 2007 Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. This player not only represents the franchise that is the Baltimore Orioles but he also represents one of the best players to ever play the position of shortstop, a position that has recently seen a major decline in Baltimore. At one point in Baltimore, the Orioles had pride in their shortstops. From Little Luis Aparicio to the defensive mastermind of Mark Belanger to the run producing Miguel Tejada have all put up impressive numbers in the black and orange while manning the shortstop position. Now, the Orioles have not been able to find a solid man to fill the role that Miguel Tejada left void when he was traded back in December. Luis Hernandez, Brandon Fahey, Juan Castro, Alex Cintron, and even Melvin Mora have all see time at shortstop this year. Melvin's appearance at shortstop may have only been for an inning or two as a result of a pinch hitter, but it represents the struggles at the plate of the everyday Oriole shortstops.
The four best shortstops in Baltimore Orioles history can be debated to some point but overall it is pretty easy to call. Cal Ripken, Mark Belanger, Miguel Tejada, and Luis Aparicio make up this top 4. Their offensive stats aren't full of many power numbers but they do produce runs and win ball games.
*stats are for games at SS only
As I alluded to earlier, the offensive stats aren't in your face production. However, they are average (Belanger and Aparicio) and pretty good (Ripken and Tejada). The offensive part is not the best part of these honored athletes in the Baltimore area. The defense is where ¾ of these players got their praise.
*stats are for games at SS only
There is where the eye-popping numbers come into place. A combined fielding percentage of .975 at shortstop is a very good number. The defensive clinics these players put on led to some major awards for above the fire place.
For Cal it lead to 19 All Star Game appearances including 14 straight at shortstop from 1983-1996. Not only did Cal make the All Star Game, but he also won the MVP of the AL 2 times; once in 1983 and another in 1991. The same years he won the AL MVP, he also was awarded an award for the best player in all of the MLB. Before 1983, he won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1982. By winning the MVP the following year, he became one of very few to win both in back-to-back years. He also won another MVP award two times. This time, it's the All Star Game MVP. He won that back in 2001 and 1991. He was a two time gold Glover and also an 8 time Silver Slugger all of which were at shortstop. Some other awards he won include Roberto Clemente Award (1992) and Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (1992).
On the Belanger side of things there are not as many offensive awards but there sure is a surplus of defensive hardware. Eight Gold Glove awards are enough to give Belanger the nod as the best defensive shortstop in Baltimore Orioles history. He even won 6 straight from 1973-1978. Unlike Cal, Mark only went to 1 All Star Game. He surely is one of the most underrated Orioles in their history.
Unlike Cal and Belanger, Little Luis only played a few seasons for the O's. From 63-67 he manned the shortstop position, and he did it well. As an Oriole, Luis won himself 2 All Star appearances (1963, 1964), 2 Gold Gloves (1964, 1966), and 3 top 30 finishes in the MVP voting (1963-23rd, 1964-28th, 1966-9th). He also helped lead the Orioles to a World Series victory in 1966.
Unlike the previous trio of players, this one made his name with the bat-not the glove. Playing for the Orioles from 2004-2007, Miguel Tejada left his mark by putting up some good numbers. In 2004, he drove in 150 RBIs and hit 40 doubles. In 2005 he led the MLB in doubles with 50. In 2004, 2005, and 2006 he made his way to the All Star Game. In the 2006 All Star Game, Miggi won the game's MVP. He also won 2 Silver Slugger awards in 2004 and 2005. He finished in the top 25 in MVP voting 3 times during his short stay in Baltimore. However, the Miguel relationship ultimately ended in Baltimore after Miguel basically gave up on the team and whined himself out of Baltimore. At this point, the Orioles have been plagued by vacancy at the shortstop spot.
Starting 2008, the Orioles have not been able to fill the shortstop hole.
*stats are for games at SS only. Stats are also for the CAREER.
The career totals for these players at shortstop are almost laughable. Cal Ripken alone has 1851 more hits, 1213 more RBIs, 315 more homeruns, and a .022 over these four players combined.
On defense, Castro has a career fielding percentage of .978, Cintron has .973, Hernandez has .972, and Fahey has .969. Not bad, but not good.
These numbers just goes to show how fast a position can take a downturn. The Orioles were once proud of their shortstops, now, they would die for a scrub to come along and start everyday.