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Best of the Best: Center Fielders


With the off-season being at an essential standstill for the Orioles as far as the news goes, I thought I would bring you, the reader, a weekly list of the top five Orioles of all time for each position (second base, catcher, etc). In honor of the great Paul Blair, who unfortunately died this past Thursday, I thought I would start with the center fielder.

A center fielder needs to have speed, reflexes, and quickness as he is the player on the field who has to cover the most “grass” in order to make a play on the ball. Because the center fielder covers the most field, he must have not only good legs, but also a good arm. He is the captain of the outfield and he is renowned as a talented hitter and baserunner as well.

This list is based purely on the player’s statistics in seven categories while said player was with the Orioles organization. The seven categories I will be judging them in are batting average, fielding percentage (as center fielder), games played (as center fielder), All Star games (if applicable), Gold Gloves (if applicable), RBIs, and home runs. Here we go!

5. Mike Devereaux

Mike Devereaux helped lead the charge with the ’89 “Why Not” Orioles. Of all the players I contemplated putting on this list, Devereaux had the best fielding percentage in center field (.992). He played seven years in Baltimore with his best year coming in 1992. During that season, Devereaux hit 24 home runs and drove in 107 runs and all the while maintaining a .276 batting average, his best average while in Baltimore.

His 1992 season ended up with him finishing seventh in the MVP voting. The reason why I had him in this list rather than Jackie Brandt is because of his home run against the Angels back in 1989. Joe Angel’s call still resonates with Orioles fans young and old. “It’s a home run. Devereaux with the home run. Bottom of the ninth inning and the Orioles have won it!!!!”

4. Brady Anderson

Brady Anderson made it a habit when with the O’s, in the 1990s, to hit home runs on a regular basis. This culminated during the 1996 season when he hit 50 “round-trippers.” This was, at the time, the most home runs in Orioles history, a record that was broken just this season when Chris Davis hit 53 home runs.

In Anderson’s 14 year tenure with Baltimore, he made the All Star game three times. Anderson was one who had great speed making him a threat when on base. In fact, he ranks second in the organization’s history with 307 stolen bases. He has since been inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame and is currently now the Vice President of Baseball Operations for the O’s.

The reason why I have Anderson farther down on the list is for two reasons. First, he never received a Gold Glove award in his career, which I feel defines a great defensive player. Secondly, all the speculation about his possible steroid use, including from Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, has me cringing on putting him higher up on the list.

3. Al Bumbry

Al Bumbry was drafted in 1968 by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round. Although he was a late pick, Bumbry proved to be the most consistent hitting center fielder the O’s have ever had. In his 13 years with the club, Bumbry maintained an outstanding .283 batting  average.

Bumbry helped the Orioles win their third World Series in 1983 against the Phillies. And he would have helped the O’s win their second World Series in 1970, but he was in the Army serving over in Vietnam where he earned the Bronze Star.

Bumbry was not a power hitter, which explains why he only had 53 homeruns in his career with the Orioles. However, Bumbry made up for it with 1,403 career hits wearing the orange and black. Along with an appearance to the All Star Game in 1980, he also was named the Rookie of the Year in 1973.

2. Adam Jones

Adam Jones is the heartbeat of the current day Orioles. He, so far, has had an impressive career with the Orioles. His statistics can attest to this fact. With three Gold Glove Awards and three All Star Game appearances, Adam Jones has made quite an name for himself here in the Charm City.

In only six seasons with the O’s, Jones has an impressive 137 homeruns and maintained a .281 average. His career high of 33 homeruns and 186 hits this past year earned him his first ever Silver Slugger Award. Jones’ strong arm has worried opponents sick, throwing out base runners left and right.

In 2012, Jones signed a new contract, extending his time with the Orioles through 2018. Jones is leading the charge with bringing the Orioles back into prominence in the MLB over the past couple years. And if Jones keeps up his impressive numbers, he is on the verge of becoming the best center fielder the O’s have ever had.

1. Paul Blair

Paul Blair. What can be said about this man? A lot actually. He helped the Orioles win their first two World Series in franchise history in both 1966 and 1970. Blair was a two-time All Star and won an incredible eight Gold Gloves in his 13 years with the Birds.

Playing beside Don Buford and Frank Robinson, the Orioles outfield in the late ’60s and early ’70s was, without question, an “all star” outfield in and of itself.

In the hitting category of his game, Blair held his own. Hitting 567 RBIs and 446 extra base hits in his time with the Orioles, Blair was a terrific asset to the team. He was also a commodity when it came to bunting and advancing the runners. Blair recorded 99 sacrifice bunts when with the Orioles. This just shows how much of a team player he was.

Blair had speed unlike anyone else. That is why he was able to play so shallow on the ball in center field. Blair also played more games at center field than any other Oriole in the team’s history (1,654). Although Blair is gone, his memory will live on forever with Baltimore Orioles fans for years to come.

 

Well that is the list. I’d like to hear your feedback below. Anyone you think I left out or if the order should be different, just leave a comment. Next Tuesday, I will be doing another “Best of the Best.” You have the decision of what position I should write about next, comment below and I will pick the most popular.

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Tags: Adam Jones Baltimore Orioles Brady Anderson Paul Blair

  • Jack Swarbrick

    Son, I was elated to see you write this type of piece; it’s an extremely creative idea. Now, me being from NY, I am a life-long Yankees fan and tend not to take notice of the bottom-dwellers of the AL East. But your attention to detail and un-matched researching hours have drawn me in once again. If I may suggest, maybe writing an article on the Top 5 Yankees teams of all-time. We have a lot to choose from, 27 titles speak for themselves. I would say do one on the Top 5 Orioles teams, but I think you’d probably be stuck after three… Well, I’ve gotten my jabs in, until next time… Happy New Year!

    • Mike Franz

      I appreciate the comment Jack. Yankees have a lot of wonderful history, but that seems to be all they are now… history. It looks like the Orioles are on the rise and Yankees are declining fast. Time will tell though. Go O’s.

      • Jack Swarbrick

        Just curious, Michael: Did Brady Anderson not juice to get to his 50 homer year?? Usually “6-1′, 175 pound guys don’t hit 50 homers in a year. And considering he had only 72 homers up until that point in his ENTIRE career, I find it highly suspicious! Now, I’m not going to call him the poster child of the steroid era but he was one of the first offenders. Can you deny it??

        • Mike Franz

          No you cannot. That was why he was higher up on the list. When I see his numbers, I can’t tell if they are real or “enhanced.” He still had solid numbers throughout his career with the O’s, but was he a 50 home run hitter? I don’t think he really was.

          • Jack Swarbrick

            I can concur with that, fair enough!!

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