Best of the Best: Right Fielders
By Mike Franz
Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
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). Last week I ranked Brooks Robinson’s position so this week I am going to rank his close friend’s position: Frank Robinson‘s right field.
Just like any other outfielder, a right fielder must have a strong arm, good hand-eye coordination, and solid speed in order to cover large distances in a hurry. Of all the outfielders, the right fielder tends to have the strongest arm because he is the furthest one away from third base.
A right fielder has the duty of backing up first base on all throws made by the catcher and pitcher. Something that is different about right fielders is the fact that they tend to be better hitters than fielders. There are 24 right fielders in the Baseball Hall of Fame as of this moment, including one Baltimore Oriole.
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 (in right field), games played (in right field), All Star games (if applicable), Gold Gloves (if applicable), RBIs, and home runs. Here we go!
5. Jay Gibbons
I grew up watching Jay Gibbons play in right field. When I was younger, I thought he was a good player. To this date, I still hold that opinion of #31. It is true he never had a stellar season with the Orioles. Gibbons never won any Gold Gloves and he was never named to the All Star Team when he was in Baltimore. However, he did have consistent numbers during his time with the Orioles.
In his seven years with the team, Gibbons hit .260/.314/.453 from the plate. He was named the team MVP in 2003 when he hit a career best 100 RBIs. His best year came in 2005. That year he hit 26 home runs, drove in 79 runs, and maintained a .277 batting average in the process.
Gibbons was also a good fielder. Beginning to play right field in his second year with the team, he held onto a .988 fielding percentage at the position. Gibbons did play a utility role as an Oriole which limited his chances to play in right field.
Gibbons’ steroid allegations clouded his time in Baltimore. The number five spot is deserving for Gibbons.
4. Joe Orsulak
Although he only played in Baltimore for five seasons, Joe Orsulak saw success there. With the Orioles, he hit .281/.337/.394. He was not a power hitter. He only had one season as an Oriole when he hit double-digit home runs (1990 with 11 home runs). His career batting average with the O’s did make him a reliable hitter when it was his turn to bat.
As a part of the ’89 “Why Not?” Orioles, Orsulak hit 22 doubles, 55 RBIs and retained a .285 batting average.
He had okay fielding numbers. With the ball club, he kept a .984 fielding percentage. Orsulak was a good player, but his lack of awards and stellar batting numbers kept him from being ranked higher on this list.
3. Nick Markakis
Nick Markakis has been a part of the Orioles organization for eight years now. In that time, he has been a great asset in the Orioles’ success over the past two years. Markakis has been put in throughout the entire batting order. Not only that, but he has also seen great success when he steps up to the plate.
Lifetime with the Orioles, he has hit a career .292/.360/.441. Even though he is not a power hitter by any means of the imagination, he has been able to hit a good amount out of the ballpark. Markakis is averaging 17 home runs each season. His best year came in 2007. That year he hit .300/.363/.485. He also had a career high in home runs (23), RBIs (112), and hits (191) during that season.
Although he is a solid batter, he is also an outstanding fielder as well. In 2011, Markakis earned his first and only Gold Glove Award. In addition to this award, he has been able to hold onto a .993 fielding percentage.
Markakis is a household name when you think of the present-day O’s. He has played the most games at right field in Orioles’ history (1178). It was a tossup between him and the next player on this list as far as rankings go.
2. Ken Singleton
Ken Singleton is an Orioles legend. Playing 10 years with the ball club, he went .284/.388/.445 at the plate. His awards cemented his legacy in Baltimore for a lifetime.
In addition to being name to the American League All Star Team on three separate occasions while with the Orioles, he was also named the 1980 American League Most Valuable Player. His statistics, alone, showed why he earned the award that year.
In 1980 he had a .304 batting average. This coupled with 24 round-trippers and 104 RBIs as well as a .984 fielding percentage that year made him a valuable piece to the Orioles lineup. His hitting was definitely his strong point. And it was because of his solid numbers, he earned a spot in the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame in 1986. However, this next player was not only named to the Orioles’ Hall of Fame, but also the National Baseball Hall of Fame as well.
1. Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson was let go by the Reds due to the fact that he was “an old 30.” However, once he was let go and soon after picked up by the Orioles, he proved that a 30 year old could still play with the best of them. In his first year with the Orioles in 1966, he had a memorable season.
In 1966, he hit 49 home runs which is the third most in Orioles’ history for a single season. One of these home runs came on May 8, 1966 where Robinson did the impossible and became the only player in Memorial Stadium history to hit a ball completely out of the ballpark. He also was incredibly consistent at the plate. Batting .316/.410/.637 that year, Robinson led the charge to the team’s first World Series.
Playing against the Dodgers, Robinson and his teammates wasted little time in earning the organization’s first World Series Title. The Orioles swept the Dodgers in four straight games. In the Series, Robinson hit a .286 batting average which included two home runs. This helped earn him the Series MVP. Soon after, Robinson won the Triple Crown. All of these impressive stats, that players only dream about, Robinson earned in his first year with the Orioles.
His success in Baltimore did not end there. After 1966, Robinson helped the Orioles win three straight pennants between 1969 and 1971. In 1970, the five-time All Star (with the O’s) got some revenge on his old team, the Reds, when the Orioles beat the Reds in the World Series.
Robinson ended his time in Baltimore batting .300/.401/.543 and holding onto a .983 fielding percentage in right field. He was an outstanding fielder and his batting numbers speak for themselves.
Although Robinson was only with the Orioles for six years, he had an absolutely stellar career with the team and when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he went in as an Oriole. Robinson is truly the “Best of the Best.”
Well that is my list. 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.