It's time Orioles leader Adley Rutschman's 'C' stood for more than just catcher

The Baltimore Orioles should name Adley Rutschman team captain.
Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals
Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles have a lot of very talented players. The roster includes a Cy Young winner, Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glover and two Reliever of the Year winners, but there is one person who is the unquestioned leader of this ball club. Adley Rutschman debuted for the Orioles on May 21, 2022 at Camden Yards, and has since become synonymous with Orioles victories.

Everyone remembers Rutschman taking the field for the first time, getting to home plate after shaking the umpires hand and slowly turning around to truly soak in the realization that his boyhood dreams had come true. Fans can look back and mark that iconic moment as the turning point for the O's. The Orioles had gone through some of the worst seasons in baseball history, but from that moment on, they would be a contender.

The Orioles have only officially named a team captain one time in their history when Eddie Murray was given the position from 1986-88, so the idea of naming anyone team captain in Baltimore would not be taken lightly. But if anyone is worthy of the position, it's Adley Rutschman. Not only has he been successful at every level, but he's helped his team become successful every step of the way.

Starting back in his college days, Rutschman has been an impact player for the best teams. In 2017, he was second on his team in games played (61) and was the catcher for 58 of the team's 62 games.  He led his Oregon State Beavers to the No. 1 overall seed and an appearance in the College World Series' final four. In 2018, Rutschman again played all but one game for his team, leading them in hits, RBI, walks and batting average (and hit an incredible .408 for the season). This time, Rutschman would not be denied, as he led the Beavers to the College World Series title.  Rutschman was named to the All-Tournament team and was tournament's MOP (most outstanding player). In 2019, he was even better, posting a ridiculous slash line of .411/.575/.751 with 17 homers, good for a 1.327 OPS.

Adley Rutschman's talent has been conducive to winning for Oregon State, Orioles

That success has continued into his professional career. Rutschman was so talented that he never played a full season with a single minor league franchise; he was too busy being promoted to the next level. The only season in which Rutschman played more than just a handful of games with a single team in the minors was 2021 when he spent 80 games with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. The Baysox finished the season in second place after Rutschman was promoted to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.

At the time the O's called Rutschman up to the majors, they were a team that was starting to show some signs of life after a painful rebuild. Players like Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer were in the rotation, Felix Bautista was in the bullpen becoming a dominant force, and the lineup had a strong core around Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santader. Still, they were missing something. The Birds were 16-24 when Rutschman made his famous first appearance, and they've been one of baseball's best ever since. They went 67-55 over the rest of the 2022 season and were still playing meaningful ball games into September.

In just over two seasons worth of games in the majors, Rutschman has finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, ninth in MVP voting, become an Orioles MVO, and helped the Orioles to 101-win season and a division title in 2023. Rutschman clearly had the trust of the younger pitchers that he played with in the minors, but some questioned how veteran pitchers would respond to him in the majors. Instead of throwing cold water on the young catcher, veteran pitchers Kyle Gibson and Corbin Burnes have had nothing but praise for the young backstop.

Rutschman has become the game's premier player at catcher. His .304 batting average this season is 37 points higher than his average from last season. He set a career high with 20 homers in 2023, and through just a quarter of this season, Rutschman already has nine round trippers. He’s made just 14 errors in 1,941 chances, and has allowed only two passed balls in his career (both in his rookie season). Rutschman is as good as it gets in baseball’s most important everyday position.

Since Rutschman's debut two years ago, the Orioles have played 329 regular season games at the time of this writing. In that time, their record is 197-132, which is a winning percentage of 59.8%. Rutschman has played in 310 of those games, a remarkable number for a catcher, and the O's record in those games is 186-124, which is a winning percentage of exactly 60%. It's safe to say the O's go as Rutschman goes. If the Orioles are ever going to name another player 'captain', Adley Rutschman is the right man for the job.