What made the Orioles' 2021 season memorable, whether good or grating? And how would you rank these moments?
Hold that thought.
I'm tossing out two today that might be the highest for most fans. Others will follow later.
Trey Mancini's comeback
I won't speak for everyone, but how could Mancini rate anywhere except first?
I've witnessed a lot of special moments while working the Orioles beat, including Eric Davis' return from colon cancer in June 1997. How the diagnosis explained the debilitating stomach pain that doubled him over in the dugout in Cleveland a few weeks earlier and led to surgery, chemotherapy treatments and an improbable return to the field in September.
Dr. Keith Lillemoe removed a fist-sized mass and one-third of the colon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Information that I shared again in a story about Davis' dramatic ninth-inning home run in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians - my original sidebar deleted upon an editor's "suggestion" in the Jacobs Field media workroom.
Mancini's inspirational story has played out differently, with a full season lost after his diagnosis in spring training and no postseason home run. But just getting back on the field was a huge win, let alone his ability to play in 147 games and to finish second in the physically taxing All-Star Home Run Derby.
Mancini's 59 home runs are the most by an Orioles batter in Derby history.
Two months earlier, Mancini drove in a team-high 25 runs in 26 May games to rank fourth in the American League and fifth in the majors. They tied for seventh-most in Orioles history. But it wasn't just his power that impressed. He slashed .320/.405/.588.
Mancini hit his 99th and 100th career home runs on June 20 against the Blue Jays, making him the fastest player in Orioles history who began his career with the team to reach the milestone (531 games).
The offseason delivered three Comeback Player of the Year awards to Mancini - because there wasn't a fourth available.
Having Mancini healthy again is what really matters. The rest is a beautiful bonus. And an unforgettable one.
Cedric Mullins joins the 30/30 club
The shortened 2020 season offered some encouragement that Mullins had advanced well beyond his April demotion in 2019. But there were no hints that 2021 would be such a dramatic breakthrough.
That it would make Mullins the only player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season.
Mullins was the lone Orioles representative in the All-Star Game and started in center field as an injury replacement for Mike Trout. He won a Silver Slugger Award and placed ninth in AL Most Valuable Player voting. And the media made him the unanimous winner of the Most Valuable Oriole award.
No one else warranted consideration.
No other player in the majors produced a 30/30 season. No center fielder accomplished the feat since Trout in 2012. No one saw it coming.
Mullins is the 12th player in major league history to record at least 30 home runs, 35 doubles, five triples and 30 steals in a season. He's the eighth to post that stat line and also draw at least 50 walks.
Mullins also became the third Oriole with a pair of five-hit games, joining Tommy Davis in 1974 and Luis Aparicio in 1966. He crafted a 20-game hitting streak, the longest by an Oriole since Adam Jones in 2012.
I'm guessing that he also led the team in press box announcements, with the media alerted to another record or rare achievement.
Spring training will begin with Mullins locked in as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. Doubts about him are erased.
What he did in 2021 is indelible.