Digging into Orioles’ past

Has any team with 100-plus losses tied or set more positive records than the 2019 Orioles?

The season will go down as one of the oddest in franchise history.

It was many things - boring not among them.

Here’s one of the nuggets that left me shaking my head: Ten players hit 10 or more home runs to tie the record shared by the 1998 and 2000 teams.

Maybe you would have expected Trey Mancini, Renato Núñez and Jonathan Villar to do it. Perhaps you were bold enough to project that Anthony Santander would return to the majors and get the required plate appearances.

Dwight Smith Jr. flashed enough power in spring training to make you wonder about him. Chris Davis used to lead the majors in home runs, so predicting that he’d reach double digits, no matter how far he’s fallen, seemed like a safe bet.

Rio-Ruiz-Gatorade-Bath-After-Walk-Off-White-Sidebar.jpgBut Pedro Severino, Hanser Alberto, Rio Ruiz and Stevie Wilkerson?

Did not see that coming.

The 1998 team offered up Rafael Palmeiro, Eric Davis, B.J. Surhoff, Brady Anderson, Chris Hoiles, Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Bordick, Joe Carter and Lenny Webster. Harold Baines fell short with nine.

The 2000 team had Anderson, Bordick, Ripken, Surhoff, Baines, Albert Belle, Charles Johnson, Jeff Conine, Chris Richard and Delino DeShields. Will Clark and Brook Fordyce hit nine.

A few surprises, perhaps, but nothing like this year’s group.

* The Orioles won’t have anyone in the running to win a Gold Glove, but their 156 double plays turned tied the Braves for fourth in the majors. The White Sox and Cardinals were first with 170.

This year’s total is three fewer than last season. The Orioles ranked second in 2017 with 175, in 2002 with 173 and in 1999 with 192.

The 1997 wire-to-wire team turned 148 double plays.

They were 22nd in 2015 with 134.

In case you’re wondering about some of the best teams in franchise history, the 1969 Orioles turned 145 double plays to rank 17th, the 1970 club turned 148 to rank 13th and the 1971 club turned 148 to rank 20th. The 1983 team that won the last world championship in Baltimore turned 159 to tie for 13th.

* I was saddened over the weekend to learn of Andy Etchebarren’s death at age 76.

I got to know Etch while he served as bench coach on the 1996-97 playoff teams and through his many years in the organization. I already felt an attachment based on my years as a fan growing up in Severn. He was deeply loyal to the Orioles and did pretty much everything, beginning with 12 seasons as a defense-first catcher.

Etch made the All-Star team as a rookie in 1966, when the Orioles won their first championship with a stunning four-game sweep of the Dodgers. He was an important part of the dynasty, an amazing run that included three straight appearances in the World Series and another title in 1970.

The Orioles lost to the Athletics in the 1973 and 1974 American League Championship Series, but Etch went a combined 7-for-20 with a double, home run and four RBIs.

Signed by the Orioles as an amateur free agent, Etch joined Elrod Hendricks in catching the four 20-game winners in ‘71 - Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson. He slashed .235/.306/.343 in 15 seasons, but Baseball-Reference.com lists him with a career 10.8 WAR.

Etch threw out 16 of 27 runners attempting to steal against him in 1969, 18 of 33 in 1971 and 13 of 23 in 1972. He also was the last man to bat against Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in ‘66.

I’ll never understand why Etch isn’t in the Orioles Hall of Fame. He managed Triple-A Rochester, Double-A Bowie, Single-A Frederick, short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Rookie-league Bluefield, was manager Davey Johnson’s bench coach and served as a roving catching instructor. He caught some of the greatest pitchers in franchise history.

Check how many regulars from the 1970-71 teams are included in the Orioles Hall of Fame. Pretty much everyone except Etch.

Elrod Hendricks is in due to his longevity as bullpen coach, work in the community and popularity. Johnny Oates, former backup catcher (for parts of two seasons) and manager, was inducted in 2010.

I can go around the infield and outfield and find Johnson, Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Bobby Grich, Boog Powell, Don Buford, Paul Blair and Frank Robinson. Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and relievers Eddie Watt and Dick Hall made it. And they all deserve it.

“Wild Bill” Hagy is in the Orioles Hall of Fame.

Etch is not.

There was a bitter parting after the Orioles fired Etch as Aberdeen manager in October 2007. He stated in an interview that he was “very disappointed, very hurt.”

There are people in the Orioles family who are very disappointed that he isn’t in their Hall of Fame. It should have happened.

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