So it became official late Wednesday night that Kevin Millar would not be returning to the Orioles this season, as he signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, it was pretty much assumed he would not be returning to Baltimore, but it may not be Millar’s on-the-field play the Orioles might miss the most.
Millar took over the Orioles’ locker room from the first day he walked in. He brought a personality that the clubhouse desperately needed. He was a guy who climbed the ladder to success – he once had been a replacement player, later was on the verge of going to Japan to play, only to end up on one of the more historic championship teams in Boston. He was a guy who welcomed the media over to his locker, and he was always willing and ready to give you what you wanted. You needed to be on your “A-game” when you dealt with “one-five,” as he liked to be called.
Millar would hold a players-only meeting or go to the manager with issues that the team had when those things needed to be done. He could take Leo Mazzone to get a tattoo in spring training, talk motorcycles with Javy Lopez or welcome the new rookie into the clubhouse.
From the funny shirts that he had made for his teammates, to not being afraid to get into a player’s face if it needed to be done, Millar was the one solid foundation in what was a rather shaky clubhouse. Whether it was steroid-related issues or the manager getting fired, Millar always showed his veteran leadership.
I do not think you can stress enough how important it is to have a guy like that in a clubhouse. To be the guy to keep things loose, keep guys laughing during losing streaks, having fun on the road and have people respect you. While it may not equal wins or extra RBIs, it is very important to a team.
So, who will be the guy to step up and take that leadership role for the Orioles? Here are some names. The one thing that many of these players are lacking is the experience of winning big in the postseason and having a World Series ring. So, here is my list.
Brian Roberts – He is more of a silent leader; he would rather let his play on the field talk, rather than talk in the clubhouse.
Nick Markakis – He wants to be more of a leader, but he is a very quiet guy, and it is hard to see him in that role.
Aubrey Huff – He is another guy who would rather let his play on the field speak for itself. He could be the leader of the clubhouse.
Ty Wiggington – It’s hard for a guy to come into a new situation and take over as a leader, especially when you may not even be a everyday player.
Jeremy Guthrie – Again, I’m just not sure I see him as that kind of guy, but I could be wrong.
Adam Jones – He is still a young guy trying to find his way in the league.
Gregg Zaun – Now he could be the guy to do it. He is a guy who has been in the league a long time, and he is a hard-nosed player. He could be the clubhouse leader.
This will be an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on as the Orioles season gets under way.
Kevin Millar is one of the most enjoyable athletes I have ever covered. He made what could be a hard job at times become pretty easy. Millar would give you the quote or analogy you were looking for, and it always was perfect.