Flashback to 1988, The Orioles were Lost.

May 28, 2010 | Dwayne Showalter

We have made it to Memorial Day Weekend and the Orioles season has been over for weeks.  Nothing has really changed since they shot out of the gate to the tune of 2-16.  Not since 1988 has the franchise started so poorly.  Yes, that was the infamous 0-21 start.  So much has changed in the 22 years in between.


At the time, the Orioles were just 5 years removed from their latest (and last) World Series victory.  Losing was almost a novelty on Baltimore.  At that point, 1988 turned out to be the franchise’s 3rd straight losing season.  Before that run, the O’s had winning records for 18 straight seasons.  ’86 and ’87 were bad seasons, but the 0-21 start made 1988 almost fun.  And after the “Why Not” season in which the Orioles entered the final weekend with a chance to win the AL East, the 1988 season (and the two previous years) were thought to be a bump in the road of the Orioles prominence in baseball.


That ’88 team ended up losing an Orioles record 107 games.  But how bad were they?  They currently have a higher winning percentage then the 2010 version (.335 to .313).  They were coming off two losing seasons.  This year, they come off a dozen. 


How do they stack up position by position?  Let’s take a look.


Catcher:  ’88  Mickey Tettleton and Terry Kennedy.  ’10  Matt Weiters.  Ok, Weiters has a ton of potential.  But he hasn’t done a whole lot yet.  His average is too low to go with his power numbers right now.  Tettleton and Kennedy weren’t any better.  Edge:  When we look back, sure Weiters will probably be the better player, but right now I’d call it a push.


1B:  ’88 Eddie Murray.  ’10  Garrett Atkins and a host of wannabes.  Murray, on his last legs in his first go in Baltimore hit .284, 28 dongs and knocked in 84.  There is a chance no Oriole will approach that production this year.  Edge:  1988


2B:  ’88 Bill Ripken.  ’10  Ty Wigginton.  Since 1st Base has been so bad, the Orioles have moved Wigginton over and left this spot for dead (Julio Lugo).  No matter how bad he plays, he won’t be able to offset the production Wigginton put up in his short tenure since Ripken hit a measly .207 and knocked in 33 in 150 games.  Plus, any production from Brian Roberts makes this a laugher.  Edge:  Sorry Bill, 2010.


SS:  ’88 Cal Ripken.  ’10  Cesar Izturis.  Cal had a typical Ripken season in 1988.  He hit .264, 23 homers and 81 ribbies.  My educated guess is Izturis won’t approach any of those numbers.  Edge:  Cal saves (f)face for the Ripkens, 1988.


3B: ’88 Rick Shue split time with Rene Gonzales.  ’10 Tejada.  Miggy is still a decent run producer.  Neither of the ’88 guys were.  Edge:  Fairly easily to 2010.


LF:  ’88 Pete Stanicek and a host of others.  ’10 Corey Patterson and a host of others.  This is a tough one.  Neither group did much of anything, but Patterson has shown a professionalism that the rest of the 2010 team seems to lack.  His numbers may not hold up long term, but against the ’88 group, they don’t have to.  Edge: 2010…..by forfeit.


CF:  ’88 Fred Lynn.  ’10 Adam Jones.  2009 Adam Jones wins this matchup hands down.  2010 Adam Jones forces a second look.  Lynn was relatively productive in ’88 but only lasted half the season.  His replacement, Brady Anderson, was not the Brady that Orioles fans came to love at that point.  I have to believe at some point, Jones will pick up the pace.  Edge: With that in mind, Jones gives the edge to this year’s squad.


RF: ’88 Joe Orsulak.  ’10 Nick Markakis.  Markakis is solid.  Orsulak never matched the numbers Markakis has put up in his career.  Its not even close.  Edge:  2010.


DH:  ’88 Larry Sheets.  ’10 Luke Scott.  Sheets could hit. But he could never carry a team like Scott can.  When hot, no one wants a piece of Scott.  Edge: 2010


Rotation:  ’88  Jose Bautista, Jay Tibbs, Jeff Ballard, Mike Boddicker and Oswaldo Peraza.  ’10  Millwood, Guthrie, Matusz, Hernandez and Bergeson.  The ERAs of the starters are darn close.  Dave Schmidt may have had the best year of any starter in ’88 but only started 9 games.   But this ’10 squad, with the ballparks and size of players today, has done an admirable job so far.  Edge:  Barely to 2010.


Bullpen:  ’88 Neidenfur, Mark Williamson, Mark Thurmond, Doug Sisk and others.  ’10  A bunch of bozos.  Sorry.  This bullpen is brutal.  They are an accident (or injury) waiting to happen.  Edge:  1988.


Manager:  ’88 Cal Ripken Sr (0-6) and Frank Robinson.  ’10  Dave Trembley.  Here I can only go on historical performance.  And Robinson was a good manager.  Trembley isn’t.  How many games can a manager really affect the outcome??  I don’t know…5 or 10 over 162 games?  But that could be the difference between 107 losses and 99.  Edge:  Robby, easily.


Bottom Line:  They both blow.   This year’s team may have a little more talent.  But the ’88 team had more …well… something.  Hope, maybe.  If you went to www.whatifsports.com and pitted them both together for a seven game series, you probably would be bored after game 2.  In the end, the only real barometer is the 107 losses in 1988.  This team can’t be that bad, can they?