Orioles' Top 5 first basemen: Trezza's take

March 30th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Joe Trezza’s ranking of the top five first basemen in Orioles history. Next week: second basemen.

Orioles All-Time Around the Horn Team: C

1) Eddie Murray, 1977-88, '96
Key fact: 3,255 career hits, 504 career homers

One of the best switch-hitters in MLB history, Murray boasted an all-around resume and “Steady Eddie” persona that turned him into a Baltimore baseball legend and makes him the clear No. 1 choice here. An eight-time All-Star and 2003 Hall of Fame inductee, Murray enjoyed a dominant decade in Charm City, where he won his lone World Series in 1983. Since the club moved back to Baltimore in 1954, Murray ranks as the franchise's all-time first base leader in hits (2,080), runs (1,084), doubles (363), homers (343), RBIs (1,224) and fWAR (56.7).

Murray won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1977, was an All-Star in seven of the next nine seasons, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner across more than a decade in orange and black. He was the runner-up for AL MVP in '82 and '83, a six-time top five vote-getter for the award in his career, and finished top 10 in voting eight times. He led AL hitters in homers (22) and RBIs (78) during the strike-shortened '81 season, and in '84 he led the league in walks and on-base percentage; between '77-88, he led all AL hitters in homers (333), ranked second in RBIs (1,190) and hits (2,047), third in fWAR (56.8) and fourth in walks (857).

2) Boog Powell, 1961-74
Key fact: two-time World Series champion, 1970 AL MVP

Few living are as synonymous with the Orioles as the man simply known as “Boog,” whose six-plus-decade connection with the franchise dates back to 1959, when he first signed as an amateur free agent. Before the famed BBQ came the baseball accomplishments, of which there were many.

The lineup linchpin of the O’s dynasty that won four AL pennants and two championships between 1966 and '71, Powell made four consecutive All-Star appearances from '68-71 and won AL MVP honors in 1970. He averaged 29 homers and 103 RBIs in those seasons, and finished top three in MVP voting in ‘66 and '69. Powell’s 303 homers are still good for third in franchise history, behind only Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.

3) Rafael Palmeiro, 1994-98, 2004-05
Key fact: 24.8 fWAR from '94-98, sixth-best in AL

Connections to performance-enhancing drugs ultimately overshadow much of Palmiero’s 3,020-hit, 569-homer career, which spanned 20 seasons and three different teams. But on the surface, there weren’t many more productive AL hitters from 1994-98, when Palmiero hit .292 with 182 homers, 553 RBIs and a .916 OPS in his first of two tenures with the O’s. Palmiero received MVP votes in each of those five seasons and earned All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger recognition in '98.

Among first basemen, Palmiero ranks top five in Orioles history in homers (223), runs (589), RBIs (701), OPS (.886) and WAR (24.9) while with the club.

4) , 2011-present
Key fact: MLB home run champion in 2013 and '15

What happened after Davis signed his franchise record seven-year, $161 million contract in 2015 matters, but Davis’ prior accomplishments mean he still warrants a place on this list. No big leaguer hit more homers from 2012-16 than Davis, who went deep 197 times and won two MLB home run titles during that span. He’s hit 253 of his 295 career big flies in Baltimore, putting him within striking distance of overtaking Powell for third place in franchise history by the time his contract runs out after the '22 season.

5) Jim Gentile, 1960-63
Key fact: Franchise-best .891 OPS among first baseman

The AL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1960, Gentile hit 46 homers and won the league’s RBI crown the following year, when he also set the then-MLB record by hitting five grand slams in one season. The hot-headed Gentile’s big league career was relatively brief, and effectively ended when he threw his bat at umpire Ed Vargo while with the Astros in '66. But he made the most of his four seasons in Baltimore, earning three All-Star nods and averaging 31 homers and 100 RBIs during those campaigns.

Honorable mentions
George Sisler is the franchise’s first Hall of Fame first baseman, back from when it was the St. Louis Browns. … George McQuinn made four All-Star teams for the Browns in the 1930s and ‘40s. … Hall of Famer George Kell played his final two seasons in Baltimore, earning All-Star nods and playing about one-quarter of his games at first in 1957. … Norm Siebern was an All-Star and led AL hitters in walks in 1964. … Lee May won the AL RBI crown in 1976. … Randy Milligan posted a .388 OBP from 1989-92. … Jeff Conine primarily played first during his years in Baltimore, compiling 472 starts at the position … Aubrey Huff averaged 20 HRs and 84 RBIs across three seasons in Baltimore, winning Silver Slugger accolades in 2008. … Ty Wigginton was an All-Star in 2010.