Orioles' Top 5 second basemen: Trezza's take

April 6th, 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 5 second basemen in Orioles history. Next week: third basemen.

• Baltimore's All-Time Team: Catcher | First base

1) , 1970-76
Key fact: Franchise-best 36.0 bWAR among second basemen

There might not have been a better middle infield tandem in the mid-1970s than Mark Belanger and Grich, who both won four consecutive Gold Glove Awards from '73-76. The entire O's infield was excellent defensively and Grich was its anchor on the right side, helping Baltimore to consecutive division titles in '73 and '74

Grich developed into one of baseball's best all-around players during his seven years with the Orioles, compiling three consecutive bWAR seasons north of 7.0 from 1973-75, earning three All-Star nods and, eventually, induction into the club’s Hall of Fame. Grich led all American League second basemen in homers and WAR from '72-76, while ranking second in OPS and total bases.

2) , 2001-13
Key fact: Franchise leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, walks and steals among second basemen

Roberts rivals Grich in terms of total WAR amassed with the Orioles, but he did so in nearly double the number of games played. Then there is the admission of steroid use to the Baltimore Sun in 2007 after his name appeared in the Mitchell Report, which muddles his statistical legacy as well.

Still, Roberts was a dynamic (if injury-prone) player in his prime, compiling two All-Star appearances, two AL doubles titles and an AL steals crown over 13 seasons in Charm City. He owns franchise marks among second basemen for games played (1,327), at-bats (5,214), runs (810), hits (1,452), doubles (351), RBIs (521), walks (581) and steals (278), and ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in runs, doubles and steals among players at any position. A member of the Orioles' Hall of Fame, Roberts remains employed by the club as a special instructor and broadcaster.

3) , 1996-98
Key fact: 12 career All-Star nods, 10 career Gold Gloves Awards

Already a six-time All-Star by the time he arrived in Baltimore, the Hall of Famer was arguably the best player on star-studded Oriole teams of the mid- to late 1990s, hitting .312 with a .862 OPS from '96-98. Alomar made three-All-Star Games, earned two Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award during that stretch, helping power the O's toward AL Championship Series appearances in '96 and '97.

Alomar's three-year tenure in Baltimore featured plenty of memorable moments, including his AL Division Series-clinching homer against the Indians in '96 and All-Star Game MVP honors in '98.

4) Davey Johnson, 1965-72
Key fact: Three-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner, two-time World Series champ

A veteran of five-plus decades in the game as a player and manager, Johnson spent most of his first 10 years in professional baseball as a slick-fielding second baseman for the Orioles, whom he'd later manage. Johnson was a cog on the dominant O's teams of the late 1960s, earning three All-Star nods, three Gold Glove Awards and two World Series rings between '68-71. He started 21 Fall Classic games, tied for the franchise record with Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Boog Powell.

Though he’d morph into a slugger once he left Baltimore, Johnson was a steady offensive player (104 OPS+) and defensive stalwart during his eight seasons in Charm City. He returned to manage in 1996, stewarding the club to consecutive playoff appearances before resigning amid a disagreement with the organization. It marked the midpoint in a decorated managerial career for Johnson, who went 1,372-1,071 (.562 winning percentage) across 17 seasons at the helm for the Mets, Reds, O’s, Dodgers and Nats.

5) Rich Dauer, 1976-85
Key fact: Third in franchise history with 1,140 games played among second basemen

One of the most sure-handed defenders of his era, Dauer is best known for setting a then-MLB record with 86 straight errorless games (and 425 errorless chances) at second base in 1978. He went on to be a regular at the position for a full decade in Baltimore, filling key roles on the '79 AL pennant-winning team and '83 World Series champion squad.

Dauer was an extreme contact hitter, walking more than he struck out in his career. But that didn't translate into much production, as he didn't walk much overall and hit .257 with a .653 OPS overall. Still, Dauer was a cog in black and orange for long enough to appear in 964 games at second across 10 seasons. That stood as the franchise record since moving to Baltimore in 1954 before Roberts broke it.

Honorable mentions
is the franchise’s leader in home runs as a second baseman (106) and was a staple on postseason teams in 2014 and '16. … Billy Ripken garnered a reputation as a fan favorite and strong defender over two stints in Baltimore, from '87-92 and in '96. … hit 24 home runs and stole 40 bases as the O's primary second baseman in '19, also hitting for the fifth cycle in club history. … Billy Gardner led the AL in doubles in 1957.