Baltimore Orioles: Two former Birds to Cooperstown

Two former members of the Baltimore Orioles were elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday: Jim Thome and Vladimir Guererro. They are joined by Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman. If you put the four of them together, that’s one heck of a 2018 class.

Keep in mind however that neither Thome nor Guererro are Orioles’ Hall of Famers. They’re Hall of Famers who happened to play for the O’s. In Guererro’s case it was just one season: 2011. In Thome’s case, they traded for him at the deadline in 2012. He was injured for some of that second half which culminated in the Orioles making their first playoff appearance since 1997. However I would submit that he provided leadership and experience in that clubhouse that was incredibly valuable.

There’s little controversy about these players – they both deserve to be there (as do the other two). Guererro justifiably should go in as a Montreal Expo. He’s a career .318 hitter who averaged 34 home runs a year. While with the Orioles he only hit .290 (in what was the final year of his career), similar to Thome I would submit that he provided leadership that helped that clubhouse play to a superior September, culminating with knocking Boston out of the playoffs on the last day of the season.

Though only a career .276 hitter, Thome averaged 39 homers a season, and 108 RBI. He smacked three homers with the Birds in 2012 over 28 games. The Orioles were also his final team, which in effect makes them the answer to a trivia question. I suspect that he’ll go into the hall as a Cleveland Indian.

In Thome’s case however it goes a bit beyond his on-field accomplishments. There was no greater citizen in MLB than Jim Thome during his tenure. Cleveland and Baltimore are very similar in that they’re somewhat smaller cities, both with a lot of passion. And they carry themselves very close to their teams. They also like their athletes humble, and they appreciate community-minded guys. That was Thome for his entire career.

Whenever he’d change teams, he’d almost always engross himself in local charities, and lent his name to fundraising for them. He’s maintained the relationships with many of those charities after leaving that team, and is a part of at least one or two charities to this day in every city in which he played.

But it goes beyond that with Thome. He paid (or is paying) in full for each of his ten nieces and nephews to attend any four-year college of their choice. That’s one heck of a gift to get from your uncle! Jim Thome gets it in a sense. He wasn’t an Oriole for long, but he’s a guy that I suspect most Baltimore fans appreciated as having come their way.

All four players selected yesterday are worthy of being in the hall. But the one criticism I’d make of the class overall is that it didn’t include Edgar Martinez. He’s well worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. There’s always next year, I suppose.

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