When he joined the Orioles in July 2000, Melvin Mora was one of 14 unfamiliar commodities received in the club's now infamous trade-deadline fire sale that sent six high-priced veterans to various contenders.
Mora was considered the key to the Mike Bordick deal with the New York Mets, but he was viewed in baseball circles as nothing more than a late-blooming utility man.
Nine years later, Mora, 37, is about to end his Orioles career as the lone member of that regrettable group to make an impact. Five never reached the majors, and only one, the Tampa Bay Rays' Chris Richard, is still in affiliated baseball.
Meanwhile, Mora ranks in the top 10 in most of the franchise's offensive categories, including hits, homers, doubles, RBIs, runs and at-bats. His .340 batting average in 2004 is the highest posted by an Oriole in one season.
"When they traded Bordy for him, I think everybody knew he was a good piece of the puzzle," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who has played more games with Mora than any other big league player. "But I don't think anyone expected him to do what he has done here."
On Saturday, Mora moved into 10th on the franchise's list of games played with 1,246, passing a local legend, MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey.
A week from Sunday, though, his Orioles ride almost certainly ends. A two-time All-Star, Mora is expected to play third base for the last time as an Oriole at Camden Yards before declaring for free agency.
It's highly unlikely the club will re-sign him.
"If I go in 10 days and be a free agent, I'll go with my head up. That I did everything I was supposed to do with the Orioles," Mora said. "Whatever I am going to be next year, I'll never get tired of thanking the Orioles, because I made my career here."
Although the club won't publicly discuss his contract situation, it will not pick up Mora's 2010 $8 million option. And when the Orioles traded closer George Sherrill in July to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two prospects, including heralded minor league third baseman Josh Bell, Mora's swan song officially was cued.
Conversely, Mora, whose 2009 offensive production is his worst in eight seasons, wants to play four more years. And, after 10 seasons of losing here, he wants to be in the playoffs, something that might not be in the club's immediate future.
"I have been here with that a long time, rebuilding," Mora said. "I was part of rebuilding in 2000, and after that there were veteran players and they left. Then Erik Bedard came, had a great year and he left. George Sherrill came in as part of the rebuilding and he left. I cannot wait too long. I cannot wait for it to take four more years to see what happens, because in four more years, I will be out of baseball."
Mora's relationship with the Orioles and Baltimore has been as complicated as perhaps any player's in the club's history.
He has been a tremendous ambassador and an outspoken critic.
He has been heralded as a throwback, the rare professional athlete who has made his year-round home in the area and embraced the community.
And he has been panned as an overpaid athlete who complains when he doesn't play enough, milks minor injuries and is content with personal statistics when the franchise is mired in its worst stretch in history.
The criticism, Mora said, is, and always has been, unwarranted.
"I have never left the Orioles down," he said. "You see so many people they have signed that were hurt or were out of baseball [in] two years or a year and get paid to be home. I am always one to play, play hard and play more."
The outspoken Mora also has been good for several headline-grabbing tirades the past few years. And he doesn't regret any of them. His latest, a late-August rant in which he accused manager Dave Trembley of disrespecting him, was misconstrued, he said.
He said he was angry that Trembley didn't level with him about why he wasn't playing more, but he never complained about his dwindling role because he knew he was struggling at the plate.
"When people made the comment that Melvin was mad because he wanted playing time, that's not true," Mora said. "It was something between me and the manager, and we already pulled everything straight between us."
Still, his comments rankled some teammates and club officials, much like his declaration in 2007 that some Orioles didn't know how to be winning players and his "Who is going to pitch for us?" barb after the December 2005 winter meetings in which the team failed to fill gaping holes in its starting rotation.
Those observations, however, endeared him to many Orioles fans who had similar thoughts but no platform. It further boosted the native Venezuelan's popularity with a community that already had adopted Mora, his wife, Gisel, and their six children, including quintuplets born in 2001 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.