In the final year of a fairly distinguished decade in Baltimore, Melvin Mora struggled to the worst offensive numbers of his career. He morphed from good soldier into unhappy camper. He complained about the way he was being used by manager Dave Trembley. He seemed tired of being an Oriole, and a lot of people - both inside the organization and in the stands - seemed tired of him, too.
Sad but true.
So, when his contract expired, it was pretty clear that the team would make no effort to retain him. The Orioles signed Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada to fill openings at the two corner infield positions, and Mora recently agreed to terms on a one-year deal to be a utility player for the Colorado Rockies.
This is the way things usually end when you're a 37-year-old player coming off a tough season, but I'm hoping that Orioles fans will choose to look beyond Mora's declining numbers in 2009 and the discontent that bubbled up during his 10th losing season.
I'm hoping that everyone will remember instead that during the worst decade in the storied history of the franchise, he was a solid, productive player who did something that not many Orioles players do anymore. He settled in Maryland and became a very active and engaged part of the community.
Judging from the Internet message boards and blogs, I think most fans recognize that and will be rooting for him to have a bounce-back year with the Rockies.
Nobody needs to be reminded that Mora sat alone in the section reserved for active Orioles players during the funeral of Elrod Hendricks. Nobody should need to be reminded that it was only a season ago that he was the Orioles recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the player on each team who exemplifies the humanitarian ideals of the great Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who died trying to ferry food and medical supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Mora certainly has his idiosyncrasies - don't we all? - but he has been a terrific citizen of the Baltimore area, and he has been a very good baseball player here for a long time.
It was easy to take him for granted during his prime years with the Orioles, because he wasn't a 40-homer guy and the club had bigger stars like Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro, but Mora ended his O's career ranked among the franchise's top 10 hitters in just about every relevant offensive category. He's a slam-dunk to be elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Funny story: When Mora and his agent were bargaining with the Orioles over his last contract early in the 2006 season, there was talk that he was seeking a deal worth $10 million per year and I wrote in a column that he was not a $10 million player.
Mora wasn't happy and called me over to his locker one day to ask why I didn't place him among the elite third basemen in the game. I said in as nice a way as I could that I didn't put him in that class, and he responded that he was as productive as Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus and should be paid like them.
I remember laughing to myself about that, but I just went back and added up the numbers for Mora and those two guys from 2006 to now and, well, his cumulative numbers are better than either of them even after last year's sharp decline in production.
Sure, Rolen and Glaus have been hurt a lot of that time, but Mora backed up his words, even though he had to settle for an extension through last season worth about $8 million per year.
He had some terrific seasons here. He owns the highest full-year single-season batting average in Orioles history (.340 in 2004). And he was a pretty darn good defensive third baseman.
Apparently, Mora and his great family are going to stay in the Baltimore area, so he'll likely come back home at the end of his career and settle into a post-baseball life as an honored former Oriole.
He deserves nothing less.
Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090 AM), and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
More sports talk forums: Orioles | Ravens | Pro Sports | College | Lacrosse | High School | Outdoors Note: In-story commenting has been temporarily disabled due to technical issues. We are working to correct the issue and will bring back this feature in the future. In the meantime, please use our talk forums to discuss stories.
Discuss this story and others in our talk forums Most recent sports talk forum topics: