Baltimore Orioles: Memories of Painful Years a Decade Ago


May 22, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; General view of batting helmet, batting gloves and bubble gum in the dugout prior to a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Indians defeated the Orioles 8-7 in thirteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

As we wait for the World Series to end and for the baseball world beyond the Fall Classic to come to life again, seeing the New York Mets with a bevy of young pitchers has brought back to mind some previous days and times of the Baltimore Orioles. I am reminded of a time when the Orioles traded a young pitcher away to the Mets in what was, at the time, considered a rather controversial and unwise move.

John Maine was drafted by the Orioles in the sixth round of the 2002 draft out of UNC Charlotte. He had a pair of good minor league seasons in 2003 and 2004: in A-level ball going 13-4 (2.27) and in high-level AA-AAA going 9-7 (3.60). But Maine struggled in 2005 at AAA, going 6-11 (4.56), and then got hit pretty hard that year in 40 innings in Baltimore.

Maine was traded to the Mets in January of 2006 along with Jorge Julio for starter Kris Benson (more on those two guys in a moment).

John Maine would pitch in portions of five season for the Mets, going 39-32 on a 4.17 ERA. He pitched in the playoffs for them in 2006. His best year was 2007 when he was 15-10 / 3.91 in 191 innings pitched. Injury troubles and surgery cut short his career.

I suppose all long-term Orioles fans have a face that reminds them particularly of the 13 years of frustration of O’s teams that had big-time losing records. For me it is Jorge Julio. At that time of my life, I was often in my wood shop in the evening working on projects while listening to Orioles games. I remain amazed that I did not cut my arm off with a power tool at the frustration of Julio throwing away baseball games.

In 2002, Julio put up a 1.99 ERA and was even third in Rookie of the Year voting. He “only” walked 3.6 batters per nine innings — well below his career average of 4.5.  In 2003, he saved 36 games for the Orioles, although his record was 0-7 with a 4.38 ERA and WHIP of 1.524.  He walked 36 batters in 61.2 innings! You just can’t have a closer with numbers like this!

After going to New York, he never had much success. Julio played for seven different teams from 2006-2009.

Kris Benson would only pitch for the Orioles for one mediocre season in 2006. He was 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 30 starts over 183 innings. Benson was the #1 overall pick in the 1996 draft out of Clemson.

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His trade to the Orioles was believed by some to be partly related to getting his provocative, ex-stripper fashion model wife out of New York City. He too believed this and got a measure of revenge, as in interleague play he beat the Mets and hit a homer off Pedro Martinez.

Benson missed all of the 2007 season with a torn rotator cuff, and he never really made a long-term comeback after this.

Next: Today's Orioles worries look a lot like last year!

Benson and his wife and their family struggles and legal matters have continued in the news intermittently over the years. But that is not baseball stuff and is therefore not of much interest for our purposes.

Looking back at this era and this transaction, there is a lot to be thankful for in the memories produced by the 2012-2015 Orioles, even without a World Series appearance or championship. The franchise is in a much better place by any measure.