Retiring Orioles radio announcer Joe Angel had a signature home run call that seems to fit this column like a glove. “Wave it bye-bye!” Joe would say whenever a player hit one over the fence.
In a similar vein, Baltimore recently lost three great parts of a storied sports past. Frank Robinson passed away on Feb. 7 at the age of 83. Joe Flacco was dealt to Denver on Feb. 13 to ply his trade as quarterback of the Broncos after an 11-year ride in Baltimore. And Manny Machado, who was traded to the Dodgers for five prospects last summer, agreed to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres on Feb. 19.
Of the three mentioned, Machado was the youngest. While perhaps not really close to being the overall player that Frank was, Machado was pretty darned good.
We’ll remember Manny’s once-in-a-generation play at the hot corner that at the very least rivaled Brooks Robinson, and to many objective eyes may have even surpassed Brooks’ defense.
But this is about memory and who will be remembered longer and more fondly in Baltimore. Despite the fact that Manny actually played more games in Charm City — 860 to Frank’s 827 — Frank’s numbers include his Triple Crown season in 1966. Frank batted .300; Manny .283. Frank had 179 home runs and 545 RBIs to Machado’s 162 homers and 471 RBIs.
Frank’s on-base percentage of .401 while in an O’s uniform, along with his .944 on-base plus slugging, far outshine Machado’s .335 OBP and .822 OPS.
But the memories Frank made here and the four World Series the Orioles appeared in while he was an Oriole speak to the relative importance he had over Manny in the grand scheme of things.
Frank’s career wins above replacement statistic stands at 107.3. Manny’s, after seven seasons in the big leagues, stands at 33.8. While Manny is the one with that mammoth contract in San Diego, it’ll be the measure of Machado’s career if he can have the same impact on his teams as Frank.
After becoming the sport’s first African-American manager in Cleveland in 1975, Frank made it back to become a coach for the Orioles, a manager of the team and then made his way upstairs as a special assistant to Roland Hemond.
After his time in Baltimore, Frank would go on to work in the commissioner’s office in a wide variety of positions. You’d be hard-pressed to name any figure in the history of the sport who had a career as long, respected and important as that of No. 20.
This summer, the Orioles will do the right thing by wearing a No. 20 patch on their sleeves to remember one of the most remarkable men to ever don an Orioles uniform. Machado, while a superb talent, will really have to grow up some and maybe do some winning in San Diego to even begin to be remembered by the residents there as fondly as Frank is remembered here. Sure, Manny would seem to be a lock to become an Orioles Hall of Famer in 15 years, but will anyone truly think back to him with more than a passing interest?
For Ravens fans, Flacco will always have a special place in their hearts. Joe benefited greatly by the timing of his career arc — that he arrived in Baltimore while we still possessed lots of pieces to what was one of the greatest defenses the league has ever known.
But as great as the Ravens’ defense was early in the 21st century, without a solid performer taking the snaps and putting up some points and giving the team an offensive capability, those great defenses would have continued to go to waste, as they did for many of the seasons under Brian Billick.
However, Flacco was solid, almost like the Cal Ripken Jr. of our football team. He was almost always there heading the huddle until missing parts of two of the last four seasons due to injuries.
But talk about winning. Flacco started 158 regular-season games in his Ravens career and he won 91 and lost 67, a winning percentage of .576.
Of course, he’ll be remembered most vividly for his Super Bowl run in 2012, which was quite remarkable. In the three playoff games plus the Super Bowl, he threw for 1,140 yards against the Colts, Broncos, Patriots and 49ers defenses and had 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
We wish nothing but the best for Manny Machado and Joe Flacco. Both have a lot of bullets left in their career. Both did some wonderful things while in Baltimore.
But Frank Robinson has one of the six Orioles statues that Peter Angelos erected at Camden Yards in 2012. Along with Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr., Frank left a large footprint in the short time he was in Baltimore, and it’s fitting he’ll be remembered in this way.