This was a travesty. No, hell, this is a travesty. Eddie Murray was supposed to be like Cal Ripken and spend his entire career as an Oriole. Young O’s fans were devastated when this trade went down. I had thought that time, appreciation of Eddie’s career, and becoming a Nationals fan would soften the blow of contemplating Eddie as anything other than Oriole, but it’s still just as maddening as the day Mike Mussina went to the Yankees. Now, let me clarify, I don’t blame the Dodgers or hate them the way I hated the Yankees for the Mussina thing. If you had a shot to get a surefire Hall of Famer, wouldn’t you take it? Not to mention that Eddie wanted out of Baltimore, so the Orioles kind of didn’t have a choice.
It’s interesting to look back at the potential packages that were batted around at the time as compared to what he was actually dealt for. He was actually dealt for Juan Bell (ugh), Ken Howell, and Brian Holton, but other names in the package included Mike Devereaux and Tim Leary. Of course, the O’s would eventually get Devereaux anyway at the end of 1989 Spring Training, but that’s a story for another day. Murray seemed happy with the deal too; LA is his hometown, and of course he was going to play for the then-Champions.
Eddie’s first year in LA, however, was not up to the par he had established during the rest of his career. He hit .247/.342/.401 with 20 home runs and 88 RBI. He especially started off lousy, hitting .210/.246/.323 with 2 homers in the first 16 games. He broke out on April 25th, going 3-4 with 2 doubles, at which point he started hitting again. Unfortunately, for the month of June, he hit .200/.326/.273 with 1 home run, and continued to bounce back and forth. Extremely streaky, which wasn’t really Eddie’s forte. But hey, he did hit a grand slam!
But all these numbers don’t really cover what Eddie meant to a lot of us. When you combined him with Cal Ripken, you kind of got this immovable iconography of Orioles fandom; the guys had led the team to a World Series victory, after all, in the years when the Orioles actually meant something. Even in the years when I didn’t know a whole lot about baseball, I knew about Eddie Murray. Even before I collected baseball cards, an Eddie Murray card meant something. I remember when one of my friends got the Eddie Murray rookie card…he might as well have scored an ounce of pure gold. Amazing stuff. I’m just sad I never got to see him play with the Orioles.
Ultimately, Eddie would only spend three years in LA. He had a damned great 1990, hitting .330/.414/.520 with 26 home runs and 95 RBI, winning a silver slugger. In all, he hit .278/.359/.440 during his time with LA, knocking 65 home runs. Compare that to his time in Baltimore, when he hit .295/.371/.500, and I guess I can live a little easier with what the Dodgers got from him. And, of course, they got his decline years, even though he was a LONG way from done; he hit .273/.329/.440 in his post-Dodgers years, which we’ll get to if the 1992 Project ever happens.
The Orioles ended up retiring Eddie Murray’s number, despite a lot of rage about it, especially in 1989; fans felt he had betrayed the team by complaining and wanting out. In the meantime, Randy Milligan took Murray’s spot, and while Murray’s output was missed, we generally liked the Moose. I mean, he hit .268/.394/.458 in 1989. Look at that OBP!
But he was never Eddie. He was missed.