Last weekend, after a list of what I thought were the five worst contracts handed out in Orioles history, some readers commented that they thought Glenn Davis’ was the worst.
Davis wasn’t originally signed as a free agent; he was acquired in arguably the worst trade in team annals. He was re-signed after one season, but it was the trade, not the signing that stands out.
The list of worst trades in team history is for another weekend, but in the spirit of Glenn Davis, let’s have a look at five Orioles fans would prefer to forget.
1) Glenn Davis
Davis was acquired by the Orioles in early 1991 for Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling. Those three all had long major league careers. Davis’ was over in May 1993 at 32.
Three times, Davis hit more than 30 home runs while playing his home games in the worst ballpark to hit home runs, Houston’s Astrodome.
Davis wasn’t a high average hitter, but the Orioles couldn’t wait to get a slugger who could pair with Cal Ripken to replace Eddie Murray at first.
Murray had been traded two years earlier, and fans thought Davis could hit home runs for years.
Davis was injured much of his time in Baltimore and fought with the late Johnny Oates, who took over for Frank Robinson in May 1991.
Injuries limited him to 49 games in 1991, but was re-signed. In 1992, he teased fans after a move to Oriole Park with 13 home runs and a .276 average in 103 games. The next year, he had just a .177 average in 30 games.
2) Alan Wiggins
Shortly after Earl Weaver returned as Orioles manager in June 1985, the team acquired the moody Wiggins from the San Diego Padres.
A season earlier, Wiggins stole 70 bases and played second base as the Padres went to the World Series.
He couldn’t get along with his manager, Dick Williams, and was sent to Baltimore. Weaver was never a stolen base guy, and that was Wiggins’ game, but he had great bat control and didn’t strike out often, and Weaver liked that.
Wiggins’ apparent lack of effort and mismatched skill set annoyed Weaver, who retired for good after the 1986 season. In the two seasons Weaver managed him, Wiggins stole 51 bases and didn’t hit a home run.
Weaver tried to motivate him. At one point, Weaver reportedly told Wiggins that he was the worst ballplayer he’d ever seen.
Billy Ripken replaced him at second base in mid-1987, and he died of AIDS in early 1991 at 32.
3) Earl Williams
The Orioles made lots of great trades during their championship years. This wasn’t one of them.
In Nov. 1972, they traded Davey Johnson, who would hit 43 home runs the next season, Pat Dobson, a one-time 20-game winner, Roric Harrison and Johnny Oates to Atlanta for Williams and Taylor Duncan, who never played for the Orioles
Weaver wanted a home run hitting catcher. In two seasons with the Orioles, Williams hit 36 home runs and batted .246, He made 12 errors in 170 games behind the plate, but did throw out more than 40 percent of the runners who tried to steal on him.
Weaver loathed Williams’ attitude and returned him to the Braves in 1975.
4) Matt Riley
Riley was barely 20 when he was rushed to the major leagues, Ray Miller, desperate to save his job as Orioles manager, begged general manager Frank Wren to bring Riley to the big leagues.
Miller, a noted pitching guru, thought Riley was his ticket to a contract extension.
Clearly not ready for the major leagues, Riley walked 13 batters in 11 innings in three starts. Tommy John surgery would delay his return to the Orioles until 2003 when he won his only two starts.
Miller returned to the Orioles during the 2004 season as pitching coach, had another shot at Riley, but his promise was gone.
Riley pitched in seven games for Buck Showalter in Texas in 2005. That was his last big league taste. As recently as 2011, the free-spirited Riley was in spring training with San Diego.
5) Marty Cordova
How could you forget a player who fell asleep in a tanning bed, burning his face?
Many Orioles fans would like to. The surly Cordova’s injury is still talked about as one of the most bizarre in baseball history. After barely a season with the Orioles, his career was over.