Instead of the standard title, this epic could have been called “Ode on an Oroscan Urn.”
At the baseline, this card gives us even more evidence of Orosco’s love of the art of pitching. At one point, Orosco had to play semi-pro ball in Canada to make his dream come true. Semi-pro ball in the states was so devoid of luxury that one can only imagine the standard of living for semi-pro players north of the boarder. It is likely they lived in huts on frozen lakes and bathed in holes cut in the ground (what, that’s not the intent of the holes?).
Orosco was originally drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 1978 draft. However, in December, he’d be sent to the Mets in exchange for Jerry Koosman. He’d have his longest tenure with the Mets, win a World Series and appear in 372 games with a 2.73 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 2.11 K:BB ratio. He was worth 12.2 wins above a replacement player in his eight seasons in New York.
Unfortunately, one year after winning the World Series, he would be part of a massive trade that included Bob Welch, Alfredo Griffin, Jay Howell, Kevin Tapani and several others. At the end of the dealings, Orosco would be a Dodger. The year was 1988 and Orosco would be part of another World Series champion.
His time in Los Angeles would be only one-year and start his sojourn through both leagues. Ultimately, he’d pitch 12 years in the AL and 13 in the NL for nine different teams. He retired in 2003 with the Minnesota Twins, the very team that drafted him 25 years before.
In between draft and retirement, Orosco amassed the most career games by a pitcher in MLB history – 1,252, a bit more than one-time teammate John Franco. Franco and Orosco are also one-two when it comes to games by a left-handed pitcher. While Franco has the most saves ever by a lefty, Orosco has the 12th most in MLB history — 144 – just behind Willie Hernandez. Orosco is also tied for 26th all time for the most seasons with a win. He has 20 seasons with a win – the same as David Wells, Mike Morgan, Goose Gossage, Tom Glavine, Tom Seaver, and Warren Spahn.
Orosco finished with a 3.16 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 76.6% strand rate, .276 BABip, and a 2.03 K:BB rate. More notably, he possess the 26th highest K/9 rate in MLB history — just below Mariano Rivera. He also has the 310th most Ks in MLB History.
That aside, I’ll remember his time with the Orioles the most (1995-1999). He was a stabilizing player on the best Orioles teams of my lifetime. He’d be worth 5.3 WAR over those five seasons, during which he’d turn 42. If you think that wasn’t overwhelmingly valuable, the Orioles let Armando Benitez pitch 203.2 innings during that span. I hold no fondness in my heart for the years Benitez took off my life. After leaving the O’s Orosco pitched four more seasons in the Bigs.
Orosco, like Jamie Moyer, is truly a rarity that only the game of baseball can produce.
For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.