S.F. Giants well-represented by former Orioles
Aubrey Huff, the thong-wearing, wise-cracking first baseman of the National League champion San Francisco Giants, certainly gets much of the attention, but he is not the only ex-Oriole on the Giants’ roster.
There is utility infielder Mike Fontenot, one of the Orioles’ first-round picks in 2001. Fontenot never cracked the majors with the Orioles and was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 2005 season in the Sammy Sosa deal. Fontenot, 30, has started four of the Giants’ 10 playoff games, going 3-for-14 (.214) with a triple and a stolen base.
You have backup catcher Eli Whiteside, the Orioles’ sixth-round selection in 2001. Whiteside was Jonathan Sanchez’s personal catcher for most of the regular season, but he still hasn’t gotten into a game in the postseason. That’s no surprise with rookie phenom Buster Posey in front of him. Whiteside, 31, played in nine games with the Orioles, all in the 2005 season. He went 3-for-12 with an RBI.
Then there’s former Orioles closer Chris Ray, who hasn’t been on the Giants’ playoff roster but has been very visible the dugout and has certainly supported the cause by growing a beard, like the other Giant relievers. Ray went 3-0 with a save and a 4.13 ERA in 28 appearances for the Giants after he was acquired from the Rangers in July for catcher Bengie Molina. Coincidentally, both Ray and Molina could get World Series wins regardless of who wins.
Ray saved 49 games for the Orioles in 2006 and 2007 before he needed Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery. You certainly have to feel good for Ray, who saw his once-promising career interrupted by injuries.
And I also feel really good for Huff, though I’m not sure all of you share that sentiment. I understand Huff burned a lot of bridges with his derogatory comments about the city. I know that his carefree attitude on things, including conditioning, rubbed some people the wrong way. He also didn’t do the Orioles any favors when he followed up his standout 32-homer, 108-RBI 2008 season by hitting just .253 with 13 homers and driving in 72 runs the following year. Once thought to be a pretty good trade chip, Huff fetched only a Single-A reliever back from the Detroit Tigers after the 2009 trade deadline.
But Huff was always a pretty stand-up guy who took accountability for his play. He also had a reputation as a clubhouse cancer from his days with Tampa Bay, but I never found that to be the case in Baltimore. In fact, the young players loved him and gravitated toward him.
For all his wacky antics, Huff wasn’t afraid to put some of the young players in line and tell them how not to behave. I remember one night in Arlington when the Orioles were swept in a doubleheader by the Texas Rangers. Following Game 2, young shortstop Luis Hernandez was chatting on his cell phone in an otherwise quiet and depressed clubhouse. It was Huff who walked over to him without making a show of it and quietly but sternly told him to hang up the phone or go somewhere else.
During the 2009 season, Huff and Nick Markakis also arranged and financed the purchase of new suits for the Orioles' rookies. I know veterans do this kind of stuff for younger players in clubhouses throughout major league baseball, but I think it is worth pointing out considering Huff’s reputation.
I haven’t spoken to all Huff’s former Orioles teammates, but I can almost guarantee you that pretty much every one of them is rooting for the big first baseman to get a World Series ring.