1986 Baltimore Orioles
1986 Baltimore Orioles / Franchise: Baltimore Orioles / BR Team Page
Managed by Earl Weaver
History, Comments, Contributions
Once the 1986 Baltimore Orioles finished their season, it was undeniable that the Orioles' more than two-decade run as an elite franchise was over. Uniquely, a fast line of demarcation seemed discernible. On August 6th the Orioles were 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox and in second place, but by the season's end they were in last place, Earl Weaver slipped back into retirement, owner Edward Bennett Williams had lambasted his sensitive superstar Eddie Murray and Murray had asked for a trade - a request that would not be fulfilled for two years, but one that was never withdrawn.
The collapse was complete. Before the line of demarcation, the Orioles were 59-47 (.557), within a game of their division-leading Pythagorean winning percentage. Afterwards they were 14-42 (.250) and were out-scored 211-310.
The rift between Murray and Williams would define the fall of Orioles and would dominate the rest of Williams' tenure as Oriole owner. Murray had gone on the disabled list with a hamstring pull on July 8th and missed a month. The trip to the DL was a career first for Murray, in his tenth season with Baltimore. During his first 9 seasons, Murray had missed just 22 games. Without Murray the Orioles fared well, going 15-9 and rising from 10 back to 3.5 back, but Murray's return, on August 7th, coincided with the team's downturn. The Orioles won only 3 games in the two weeks after Murray re-entered the lineup. With the team rained out at home for a few days, Williams gave an interview in which he said Murray was "doing nothing." Murray had gone 15 for 47 (.319) with 1 home run since coming off the DL. Two days later Murray made his request.
With the suspensions in the wake of the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials announced in February of 1986, Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr., with the approval of Donald Fehr and the players' union, created a voluntary drug testing program run through Johns Hopkins University in which all but two (unnamed) Orioles agreed to participate. Though, the known problems the Orioles had had paled in comparison to many teams during the early-1980s, before arriving in Baltimore, both Lee Lacy, who'd been implicated in the Pittsburgh trials, and Alan Wiggins, had had cocaine issues. Dennis Martinez had a well-documented, long-time struggle with alcohol addiction and was traded in July to the Montreal Expos. The previous off-season had seen the departure of longtime Oriole Sammy Stewart, who dates his own addictions back to his teenage years.
On the field, Opening Day second baseman, Alan Wiggins, managed just 4 extra-base hits in 250 plate appearances and lost his job to Juan Bonilla. Mike Young regressed, hitting just 9 home runs after hitting 45 in his first two seasons. Mike Boddicker was 14-5 before the last quarter collapse and finished 14-12. Ken Dixon (11-13), Scott McGregor (11-15), Mike Flanagan (7-11) and Storm Davis (9-12) filled out the rotation. Ripken's 25 HR's and Murray's 84 RBI led the team. Fred Lynn was effective in 112 games, hitting 23 HR's.
Orioles for over a decade, Rick Dempsey and Tippy Martinez, both part of the 1976 trade with the New York Yankees (along with Scott McGregor) made their last appearances with the club. Dempsey left as a free agent after the season and Martinez was released in June of 1987 without having appeared in a game.
Awards and Honors
- Gregory Jordan: "In Drug Testing, 1986 Orioles Were Ahead of Their Time", New York Times, January 16, 2005.