Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Your SKO Random Cubs Third Baseman of the Day: Kevin Orie

Hello friends. Today at Start Kyle Orton, I start a new feature which I will post daily (read: whenever I feel like doing it). Most Cubs fans have heard of the legendary "hole" at third base the Cubs had between the time they traded Ron Santo to the White Sox after the 1973 season and the when they acquired Aramis Ramirez in July of 2003. In those 30 intervening years the Cubs used nearly 100 different third basemen for varying stretches, in an attempt to find one to work. Santo had manned the position for the Cubs for 13 years, and Ramirez has manned it the past 5. In the meantime Cubs fans were subjected to some God-awful players at the hot corner. Every day I will talk about a different one of these third basemen. So here's the first in our Random Cubs Third Basemen of the Day series: Kevin Orie

Name: Kevin Leonard Orie
Height: 6'4'' Weight: 210
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Cubs Career: 1997-1998, 2002

The Intensity of Orie

The saga of Kevin Orie is one frequently told in baseball circles. I can't tell you how many times Iggins! or I have been begged to regale our non-Cubs fan friends with tales of the exploits of mighty, delicious, creamy centered Orie-O. My friend the Braves fan would frequently say "Man, Chipper Jones is alright, but I really wish Kevin Orie would come to Atlanta". Why do they crave Kevin? Well, my friends, its just because he was something special indeed.

The Cubs drafted Kevin in the 1st round of the 1993 amateur draft. The Cubs needed a young third baseman as their previous "third baseman of the future", Gary Scott, had proven to be a colossal bust (don't worry, he'll show up here soon enough). Kevin made a steady rise through the minors as he made it to AAA Iowa in just his second full pro season in 1996 (in 1993, his rookie year, he signed late and played only 65 games, and his 1994 season was limited to 6 games by injury). During that 1996 season, Kevin hit .299 with an impressive .394 OBP, leading the Cubs to give him a crack at the starting job for the big league club for the 1997 season.

During spring training Orie won the job over veteran Jose Hernandez and broke camp with the team. Many questioned Cubs manager Jim Riggleman's decision to start the young Orie, as he had at that point played only 14 games in AAA. Riggleman stuck with the decision however, and Orie was in the lineup on Opening Day. The Cubs lost that game, and the 13 games after that to set the National League record for consecutive losses to start a season. The 0-14 start would be the worst in major league history, but for those pitiful bastards, the 1988 Orioles, who started 0-21. Orie struggled during those 14 losses by hitting only .216 with no homers and 1 RBI. Orie finished his first month in the majors with a .239 average (with an impressive .354 OBP, however), and was sent down to AAA Iowa for most of the month of May. After Orie hit .378 with a .462 OBP, 3 hrs, 14 RBIs, and a .711 (!) slugging percentage in his 12 games in the minors, the Cubs called him back up on May 30. The fact that the Cubs were 20-32 at the time may have also led them to make the "why not bring him back, we're a minor league team anyways" decision.

After his call up Orie posted a .313 avg/.408 OBP/.531 slugging percentage in the month of June and cemented his position as the starter at third for the rest of the season. Orie ended up being one of the few highlights of the Cubs miserable 68-94 season, as he posted solid rookie numbers with a line of:

114 games, .275 avg, 8 hrs, 44 RBIs, .350 OBP, .431 slugging percentage.

By spring training of 1998, no one questioned Orie's position as the Cubs third sacker. By May of 1998, everyone questioned it. Orie's sophomore season with the Cubs was nothing short of abysmal, as he posted a line of :

64 games, .181 avg, 2 hrs, 21 RBIs, .253 OBP, and an absolutely anemic .279 slugging percentage.

If you want to know how bad a .279 slugging percentage is, picture the weakest kid in your PE class. Remember how when you played kickball he'd look fucking scared? Like he was gonna miss the ball? I mean its a big fucking ball that's bright red. He's terrified he won't be able to make contact. So you try to be nice to the kid even though he smells like ass and you can see the piss stains on his clothes every day, and you encourage him and tell him nobody ever actually whiffs on a kickball. Then he goes out there with his damn eyes closed and whiffs. Then everyone points and laughs at him and the teacher awards him first base out of pity because he's bawling and the piss stains are larger and darker. That's what a .279 slugging percentage feels like. Orie got awarded a single every now and then because he pissed himself. That's about it.

Normally the Cubs would probably have stuck with that much suck from a second year player who had showed so much promise in his rookie season, but the Cubs were, surprisingly, contending that year, and thus they acquired veteran third baseman Gary Gaetti, who dominated the second half of1998 before sucking up 1999 (he's coming too), and shipped Orie to the Marlins for Felix fucking Heredia (once nicknamed The Run Fairy by Yankees fans). Orie did improve with Florida, as he hit .262 in 48 August/September games with them with an OBP of .334 and a more respectable (though still not fantastic) .423 slugging percentage. That's more like the kid who bounced one off the wall of the gym and was so busy admiring it that he didn't realize it had bounced back far enough that the other team already had it, and got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. I sucked at kickball. What is this article about? Oh right, Kevin Orie.

Orie played in only 77 games for the Marlins in 1999, hitting .254 with 6 hrs, 29 RBI, a .322 OBP, and a .396 slugging percentage. That's more like the kid who just kinda kicked it at whoever had the weakest arm in the infield and got a single every time because of their bad throw. Orie found himself back with the Marlins organization for the 2000 regular season, though all of it was spent with the Marlins AAA team. Orie then bounced from AAA to AAA team during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, racking up averages of .284 and .293 with OBPs of .363 and .386.

2002 found Orie back with the Cubs, as he signed a minor league contract before spring training. Orie failed to make the team as a utility outfielder, and spent most of the year at AAA Iowa, where he hit .299 with a career high 20 home runs, a then best 63 RBIs, a .352 OBP, and a .578 slugging percentage. Thats the dude who'd crush one up against the bottom of the bleachers so it rattled around and he'd get an inside the park home run. The Cubs called Orie back up to the majors for his first appearance in the big leagues since 1999 in September of 2002, and Orie hit .281 with 0 homers, 5 RBIs, a .306 OBP, and a .375 slugging percentage in 13 games. After this unimpressive showing, Orie was released by the Cubs during spring training of 2003. Orie was out of baseball during the 03 season, then bounced between five different organizations in the 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons, posting great numbers at each stop but never making it back to the majors. He retired just one game in to the 2006 season.

Where is Kevin Orie now? He apparently sells real estate with Grubb & Ellis Professionals. Yes that's actually him. If you don't believe me compare that photograph with this one.

Kevin Orie: from the next Ron Santo to the guy that sold Jim and Donna their lovely three bedroom colonial (it's got a breakfast bar and a nook! a nook!). You were born to be a Cub, Kev.