The information that Nick Markakis is retiring from baseball was about as understated and nonchalant as his outstanding profession. The 37-year-old introduced he’d be calling it quits after 15 seasons within the massive leagues, ending with a .288/.357/.423 line, with 2,388 base hits. It was all the time an extended shot, however final season’s pandemic-shortened season in all probability tanked his effort on the elusive 3,000-hit mark. Markakis spent his first 9 seasons in Baltimore, enjoying for the staff that drafted him seventh general in 2003. He left after the memorable 2014 marketing campaign by which the O’s received the American League East to go play six extra seasons for his hometown Atlanta Braves.
A part of what made Markakis so vital to the Orioles (and for that matter the Braves) was his steadiness. He solely performed all 162 video games in a season as soon as (2018 in Atlanta), however was such a presence within the on a regular basis lineup that he in all probability was taken as a right throughout most of his keep in Baltimore. For a metropolis that has a legacy of celebrating those that go to work each day, Markakis in all probability doesn’t get acknowledged as a lot as he ought to for doing simply that.
He received two Gold Glove Awards in Baltimore adopted by a 3rd in Atlanta, however the superior defensive metrics by no means shone an important gentle on Markakis’ skills. He by no means stood out as one of many prime defenders within the sport, however all the time appeared to play such an even-keeled proper subject, particularly in Baltimore. A part of his attraction within the Allure Metropolis was how he mastered the big out of city scoreboard and was in a position to play the ball coming off that giant 21-foot wall. There have been quite a few occasions the place an opponent would slap a ball off the wall and are available out of the field pondering double, however Markakis was there to both make them re-think or throw them out attempting to stretch into second. He additionally needed to have nice consciousness of balls that ducked into that deep nook in foul floor the place the groundskeeper’s shed opens up. Markakis was by no means speedy, however was in a position to cowl floor and make that area in proper subject his personal. He linked up splendidly for therefore a few years together with his good friend Adam Jones to offer cowl in an outfield that entertained these within the bleachers. “2110 Eutaw Avenue” might need simply been a advertising ploy by the membership, but it surely additionally put a stamp on two-thirds of an outfield that basically meant one thing in Baltimore for quite a few seasons.
Not solely did Markakis present up and play proper subject with such class and consistency, he did it with the bat as nicely. His steadiness with that left-handed swing was what made him such a stalwart on the prime of the batting order. Markakis spent most of his profession hitting within the third spot within the order, but in addition spent a major period of time hitting cleanup, and even within the second and leadoff spots. His .358 on-base share as a leadoff hitter is a part of the rationale Buck Showalter would play him there, to set the desk for others.
A few of these “others” embody Jones and catcher Matt Wieters. Whereas Jones wasn’t drafted by the Orioles, these three gamers had been the core of one thing particular the Birds had provide you with within the early 2010s that led them again to the postseason. Markakis was a part of the proof that the Orioles really COULD draft and develop a participant and have him change into an excellent, productive piece of a profitable membership.
Probably the most heartbreaking second for Markakis in his tenure with the Orioles was definitely when he took a CC Sabathia pitch off the hand, breaking his thumb in early September of 2012. He’d miss the Orioles’ postseason run that season, which ended their lengthy drought. He wouldn’t get to expertise enjoying within the AL Wild Card Recreation in Texas or within the Division Collection in opposition to those self same Yankees the place he’d seen his season minimize quick.
Nevertheless it made 2014 simply that a lot sweeter.
When the Orioles clinched the AL East title on September 16, 2014 by beating the Blue Jays 8-2, “Clinchmas” was born and followers rejoiced. It was made memorable by Steve Pearce hitting a homer, Jones doing a lap across the warning observe a la Cal Ripken Jr. and pieing followers, and Ubaldo Jimenez delivering a top quality efficiency on the mound. However essentially the most memorable picture from that sport for me will all the time be Markakis. For a man who by no means confirmed a lot emotion and was the proper instance of a “boring” if not regular ballplayer, Markakis’ smile made the wait value it. He hadn’t been in a position to share within the revelry of the second two years earlier when the Birds had been a wild card staff and took half within the postseason. However that second the place he appeared up on the scoreboard after the ultimate out and realized the Orioles had completed one thing they hadn’t completed since 1997 was “magic” personified. You would virtually see the reduction, pleasure, and accomplishment all wash over him in a single small snippet of video. It’s what baseball gamers like him work so laborious to do every day.
5 years from now Markakis will certainly present up on ballots for the Nationwide Baseball Corridor of Fame and never lengthy after that, his title will certainly slip off stated poll. He’s extraordinarily unlikely to have a real case at immortality in Cooperstown. He’ll definitely be honored by the Orioles sooner or later and have a plaque within the staff’s Corridor of Fame, and it is going to be a enjoyable day to look again when it occurs. He’s cemented himself as a top-25 Oriole in my e-book, and I’d even go as far to say he may creep into the highest 20 or 15 in some circles. He was that vital to bringing glory again the town’s baseball legacy in what was a darkish timeline. The Orioles are nonetheless seeking to totally substitute him now, greater than half a decade after he left. They’re in search of extra gamers together with his work ethic and angle towards the sport as they attempt to flip the route of the franchise again round. My massive hope for Markakis and his legacy in Baltimore is that he isn’t missed as a result of he wasn’t the outspoken chief like Jones or the regular, stoic chief like Wieters. He was only a presence that didn’t have to take both strategy to make his impression.
Markakis’ former skipper Showalter summed it up brilliantly to The Athletic this week, saying Nick’s “substance was his model” whereas including that he was somebody who had a common respect and will depend on.
Substance was what Nick Markakis was all about. Respect and admiration is what he deserves in return.