Baltimore Orioles: What if Cecil Fielder had signed in 1981?

In doing some research for another article, I came to find out that former Detroit Tigers’ star, Cecil Fielder, was originally drafted by none other than the Baltimore Orioles. The Birds drafted Fielder out of UNLV in 1981 – 36 years ago this year. However Fielder didn’t sign, and instead was drafted by Kansas City where he did sign.

So let’s go back in time 36 years and play revisionist history for just a moment. 1981…Ronald Reagan took office, Iran released the US hostages, and yes MLB went on strike. That year’s Orioles finished in second place. And they were unable to sign Fielder, for whatever the reason might have been.

Throughout his 13-year career, Fielder averaged 35 home runs a year. Play 1981 forward a few years to when he would have potentially been through the minor league system and with the Orioles…could the Birds of the mid to late-1980’s not have used a guy like that? I suspect it would have totally changed team history.

I suspect the issue was that Fielder had the foresight of knowing that there was a guy named Eddie Murray minding first base for the O’s at that time. Odds are that Fielder knew his career would in theory be headed nowhere if he signed in Baltimore, even though they were one of the creme de la creme organizations at that time. Much as is the case today, there was a log jam at first base.

Murray of course was an Oriole until after 1988, when he was traded to the LA Dodgers. However had Fielder signed, might Murray have been traded earlier? Or perhaps moved to DH? It’s always tough to say. Who knows what would have happened. It’s also possible that with different training Fielder would have been average at best. Or he could have been better.

It’s just interesting how if one thing or another had been different, the entire history of a team and perhaps thus the league could have changed. You could say the same thing about the 2011 trade that brought Chris Davis to Baltimore. Andy MacPhail wanted Davis, and insisted that he be a part of the trade. Eventually he got his way. If that one wrinkle (as it appeared to be at the time) had been different, the Orioles wouldn’t have been the franchise they were the past five years.

Nevertheless, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip back to 1981. I know I have!

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