Melvin Mora has decided to call it quits after spending 13 seasons in the MLB, and he has left the game the same way he started playing ball; without much fanfare. Mora was signed out of Venezuela in 1991, and he was toiling away in obscurity in the minors for seven seasons. He finally caught his break in 1998, as the New York Mets signed him and surprisingly promoted the underwhelming infielder in 1999. The team was attracted by his ability to play a multitude of positions, and he thanked them by scoring the winning run on the last day of the season- off a wild pitch- to send the Mets to a one-game playoff (they won that game as well).
“It’s a very difficult decision because this has been my life, but it’s time to do it,” Melvin Mora said.
In order to acquire shortstop Mike Bordick from the Baltimore Orioles, the Mets sent Melvin Mora in a four-player package to the O’s. He showed potential in his first two seasons as a Major Leaguer, and he broke out in the 2002 season with a 3.1 WAR. He played good defense for the team that season, stole 16 bases, and he provided a decent bat for the club. Mora hit 19 home runs, and he was able to overcome and extremely unlucky .256 BABIP to achieve a .338 OBP. A year earlier, his wife Gisel gave birth to quintuplets in Baltimore; three girls and two boys.
The 2002 season provided only a glimpse of what was to come for Mora, because he was terrific in just 96 games for the O’s in 2003. He made his first All-Star team that was mainly thanks to a 23-game hitting streak, and it’s difficult to be worth 4.9 WAR over just 96 games. Mora was able to achieve this feat, and he had an incredible 151 wRC+ to go with very good defense and intelligent baserunning. His BABIP exploded to a total of .362, but it should be noted that he also walked 11.9% of the time in a special season.
The late bloomer’s best season in his four-year peak- or, bloom- was one that yielded a 6.2 WAR in exactly 140 games. Mora set career-highs for WAR and wRC+ (159), and he was a Silver Slugger in 2004. His BABIP was the highest it would ever be, .372, and Mora certainly took advantage of this anomaly. He was worth over 6 WAR, despite some surprisingly poor defensive play and well below-average baserunning marks. Mora blasted 27 home runs en route to a career-high .222 ISO.
In 2005, Mora hit tied his career-high and hit 27 home runs again. He made his second- and final- All-Star team, as he was worth 4.1 WAR. It was also the last time in Mora’s career in which he was worth over 3 WAR. Although his baserunning was awful, he was above-average in the field and had a 119 wRC+.
In May of the 2006 season, Melvin Mora wisely signed a three-year $25 million deal to stay in Baltimore. He loved the city so much that he asked for a no-trade clause to be included in the deal, but he had a down year in 2006 despite the 705 plate appearances (the most in his career). He was worth just 1.3 WAR and was mediocre with the stick. However, the worst part of Mora’s season was his awful glove-work. His OBP was a solid .342, but it was a disappointing season for him overall.
“Melmo”, however, bounced back in the 2007 and 2008 seasons and was worth 2.6 and 2.9 WAR respectively. He played solid defense in ’07 and had about an average bat (99 wRC+ with a .341 OBP). 2008 was something of a swan song for Melmo at the dish, as he hit over 20 homers (23) for the last time in his career. Mora’s 110 wRC+ was also the last time he managed to hit that total, and his ISO climbed back up to .199. His OBP was a consistent .342, and he was able to provide legitimate value on the bases that year.
Melvin Mora has played in the second most games at third base in Baltimore Orioles history, and he was honored on September, 18 2009, by Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson- first on the list- for moving into second place. 2009 was Mora’s last of ten seasons with the O’s, and it was the first year of a steep decline for the former All-Star and .340 hitter. “Melvy” had a .098 ISO with some putrid baserunning, and he hit just .260 on his way to a 76 wRC+. Defensively, he played well and actually led all third basemen in the rudimentary statistic range factor; but it was the beginning of the end for Mora (0.5 WAR).
The Colorado Rockies gave him a one-year deal worth just over $1.25 million and was worth just 0.6 WAR in the 2010 season. His defense was awful, but he had a 102 wRC+ and got on base at a .358 clip. Melvy’s above-average hitting was witnessed in just 354 plate appearances, and he had a .344 wOBA that year.
The former Silver Slugger ended his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011, and it was a sour ending indeed. He was worth -0.5 WAR in 42 games for the D’Backs, and he had an OBP of just .244. Mora’s wOBA of .221 translated to an extremely poor wRC+ of 27. Melmo had no round-trippers in 135 plate appearances, and he had a 0.08 BB/K. It was an awful way to end a solid career, and the only bright spot in Mora’s 2011 campaign was his decent defense. He was released on the last day of June after a disappointing season, and Mora’s departure paved the way for a breakout campaign from Ryan Roberts.
Although his career didn’t end well, Melvin Mora was a good player and exemplifies the title “late-bloomer”. Mora was worth 28.5 WAR in his career and had a career 106 wRC+ to show his ability to hit. In 13 seasons, Melvy posted an OBP of .350. On a personal note, Mora is one of my favorite players, and his rise to the Majors is both interesting and under-appreciated. Not many people realize how good Mora was, even though his peak was brief, and he has left the game as a virtual unknown; much as he spent the first seven years of his baseball career living in obscurity.
As a six-year-old, Mora’s father was murdered in front of him in Venezuela; the men who murdered his father mistakenly killed him and were trying to murder somebody else. That is tragic, and it is a generally little-known fact; it’s incredible how Mora was able to overcome this and live a successful life.
“I’ve been in this for many years and it’s time to dedicate myself to my family,” Mora said.
Ask any Orioles fan, and they will tell you how much they enjoyed Mora’s tenure in Baltimore. And by the way, he won the Wampum Willy Award in 2000. How can you ignore that accolade? He will never be a Hall of Famer, but we should all tip our caps off to a solid career filled with great moments from somebody who is genuinely a good guy.
“I’ve had a beautiful career that I will always remember.”