Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/10/12

Not enough power. Not a prototypical No. 3 hitter. Not enough speed to be a leadoff batter.

However, Nick Markakis has plenty of qualities that have proved irreplaceable for the Baltimore Orioles.

In an organization and city where playing every day means something -- see: Ripken, Cal -- Markakis has carried the torch, playing in 160-plus games in four of his first six big-league seasons.

He never had a broken bone before this season. Come Tuesday, he'll have undergone his third surgery in a year. Markakis is due to undergo an operation on his broken left thumb, and he'll likely only be able to play again this year if the Orioles make a deep run in the postseason.

Markakis is the longest-tenured Oriole on the active roster, debuting in 2006. This season is his first flirtation with contention as a major-leaguer.

Manager Buck Showalter doesn't play favorites, but he's a fan. And he admires what Markakis -- or "Nicky," as the skipper affectionately refers to him -- brings to the ballpark every day.

"It's emotional for all of us because we know how much he means, and more importantly, how much the Orioles mean to him," Showalter said. "He's been here from the start. If I know our guys, they're going to rally around him. He's a special breed. We're lucky. The more you manage, the more you're lucky to have a guy like him, regardless of what the statistics say. If you get bogged down with statistics, you'd never be able to make out your lineup."

Toss aside the Gold Glove defense in right field. Forget the intangibles. Forget the example Markakis sets at just 28 years old.

Look at how the team performed without him as opposed to the time with Markakis in the lineup.

From May 30 to July 8, when Markakis was on the disabled list with a broken hamate bone in his right hand, the Orioles struggled to a 16-19 record.

Upon his return -- and his repositioning as the club's leadoff hitter -- the Orioles went 33-21 before a CC Sabathia offering found Markakis' left thumb where it wrapped around his bat.

"It's a huge loss," reliever Darren O'Day said. "He obviously has been driving our team since he came back."

Look at the offensive numbers the veteran brings.

He's a career .295 hitter who has averaged 150 games, 17 homers and 78 RBI per season. He's also been a doubles machine, averaging about 38 per year, with a streak of four straight years -- 2007 to 2010 -- in which he had 43 or more per year.

Twice he has been a 100-RBI contributor, and on two occasions he's batted .300 or better in a season.

As a leadoff hitter this season, Markakis has batted .335 (74-for-221) with 34 runs and 28 RBI. He raised his average from .256 to .298 since moving to the top of the batting order.

Look at how the offense performs around him.

In the first half, much of it without Markakis, the Orioles batted .240 and averaged 4.13 runs and 1.25 homers per game. In the second half, the Orioles are hitting .255 and averaging 4.67 runs and 1.38 home runs per game.

The increased offense speaks to why the Orioles are 25-7 in one-run games -- including a streak of 13 consecutive wins in such games before a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Sept. 1.

The Orioles are criticized for being outscored on the season as a whole, but they have outscored the opposition by a 254-237 margin while Markakis has been atop the lineup.

Prototype at the leadoff spot? Nope. But the Orioles seemed quite OK with that.

Showalter said he thinks his club has the ability to overcome the absence of the veteran outfielder.

Markakis' fellow Gold Glover agreed.

"Complaining is not going to heal his hand tomorrow. We've got to rally around him," center fielder Adam Jones said. "It's part of the game. People have injuries late in the year. It's extremely unfortunate. It sucks, but it's sports. It's professional sports. It's how things happen sometimes."

The Orioles will move forward as they have at every turn this season, as when they lost outfielder Nolan Reimold, second baseman Brian Roberts and pitcher Jason Hammel.

Only this time, the challenge will be stiffer.

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