Baseball officials studiously refrain from predicting the Orioles will become the scourge of the American League East, but they are unanimous in their belief the new man will make a difference.
"I don't know if this upsets the balance in the AL East, but it makes Baltimore a better club," said Harry Dalton, the Milwaukee Brewers general manager. "It gives them another good power bat in the middle of the lineup, extra firepower. This will make Baltimore tougher to beat."
Dalton's reaction was typical of that among major-league executives yesterday after the Orioles acquired first baseman Glenn Davis from the Houston Astros for pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling and outfielder Steve Finley.
"He's one of the National League's true power hitters," said Jim Frey, the Chicago Cubs GM and a former Orioles coach. "He can do damage. He's one of a handful of guys in the National League who can break up a game. I like the way he plays the game -- hard."
Davis, 29, a righthanded hitter, has 166 lifetime home runs and ranks second in Astros history behind Jimmy Wynn, who collected 223 from 1963 to '73. Davis has clubbed 20 or more in each of the last six seasons, including 22 last year even though he was limited to 93 games because of an injured rib cage. He was the first Astro to hit 30 or more three times.
"He'll improve the Orioles tremendously," said Al Harazin, a former Orioles official who's now the No. 2 man to Mets GM Frank Cashen. "Considering the park he played in, his power is outstanding. The Astrodome may be the toughest in baseball for a power hitter. It's big and the ball doesn't carry well. Considering the club he's had around him, without much protection in the lineup, it's outstanding that he has had 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
"Baltimore is a good hitter's park. The ball carries and the foul lines are short. The American League, in general, has better parks for hitters, especially power hitters."
Said Lou Gorman, another former Orioles official who's now the Red Sox GM, "Davis has carried the Astros at times, hitting 30-plus home runs when the guy closest to him had maybe nine. I'm sure he'll be at least as effective in Baltimore. He'll improve the Orioles' offense considerably."
Frey recalls that Davis once was a straightaway hitter but now tends to pull the ball.
"Houston was a tougher park until they moved in the fences about three years ago," Frey said. "It's still not a bandbox. You'll find that Davis doesn't just drop his home runs in the first row. He hammers them."
Dalton noted that the Orioles "gave up some good young pitching," but "they must figure that Ben McDonald and the rest of their good pitching is coming on."