Struggling O's know farm is barren, too

May 20, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

In case you're wondering, yes, this could get worse.

At least in 1988, the year of the infamous 0-and-21 start, thOrioles didn't have to worry about that. After 34 games they had won only five and things could only get better.

This year the Orioles are 12-22 and the resemblance with tha1988 team is starting to get scary. In fact, if you take a close look at yesterday's lineup, it's starting to look a lot like 1988.

The current team is in a sorry state of disarray with an unsettlepitching staff, an unproductive offense -- and not much help in sight. And when you consider that the margin of defeat is actually greater for this team than the one three years ago you get the picture. The Orioles have lost eight games by a margin of six runs or more -- one more than the 1988 team at the same stage.

In the 22 games they've lost this year the Orioles have beeoutscored by an average of 4.55 runs. That same figure three years ago was almost one run lower per loss (3.73). Granted the 1988 club had seven more losses in the first 34 games, but the similarities are too strong to ignore.

Trouble is brewing right here in Charm City -- and seems to btouching all of the teams that have a connection.

Perhaps even more alarming than the plight of the Orioles is thoverall state of the organization. There isn't a winning record in the system and the four minor-league clubs have a combined record of 59-81.

Even more important, there aren't any individuals building a seof numbers that warrant promotion to the big leagues. In fact, as opposed to three years ago, the chances are very strong that the worst thing the Orioles could do at this point is attempt a major makeover.

The young players they then were counting on for the future arhere. Whether they were overrated or not remains to be determined, but the next level of prospects is not ready to issue a challenge.

It is a Catch-22 situation, because even manager Frank Robinsoadmits the Orioles are virtually forced to make changes. They will, for the time being, only be cosmetic.

If the Orioles are going to contend, and we're talking next yeaand beyond more than the present, they're going to have to do it with the nucleus already on the scene.

"One thing I've learned through this," said Robinson, "is that yodon't do anything when you aren't of equal mind -- when your mind is not at ease."

But he also admitted change was inevitable, and he wasn't justalking about moves to the disabled list. "Something has to be addressed here," he said. "This is a club that is not functioning. It's a total breakdown. Something is not here.

"We've got to figure out what is lacking, and why it's lacking. I'vseen slumps with teams before, but not anything like this.

"You can't just clean house, that wouldn't be the wise thing tdo," said Robinson.

Robinson won't buy the theory that the organizatiooverestimated the talents of its young players, or is expecting too much of them.

"Randy [Milligan, .219, two HRs, seven RBIs] is a real puzzle tme right now," Robinson said of his first baseman. "But we weren't expecting him to hit 20-25 home runs and drive in 100, but to hit maybe 15 home runs and drive in 70 runs.

"The same with Worthy [third baseman Craig Worthington, .2224, 12], he's been kind of a puzzle, too. You look for him to hit about .250 -- you don't expect a high average -- and give you defense and 50-70 RBIs.

"And Billy [Ripken, .198] -- I don't expect him to hit .290 [he hi.293 last year], but between .260-.270. I thought he'd found that niche, but he hasn't been able to do that for us. And Brady [Anderson, .157] has been a real mystery. He hasn't made the progress I thought he'd make."

Robinson believes a lot of the hitting mysteries can be traced tthe loss of Glenn Davis, whose went on the disabled list after contributing four home runs and eight RBIs in 12 games.

"I said when we got him that he wouldn't just make Cal [Ripken] a better hitter, but that he'd make everybody in the lineup better," said Robinson. But the overall slump can't simply be traced to the loss of Davis, though that undoubtedly is a contributing factor.

Saturday night's 4-2 loss (an incredible 2-for-16 with men iscoring position) was indicative of what's been happening to the Orioles, but two plays during yesterday's 10-2 pasting magnified the season to date.

Bill Ripken dropped Luis Polonia's pop fly in the middle of thinfield to start the game. There was still an escape route because Polonia was trapped beyond first base. But Milligan's throw to second hit the runner in the back.

Instead of getting out with one run, or possibly none, Jeff Ballargave up four more hits to finish the first inning trailing 4-0 -- before the Orioles came to bat.

"That put the stamp on the whole afternoon," said Robinson. ThOrioles then went meekly before the offerings of Kirk McCaskill (3-5) long enough (five innings) to let the Angels put the game away.

In the sixth inning Milligan cut off a throw from the outfield and again caught Polonia in a rundown. This time he was able to catch the Angels' leadoff hitter -- but Donnie Hill trotted across home plate with the seventh run in the meantime.

"You can't explain those things," said Robinson. "You work othose fundamentals all the time, but then you get in a game and sometimes things go haywire."

Which about sums up the state of affairs for the Orioles. There'a lot you can't explain right now, and things have definitely gone haywire.

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