Moose is endangered species in Orioles habitat

Ken Rosenthal

November 15, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

Where have you gone, Randy Milligan?

It's not too early to start asking. At the moment, the Orioles' first baseman is vacationing in Virginia. He doesn't want to talk about Glenn Davis. He doesn't want to concede his days in Baltimore are numbered.

The Moose as Garbo is as bizarre a notion as Eddie Murray on "Geraldo," but in this case it's understood. Milligan, who turns 30 on Nov. 27, might be the most popular Oriole after Cal Ripken. Sadly, he no longer fits on this team.

His silence reflects his dignity, but that won't help him remain an Oriole. His agent, Mike Powers, sent general manager Roland Hemond a congratulatory FAX for signing Davis. That won't change things either.

Powers spoke amicably with Hemond yesterday, then sent word through the club's public relations office that his client was happy for Davis, happy for the Orioles and happy to avoid a public debate.

"Randy's not sulking," Powers said. "He just doesn't want to get in a situation where people are asking him questions about him vs. Glenn Davis. Obviously that's where the questions are heading. He doesn't want to focus on that right now.

"I told Roland he's a big boy. If he's got to go, he's got to go. He's been in this business long enough [11 years] to understand how it works. He knows if he's not in the cards, he's not in the cards. Unfortunately, he's not playing the deck right now."

No, the Orioles control the shuffle. Davis is their first baseman for the next two years. The rest is simple: David Segui can back up first, Sam Horn and Dwight Evans can platoon at DH and Milligan can be traded.

Evans has yet to re-sign, and the Orioles insist they're not actively shopping Milligan, but who are they kidding? Just look up "trade bait" in your pocket baseball dictionary. The accompanying sketch has antlers. As in Moose.

Of course, no one wants to see the fun-loving Milligan go, not even

the club officials who would remove his big smile and deal him for a player like Montreal second baseman Delino DeShields tomorrow.

Manager John Oates called Milligan "a good player for our ballclub, good on the field, good in the clubhouse, a big positive influence." Even Davis said, "I love Randy Milligan. He's a wonderful teammate."

Just yesterday, a well-known fan named Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass sat in the Cross Keys Deli relating his most recent conversation about the Orioles with prospective NFL partner Barry Levinson. "We love Milligan," Weinglass said. "We can't understand . . ."

Actually, Boogie, it's quite simple, so take notes. Milligan isn't just the odd man out, he's marketable too. What's more, he earned a mere $330,000 last season. His salary will increase substantially now that he is eligible for arbitration, but he's still three years away from free agency, adding to his appeal.

For all their hemming and hawing, the Orioles already are trying to swing a deal. In fact, they spoke with Montreal at the recent general managers' meetings about DeShields. The Expos are unhappy with Andres Galarraga and his $2.3 million salary at first base. They reportedly like Milligan.

The deal makes so much sense, it can't possibly happen. DeShields, 22, is a gifted athlete from nearby Seaford, Del. He bats leadoff. He steals bases. He turns the double play. Why, he's even married to a woman named Tisha Milligan, an omen if there ever was one.

The Expos are willing to trade DeShields only because they have a replacement in rookie Bret Barberie. They're seeking two players in return, and the Orioles reportedly are one of four clubs interested, along with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the New York Mets.

DeShields batted .238 last season, down from .289 his rookie year. He already has 98 career stolen bases, more than any Oriole. The rest of his '91 statistical profile -- 10 homers, 51 RBIs, 95 walks, 151 strikeouts, 27 errors -- doesn't reflect his star potential.

Milligan probably wouldn't bring DeShields by himself, for he has yet to be consistent over a full season, even though he leads the Orioles with a .389 on-base percentage and has averaged 65 RBIs the past two years. Still, you get the idea.

First base is not usually a position in demand, but Eddie Murray, Wally Joyner, Pedro Guerrero and Alvin Davis are free agents this winter, virtually ensuring movement. The Orioles could lose out on DeShields and deal Milligan for a pitcher. They've got options now, which is the entire point.

Ironically, Milligan's first team (the Mets) is now trying to sign free agent Bobby Bonilla to play first base. His second team (Pittsburgh) platoons Orlando Merced and Gary Redus, whose combined production last season barely exceeded Milligan's.

Today, those clubs ask:

Where have you gone, Randy Milligan?

It's a shame, but the Orioles will too.

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