Before we get to the important business of revitalizing the Orioles -- one free-agent signing and one trade could do it -- we must first discuss prepositions.
Yes, prepositions. What would we do without them? We'd have to say: What would we do them?
The reason I'm bringing this up is because of The Sign. You know which sign. The one that goes out in front of the new stadium that was first set to read this way, sans preposition:
This is what we call a visual. Note the giant Oriole Park. Note the microscopic Camden Yards. You can't see this, but if you could, you'd note the steam coming out the Guv's ears.
We fought this battle once, and we got this stupid compromise name, and then they buried the Camden Yards part of the sign in much the same way the Guv's second term has been interred. He went ballistic on this one, and so the letters on a new sign will all be the same size, meaning we can rest easy at night.
But for me, and many others, the real issue is what happened to the "at" in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Why was it left off the original design? Was this a cost-cutting measure? What if our forefathers had thought that way? We'd have the Declaration Independence.
It gets scarier. I got a fax from the National Association for the Preservation of Prepositions (NAFTPOP), who pointed out how this willy-nilly cutting of prepositions would irredeemably alter the American way of life. We'd have, for example, Gone The Wind. Farewell Arms. Wizard Oz. I'm climbing a stairway heaven.
Imagine this: I pledge allegiance the flag the United States America. That is not what made America great.
Thankfully, the at will be included in the new sign. As we used to say, now we know where it's at. So, on to the business of rescuing the Orioles, whose leaders have done the hard work of going to Miami Beach in December, braving the elements for the annual baseball winter meeting/sunfest/boondoggle. Let's just say you're as likely to bring your golf clubs and swimming trunks as you are the "Baseball Register."
They go to meet and take on important issues, like whether to slap on sunblock 15 or sunblock 10 lotion, and they make trades. It just so happens Orioles GM Roland Hemond loves to make trades, and here's what he should do. He should trade Randy Milligan for a pitcher who will go 12-10 and throw 200 innings. If Milligan isn't enough, he should swallow hard and then trade Randy Milligan and Mike Devereaux for a pitcher who will go 15-8 and throw 200 innings.
Milligan, my favorite Oriole, is what is known as expendable. When the Orioles turned Glenn Davis from rent-a-slugger to lease-a-slugger, Milligan was done, without a position. Davis will play first, and the new ballpark, the one with the preposition, demands a left-handed DH because of the short wall in right. Sam Horn fits that bill nicely. Plus, the Moose would command more in the trade market.
But if he doesn't comand enough, the Orioles must be willing to throw in the much-improved Devereaux, who's a fine center fielder and who hit a surprising 19 homers as part of 56 extra-base hits. That's a good year. But the Orioles need a leadoff hitter, and that's what Devereaux is not. Maybe Luis Mercedes is. Maybe the Orioles can find someone else. But they must -- repeat, must -- trade for a quality pitcher.
And they must get another pitcher in the free-agent market. There are only three real possibilities, and none of them will bowl you over. We can begin with Bob Walk, the old warhorse. He's 36 -- too old even for warhorses.
There's Joe Hesketh, who will be 32. He was released as `D recently as 1990. Last year, he was 12-4, but he's had only that one good year, and he's been on the disabled list five times.
Leaving Kirk McCaskill, who was 10-19 last season. Told you you wouldn't be bowled over. He'll be 30 in April; he was 68-55 lifetime with a 3.80 ERA going into last season; he has pitched 170 or more innings in four of his last six seasons. And he'll cost $2 million to $2.5 million a year.
Is McCaskill worth that risk? Well, the Orioles need a pitcher, so he is worth it, especially to a team with what remains a very low payroll.
If the Orioles add two veteran starters to reliable Bob Milacki, they can then hope Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald emerge as stars, making the team a contender.
Worth a shot? What choice do the Orioles have?
These are the Orioles at a crossroads. Fixing the sign was the easy part.