SARASOTA, Fla. -- Randy Milligan is desperately trying to stay upbeat, but it's not holding.
Sometimes, he's bitter. Sometimes, he's disappointed. But what he is mostly is sad.
He's a sad Moose.
"It's hard trying to get myself something positive to hold onto," the Moose says.
The worst part is that Milligan can't figure out what he did to find himself in this predicament.
You've probably heard what's going on. Everyone has heard by now. They might as well put it up in neon around Camden Yards. The Orioles are trying to trade Milligan, and it's tearing him up.
A man inclined to be happy, the best-natured Oriole and the one quickest with a smile, the player who introduced himself to us back in the magical season of '89 as Big Rand/Moose Mil-li-gan, he has finally made it -- and look where it's gotten him.
At 30, he is an established big-leaguer. He has just signed a million-dollar contract. And the Orioles don't want him anymore.
"It's funny," he says. "Everything I always wanted, I got, except for one thing -- a home."
They say his new home could be in Montreal. For a while, they were saying L.A. There may be other rumors, other Moose sightings. He hears them. He can't help but hear them.
In the off-season, he tried to ignore the rumors. His brother, who lives in California, would call him with news he'd heard or read, and Randy would tell him he'd just as soon not hear. But the drums beat more loudly with each day.
"One day after the winter meetings, I picked up the paper and saw where Roland said he was disappointed he couldn't trade me," Moose says of general manager Roland Hemond. "Then I understood. The strange thing is, you look at the team and see where you need to improve. It's do something here or try someone there, but I always thought I was part of the solution, not part of the problem.
"Remember when I said, 'Nobody's ever safe; you can never relax'? I've done nothing to hurt myself, but, look, I've gone from being a starter who hits 20 homers to being out of a job. I know these things happen, but that doesn't make it any better. I love it in Baltimore. I wish I could play there the next six years. I have great rapport with the fans there. I've made a lot of great friends. It doesn't seem right."
Life, as we don't need to be reminded, is rarely fair. Moose did nothing wrong, of course. He got unlucky. Or, if you're Oliver Stone, you might see a conspiracy. In any case, it was unfortunate for him that the one time the Orioles actually spent money to acquire a front-line player, they got Glenn Davis, who plays Milligan's position. And he got unlucky that, when they built a new ballpark, they put in that short porch in right field that begs for left- handed power. And the only left-handed power the Orioles have is Sam Horn, who plays DH. As a right-handed, power-hitting first baseman/DH, Milligan is expendable.
It's that simple. And it's that hard.
Understanding the situation doesn't make it easier for Milligan. And the uncertainty of the situation drives him slightly crazy. In the best of times, Milligan is a worrier, and these are definitely not the best of times. The truth is that Milligan is the Orioles' third-best offensive player, behind Cal Ripken and Davis, and that still doesn't seem to matter.
There's another truth: The Orioles may not trade him because they may not be able to get fair value. That would mean Milligan might become a part-time player. More than staying in Baltimore, Milligan wants to play full time.
"I'm not ready to sit on the bench," he says. "That would be saying my career has maxed out."
But what can he do? He does think there's something the Orioles might have done to make it easier for him. And why shouldn't they have? He has always tried to make it easier for them, even trying to play left field last season.
"I was at charity ball with Roland the night before they signed Glenn," Milligan says. "He could have told me, 'We're going to sign Glenn for two years, and he's going to be the everyday first baseman. We've got Sam and Dewey, and they can split the DH position, so we're going to try to trade you. If we can't trade you, we're going to try to find you enough at-bats.'
"I could have lived with that. I can't live with this. You know how the Orioles are always so hush-hush about everything, but this time it's out there for everyone to see. I didn't do anything to deserve that."
Milligan deserves better. My guess is that he might even get it. My guess is the Orioles will be forced to keep him. If they do, they're going to have to find a way to play him. Maybe, just maybe, there's a happy ending in sight. Milligan wishes he could see it from here.