The painful truth: Davis staying put

JOHN EISENBERG

November 13, 1992|By JOHN EISENBERG

Today's conspiracy theory has the Orioles shredding Glenn Davis' medical records faster than you can say "ouch." Would you blame them?

There would be at least some chance the Rockies or Marlins might take Davis in the expansion draft next week if they didn't know his nickname was "Whirlpool."

That would make for some fine theater, wouldn't it? The Orioles would put on their sad faces and say they wished they hadn't lost Davis, then start high-fiving as soon as the doors closed.

But it's too late. Any amount of paper-shredding won't help now. Everyone in baseball knows Davis is damaged goods. Even worse, high-priced damaged goods.

The chances of Davis getting picked next week are about the same as his chances of playing 162 games in a season. Without grimacing. It'll never happen.

Neither the Rockies nor Marlins are going to pay $3 million to a first baseman who can't play first base. Remember, Davis couldn't throw last year. And remember, there's no DH in the National League.

Holding onto Davis makes a little bit of sense for the Orioles, who have enough alternatives at first base that they can afford to hedge on what would be the stunning bonus of his regaining his health and rediscovering his home-run stroke. And if he can't throw, at least he can DH.

But it makes no sense, none, for an expansion team to draft an expensive player who very possibly won't be able to play.

That's why this is a smart piece of business by the Orioles. Leaving an undraftable player unprotected meant they did not have to choose between David Segui and Luis Mercedes, two young players of measurable talent who almost surely would have disappeared into the Rockie-Marlin black hole. This way, the Orioles were able to include both on their 15-man protected list.

It's not easy to tell, and certainly a moot point now, but Segui probably was the one spared the rather unfortunate title of "expansion draftee." Just an idle thought, but can you ever overcome being labeled as so overtly mediocre?

Of course, Davis didn't just phone the Orioles volunteering to waive the no-trade clause in his contract, which had made it mandatory that he be protected. No self-respecting agent would allow that to happen. No, the Orioles had to give Davis something back -- a bonus in the event he is drafted. Let's just say they don't need to take out an insurance policy.

AStill, Davis did essentially take one for the team by putting his future at risk -- you never know what some dumb team might do -- but he probably wouldn't be crushed to leave the city where he has gone from a star to the butt of injury jokes.

What it all means is that the club has gone to some lengths to keep Segui. You might wonder why, considering that he has basically been stuck at the end of the bench the last two seasons. But see, someone has to play first base. It's right there in the rule book.

Davis can't play first. Randy Milligan can, but he went downhill last season, becoming defensive at the plate and less sure in the field. Now he's been left unprotected, so he could be gone, although it's not likely with his salary higher than his stats. Sam Horn may not be back. Any other ideas? (And don't start talking about the shortstop moving over. He just won a Gold Glove, for heaven's sake.)

Segui's glove is the surest of the group, and he is a contact hitter who could drive in as many runs as Milligan did last year. Besides, he is only 26 and could still blossom. And let's not forget: He's cheap.

In any case, it obviously has occurred to the club to give him a better look at first, possibly at Milligan's expense. Segui had said earlier that he wouldn't mind being taken because he wanted to nTC play every day. But this affirmation of the Orioles' interest in him might change his mind.

The bet here is that Davis, Milligan and Segui will all still be Orioles at least after the expansion draft, and probably when camp opens in February. Trading Milligan would be the only reason it didn't happen.

The other news of the day is that the club has decided not to give up on Mercedes, about whom they weren't sure. They feel his potent bat outweighs his liabilities of base-running and defense. Look for him on the roster next year, especially if Joe Orsulak doesn't take a pay cut.

The best part of the whole business is that we're getting to talk about this at all. The clubs had wanted their protected lists kept secret. It was strictly Nixonian reasoning. They didn't want unprotected players getting upset, or protected players asking for more money. But Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Tribune got the lists and published them yesterday. Another act of collusion down the drain. Beautiful.

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