Hemond delivers, brings in Baines

January 15, 1993|By Ken Rosenthal Baines' career stats Jim Henneman | Ken Rosenthal Baines' career stats Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

It took an extra 24 hours for Roland Hemond to get his man, but, after five years, he figures it was worth the wait.

The Orioles officially obtained Harold Baines from the Oakland Athletics for two minor-league pitchers yesterday. For Hemond, the deal culminated a five-year pursuit of the veteran outfielder-designated hitter.

"Since the time that I've been here [1987], we've made attempts from time to time to obtain him," said Hemond, "so I'm especially happy to announce that Harold Baines is now an Oriole."

The trade, which sent Single-A right-handers Bobby Chouinard and Allen Plaster to the A's, was agreed to last Friday. But it wasn't until yesterday morning that the Orioles and Baines reached agreement on a one-year contract worth $1.1 million, plus incentives.

"In these type of [contingent] situations, baseball gives you 48 hours to make a deal," said Hemond. "When we agreed on the trade last week, we decided not to start negotiations at the start of the weekend, so we waited until Monday."

That gave the Orioles until 5 p.m. Wednesday to work out contract details with Jack Sands, the Boston-based agent who represents Baines.

"We were close, so we asked the commissioner's office if we could have 24 more hours and they said as long as Oakland agreed, it was no problem," said Hemond.

By yesterday morning it was a done deal, and Baines left his home in St. Michael's for a late afternoon news conference.

"I grew up watching and following the Orioles, and I really wanted to play here," said Baines, 33. "I think it's a good situation for me, and hopefully it will be for the Orioles."

As to how he will fit into the Orioles lineup, Baines said he will leave that up to manager Johnny Oates. "I'm at his disposal," he said.

Oates said that the addition of Baines gives him several options. "You always want to get better, and I think Harold makes us better," he said.

"It's going to help to have an experienced left-handed hitter in the middle of all those right-handed batters," said Oates, referring to Cal Ripken, Glenn Davis, Mike Devereaux, Chris Hoiles and Leo Gomez. "I think we now have 10 guys with the potential to hit 20 home runs.

"At this point, Glenn Davis is going to play first base -- how much, I don't care," said Oates. "Harold Baines is going to play some right field -- how much, I don't care.

pTC "We don't need Baines to play every day in right field. If we get 50 games [in the field] from each of them [Baines and Davis] -- and I'm not saying it means that's all they'll play -- then they'll each have 100 games and 400-450 at-bats," said Oates.

Baines, who hasn't played regularly in the field since 1985 because of operations on both knees, started 19 games in right field for the A's last year. He says it is unrealistic to expect him to play half the games in the field.

"But last year [when he played the outfield] was fun," he said. "And I didn't have any setbacks. I don't know how many games I can play out there, but this [Oriole Park] is a good park for me, and so is Yankee Stadium. Artificial surface is tough for me."

A career .286 hitter, Baines has hit 241 home runs in his 13-year career and driven in 1,066 runs, 10th among active major-leaguers. In the past 10 years, his 871 RBI ranks fourth in the American League behind new teammate Cal Ripken (921), Don Mattingly (912) and Dave Winfield (910).

Baines has hit 20 or more home runs seven times, and driven in 90 or more runs six times. And, despite his knee problems, he has played at least 132 games in all but one (1981)of his seasons.

"He has always seemed to be a good fit for us," said Hemond, who was the general manager in Chicago when the White Sox made Baines the first player selected in the 1977 draft. "Harold is very dedicated and a great team player.

"He has never varied in his approach to the game since the first day I met him. And I know of the great respect and admiration that [Oakland manager] Tony La Russa has for him, and that's just another important credential he brings to us."

La Russa managed Baines in his second year of professional baseball (at Double-A Knoxville) and with the White Sox, and was instrumental in the trade that brought him from the Texas Rangers to the A's in 1990.

Even though he was offered, and accepted, arbitration from the A's, Baines said he knew he wouldn't return to Oakland. "We had 14 free agents," he said, "and it's impossible to sign them all.

"Sandy [Alderson, Oakland general manager] was candid," Sands said. "He said he was interested in Harold before he signed the other two guys [Mark McGwire and Ruben Sierra]. After that, he was tapped out."

"I'm glad I'm here," said Baines, whose contract calls for almost $400,000 less than he made last year ($1.58 million). "I think I'm in great shape, and I'm looking forward to this year."

Can he be the player who puts the Orioles over the hump?

"I'm not here to say that," said Baines. "I'm just here to do my part. I'm here to play as much, and do the best that I can."

Batting fifth, Baines

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