OAKLAND, Calif. -- Designated hitter Harold Baines has come back to the Bay area, where he spent more than two seasons with an Oakland Athletics club that was the powerhouse of the American League West.
Now, when he looks across the field, he sees a team that has changed dramatically in the eight months since he last wore an Oakland uniform. The A's are just a shell of the team that won the AL West championship last year, but Baines is not the least bit surprised. He saw it coming just like everyone else.
"They had to [rebuild]," he said. "They had 14 free agents. It was going to be impossible to re-sign all of them. Most were major free agents and they weren't going to sign them all."
Baines, of course, was one of them. He filed for free agency, then accepted the A's offer of salary arbitration -- an offer that was only made so the club could protect its right to draft-choice compensation.
The Orioles, who had investigated the possibility of signing him as a free agent, waited until Baines returned to the A's before working out the deal to bring him to Baltimore.
There are no hard feelings. There might even be a lingering sense of loyalty if the Orioles weren't playing against the A's right now. Baines said he retains a special feeling toward the organization, just as he does toward the Chicago White Sox organization, which brought him to the big leagues.
"There are a lot of feelings like that about Chicago," he said. "Texas, no. But there is also a lot of that here because I was treated really well here, both as a person and as a player."
The A's are struggling. They are in the unfamiliar position of trailing the rest of the division. The divisional dynasty that Baines was a part of is no more, and he sympathizes with his friend and former mentor in the manager's office. But only to a point.
"I'll feel for him [Tony La Russa] after we leave. . . . after we're out of town," Baines said. "We're very close, but not while we're playing. That's the business side of it. He's not over there wishing I'll get a hit either."
Davis to report today
First baseman Glenn Davis was tentatively scheduled to join the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings yesterday in Charlotte, N.C., but he apparently will not arrive until today.
"That's fine," said general manager Roland Hemond. "He's going to play 15 to 20 games there so an extra day doesn't mean anything. He said he would report Tuesday or Wednesday and I said 'Let's shoot for Tuesday,' but that is no problem."
Davis agreed Thursday to accept a temporary optional assignment to the Red Wings, but he was given permission to go home for the weekend and join the club in Charlotte. The Red Wings play an exhibition game at Memorial Stadium on Thursday, but Davis probably will not play in it.
Mussina in perspective
Mike Mussina improved his career record at the major-league level to 28-12 with his complete-game victory over the A's on Monday. According to research by the club's public relations crew, no other Orioles pitcher ever won as high a percentage of his first 40 major-league decisions.
It is an impressive distinction, considering that the Orioles have developed two Cy Young Award winners (Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan), three American League rookie pitchers of the year (Mike Boddicker, Tom Phoebus and Wally Bunker) and six 20-game winners (Palmer, Dave McNally, Steve Barber, Boddicker, Flanagan and Wayne Garland).
Here are the top five:
Mussina (28-12); Storm Davis (27-13); Bunker (27-13); Jim Hardin (26-14); Palmer (25-15).