Orioles shouldn't save best for last in contract talks with Olson

BASEBALL

July 04, 1993|By PETER SCHMUCK

Now that the early-season struggles of Orioles reliever Gregg Olson are just a bad memory and he has emerged again as one of the top closers in the game, can negotiations on a new contract be far down the road?

Probably not, but agent Jeff Moorad said this week that there have been nothing more than informal conversations with club officials during the past few weeks.

"We have not begun formal discussions about Gregg," said Moorad, who also represents Orioles second baseman Mark McLemore and rookie phenom Jeffrey Hammonds, "but I think they [the Orioles] know that it is in all of our interests to consider a long-term contract at the end of the season."

Moorad isn't the threatening type. He has a good relationship with the club, as evidenced by the quick and friendly Hammonds negotiations last year. But the Olson situation is a little more complicated.

His two-year contract runs out at the end of this season, but he is one year short of free-agent eligibility. That should be incentive for the Orioles to lock him up for at least three years, if his early-season problems and the presence of promising left-hander Brad Pennington don't cloud their judgment.

There is also the question of whether Olson harbors any hard feelings after the way he was treated by Orioles fans during his early-season slump, but he'll have the rest of this year and all of next year to get over them.

Arms deals imminent?

There already are rumors circulating that several big-name pitchers will be traded soon to lighten the payrolls of hopeless clubs. It may be a little early for the Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds to give up on this season, but both teams are believed to be shopping key pitchers who will become free agents at the end of the year.

The Expos apparently are willing to move former Oriole Dennis Martinez in the right deal and the Reds are thought to be actively shopping Tim Belcher.

Three teams -- the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays -- are believed to be bidding on Belcher. The possibility of a deal for Martinez is complicated by his status as a 5-10 player. He can veto any deal and he reportedly has told the Expos he wants to be traded to a National League club.

What about the Orioles? They probably wouldn't turn up their nose at a front-line pitcher, but they aren't likely to give up the kind of young players each of those teams is after.

Mismanagement

You can't help but feel sorry for Texas Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy, who will always be remembered as the guy who couldn't protect Jose Canseco from himself.

Canseco said last week that he had only himself to blame for the ill-fated pitching performance that led to a career-threatening elbow injury, but it isn't as simple as that. Kennedy, rookie manager or not, is responsible for the welfare of his team, and that stunt cost the Rangers more than one hard-to-handle superstar.

It cost them credibility as an organization. It may have cost them a chance to get back in the American League West race. It cost them the player they sacrificed three other front-line players (Ruben Sierra, Jeff Russell and Bobby Witt) to acquire.

Kennedy is a decent guy who has not ducked his responsibility, so here's hoping that he can hang on to his job and make people forget. But they don't make mistakes any bigger than that.

From the home office in Arnold

With the usual apologies to temporarily unemployed talk show host David Letterman, here's my top 10 reasons why baseball should expand by two more teams:

10. Charlie Hough doesn't have anything else to occupy his time over the next five years.

9. Six-division format guarantees more pennant races than a human being should be allowed to enjoy.

8. Who says Tulsa isn't a major-league city?

7. Still hope for Sam Horn.

6. First .500 hitter only another expansion draft away.

5. Right now, Rockies have no one to trade with.

4. Seventeen shutout innings by Fernando Valenzuela and Jamie Moyer -- What pitching shortage?

3. Because $190 million doesn't grow on trees, that's why!

2. One more opportunity to blow off Tampa/St. Petersburg.

1. Mets will have only one-in-three chance of being worst team in baseball during next expansion year.

Warehouse power

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton was asked recently about his chances of hitting the warehouse at Camden Yards during the All-Star Game.

"Just leave it to me," he said.

However, when he was apprised of the distance (460 feet) and some of the hitters who had failed to hit it with their best shots, Daulton backed off.

"If I ever play there and there's a hurricane warning and I can get

one out in front," he said, "then we'll talk."

Great expectations

The minor-league managerial career of former Oriole Mike Epstein didn't last very long. He was fired after 12 games managing Single-A Helena in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization.

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