O's pitching Rose has his thorns, too ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore

KEN ROSENTHAL

July 15, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Now pitching, No. 35, Sid Vicious.

That's twice in five weeks Mike Mussina should have been arrested for inciting a riot. Mussina graduates from Stanford in 3 1/2 years, then acts dumb every time he touches off World War III. Is this guy beautiful, or what?

In only his second full season, Mussina is rapidly turning into the Pete Rose of the '90s, a player hated by opposing fans, but worshiped by his own.

He wasn't throwing at Bill Haselman.

He wasn't showing up Cito Gaston.

Go talk to someone else.

"You guys are looking for some big, old story," Mussina barked at reporters before the Orioles' workout yesterday. "I ain't going to give it to you."

Too late, Mike.

Just throwing on his own, he was. His day to work, understand? Whoever dreamed up the elevated bullpens at Camden Yards, thank you. Otherwise, this hilarious controversy never would have erupted.

For those who missed it, that was Dennis the Menace warming up for the ninth inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game knowing he had no chance to pitch. And that was Mr. Wilson refusing to use him in front of the hometown crowd, opting for one of his own team's relievers instead.

"I didn't stir anything up," Mussina protested. "I was out there throwing."

Out there throwing.

With 48,000 people chanting.

The CBS announcers howling.

And Gaston stewing.

"I knew there'd be a problem," Mussina conceded a moment later. But it wasn't his problem. If Mike Mussina wants to throw, he throws. If his manager gets embarrassed, well, he should have let him pitch in the first place.

"He's a competitor, and he's a know-it-all competitor," second baseman Harold Reynolds said, smiling. "The man went to Stanford. That explains it all right there."

Not really. Pete Stanicek wasn't like this. Neither was Jeff Ballard. Paul Carey isn't like this. Neither is Jeffrey Hammonds.

No, Mussina is a different breed.

Gordon Gekko in spikes.

"That's a little beyond what I thought he was capable of," first baseman David Segui said, as if nervous about what Mussina might do next.

Segui and Reynolds were among the Orioles who thought Mussina went too far Tuesday night, but their opinion was hardly unanimous.

"He was throwing on his own?" reliever Brad Pennington asked. "That's awesome."

Indeed, much as Mussina violated baseball etiquette, Gaston still looks petty and dumb. He could have tossed Baltimore a bouquet and deflected much of the criticism he took for the Cito Seven. Instead, he allowed himself to become the town's biggest sports villain since Robert Irsay.

Gaston wasn't going to give in to some punk, but he won the battle and lost the war. Nice going, Cito. You chose Mussina over Chicago's Alex Fernandez, a pitcher with the same 10-4 record but a significantly lower ERA. You also chose him over a more deserving Orioles pitcher, Gregg Olson.

It would have been priceless seeing Olson warm up next to Ward in the ninth, priceless hearing the fans scream for a closer they're usually trying to run out of town. As it turned out, Olson didn't even see the game. He was at the movies, taking in "The Firm."

A story about cutthroat lawyers.

Mussina's kind of guys.

"If that was me, I would have called down to the bullpen and asked, 'What are you doing?' " Orioles first-base coach Davey Lopes said. "I hope Mike didn't have any other reason for doing it other than getting his work in, that it was impromptu, that he was a little naive."

Not on your life, Davey.

Mr. Stanford calculated the entire charade, right down to his crowd-milking exit, in which he pranced from the bullpen to the dugout tipping his cap.

"I wouldn't put it past him to try and pressure them," pitcher Ben McDonald said. "But I think any of us would have done the same thing."

The difference is, Mussina is talented enough to irritate rival teams and still overpower them. He claims no ill will toward Gaston, but wait until the next time he faces the Blue Jays. It could happen when the Orioles visit SkyDome on July 27.

"He might not lose a game in the second half," said Hammonds, Mussina's former teammate at Stanford. "It might get him riled up. He might be looking at it like, 'Cito, ain't going to beat us.' I can't speak about what's going on in his mind. But from what I know about him, Mike will have his day."

He's beautiful, all right.

Sid Vicious, Dennis the Menace and Gordon Gekko, all wrapped up in one.

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