Pride, money on line vs. Blue Jays

Orioles notebook

September 30, 1993|By Kent Baker and Milton Kent | Kent Baker and Milton Kent,Staff Writers

No matter how the Orioles readjust their sights, the Toronto Blue Jays always seem to be standing in their way.

Even with the American League East championship safely in their pockets, the Blue Jays now are the obstacles blocking the Orioles' path to second place.

This final series of the season at Camden Yards has lost the impact of Orioles notebook

a ballyhooed title showdown, but it is still an important one for the Orioles.

"It would be an improvement to finish second instead of third like last year," said Ben McDonald, who will pitch the season finale Sunday.

"And we want to beat them because they've been a nemesis for us going all the way back to '89. They're the best team in the league and it would mean something to get over the lapse we've gone through, the feeling sorry for ourselves."

"Pride will motivate us," said Mark McLemore. "We're not going against them just to finish the season."

Since the division-title clincher in 1989, the Blue Jays have won 13 games in their final at-bat against the Orioles. They are 6-3 in this season's series.

The players discount residue from the Cito Gaston-Mike Mussina flap at the All-Star Game as an incentive.

"That was a press thing. The fans get a kick out of it, but it was blown way out of proportion," said David Segui. "I don't think the players were offended by it."

The Orioles aren't quite sure how Gaston will approach this series -- whether he will go full-bore to get his regulars ready for postseason play or go with the patchwork lineup of reserves he used in Milwaukee Tuesday after the division had been clinched.

"I don't really believe he'll play everybody [regulars] all four days, but he'll be trying to get people ready, too," said McLemore. "Maybe the regulars will all sit out a game or two."

"They have to play some to stay sharp," agreed catcher Chris Hoiles. "But a lot is going to depend on who is pitching that game for us [a left-hander or right-hander]."

"Hey, you look at the team he put out there Tuesday and they still scored six runs," said McDonald. "I don't look for a lot of letup no matter who's out there."

For the Blue Jays then, this will be a series for tuning up. For the Orioles, it will be one for honing in on second after a topsy-turvy seasons of high highs and low lows.

"This is one of those years that has taken a lot out of us mentally," said McDonald. "We were down so far early in the season, fought back, got into it, then got down again. It's been a tough year."

One that would be made easier by finishing in second place.

Oates in holding pattern

After the Toronto series, the next significant date on Orioles manager Johnny Oates' calendar is Halloween, but not to hand out candy.

By that date, the Orioles must exercise their option for Oates' services for next year or lose him.

"I'm in no hurry," said Oates. "I'd like to have some type of security, but I can wait."

Oates also is understanding of the fact that the new ownership group, headed by Baltimore attorney Peter G. Angelos, will play a large role in the decision once it takes control of the club, presumably next week.

"If I just bought a house and it hadn't closed yet, I wouldn't go redecorating it or hanging a lot of ornaments," Oates said yesterday.

That doesn't mean Oates hasn't been thinking about the future.

Referring to himself, Oates said with a smile, "I hope he doesn't put up too many new ornaments. If he wants to add an ornament or two, one with 110 or 120 RBI or one with 22 wins would be nice."

Running on empty

If Oates returns, he has vowed to make the Orioles a better base-running team.

"I've been very disappointed with our base running. Most clubs spend an hour during the spring working on base running," said Oates. "This ballclub will have to spend more than an hour next spring. There's going to be a lot of talking."

Oates didn't blame anyone for the occasionally sloppy base running, but said first-base coach Davey Lopes, third-base coach Mike Ferraro, the players and he all were responsible.

Coming off the bench

After a month of relative inactivity, Damon Buford has earned starts in left field the past two nights against New York left-handers.

Despite his sporadic play, Buford, who will play winter ball in Puerto Rico, doesn't consider the season a wasted experience.

"It's been all right for me," said Buford. "I've had some kind of success, so it's not been a bad thing at all. I still have my confidence."

Double your pleasure

Cal Ripken's first-inning double raised the Orioles' season total to 282, tying a club record set in 1983.


It won't have much impact on Cal Ripken's $5.5 million salary, but finishing second instead of third in the AL East would mean a bonus of almost $7,000 per player, based on last year's payoffs. The players' pool is formed from 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the League Championship Series and World Series. Last year's pool of $13,530,613 set a record. Here's how it was divided, with figures representing the approximate per player share.

World Series champs (Toronto): $115,000

National League champs (Atlanta): $84,300

Division champs (Oakland, Pittsburgh): $38,900

Second place (Milwaukee, Minnnesota, Cincinnati, Montreal): $10,300

NB Third place (Orioles, White Sox, San Diego, St. Louis): $3,000

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