O's don't owe you anything, Gregg, so go ahead and sign

February 08, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Please, someone, sign Gregg Olson.

It's getting tougher and tougher to abide some of the pleas being put forth hereabouts to bring the guy back. Not to mention the day-to-day reportage that usually includes everything about the guy up to and including his vital bodily signs.

Last Friday, Olson was up in New York "humming the pea" at a snappy 65 percent of capacity for the Yankees. Yesterday, it was Atlanta and about the same velocity. Next stop, Toronto?

Let's see, Olson used to send it plateward at 90 miles an hour, and 65 percent of that is 58.5 mph. Hey, what are the Yanks looking for, a right-handed Tommy John?

While you can't blame the agent in the negotiations, Jeff Moorad, for saying, "I think we're on track to close a deal in the next couple of days," in hopes of speeding up the process, you wonder why any bidder would feel a need to take a long-term, guaranteed plunge on a guy who hasn't humped up and let go since last August.

(Hey, isn't that Moorad fellow the chap who used a telephone in the Orioles office to land another of his clients, Will Clark, a deal with the Texas Rangers after negotiations with Baltimore had stalled? Better watch him.)

To many, it's as though Olson's ability to ply his trade is secondary. Yes, Gregg has turned in a fine five seasons for the O's if you want to follow the masses and assign far too much credit to the things a "closer" does for a ballclub. But the plain fact is nobody seems to have any idea if his ulnar collateral ligament will allow him to carry on.

We sportswriters are notorious for stepping up and offering sage advice on how team owners should spend their money. An indication of how effective our counsel generally is can be gleaned from the way Big Jake (Eli Jacobs) spent during his sojourn here. An old line about nickels and manhole covers applies.

Anyway, the argument goes that for all Olson did out of the bullpen and considering he was paid what amounts to a "pittance," Gregg should be signed for old times' sake even if he ends up needing an elbow transplant and a couple of years to rehabilitate.

Actually, the club's one-year offer of $1 million with incentives worth much more than that seems more than reasonable, all things considered. Which, in this case, means the Orioles have done more in this off-season than in the previous 20 combined, all the moves designed to win everything in sight, not simply to contend.

Last year at this time, O's general manager Roland Hemond was saying: "We feel encouraged about what we've done. We wanted to improve our team speed, and we acquired Harold Reynolds. We wanted to bolster our left-handed hitting, and we added Harold Baines."

With all due respect, those are the words of a man who, due to circumstances, was satisfied simply to contend and not lose ground.

In the face of what the Birds have done this off-season (we will now pause a few minutes while you drool over the prospects of DTC what Rafael Palmeiro, Chris Sabo, Sid Fernandez and Lee Smith will mean to the Russell Street Nine), it's counter-productive to urge or expect that the O's do anything but put the best and healthiest ballclub they can out there.

Recall, it wasn't that long ago that the team committed to a youth movement, which seemed to set off a series of moves involving players born before 1960. Stopgap.

Even before a final chapter of the Olson Dilemma appeared imminent, there were some, probably including his buddy, manager Johnny Oates, who wanted to see Rick Sutcliffe ambling out to the hill for yet another campaign. And, heck, wasn't the fact that Glenn Davis took a couple in the jaw for the club, on a minor-league basis, no less, worth at least one more semi-fat one-year contract?

At these prices, who can afford such magnanimous gestures?

The thing is, the way baseball is conducted today, spring training should be full of people who aren't assured anything unless they give indication they can contribute something to the club. That seems to be the situation the O's have set up.

If it's true, as reported, Olson is miffed the Orioles didn't offer him a contract in December, as required to retain his rights, he should do the walk-in-the-other-guy's shoes bit. As a competitor, he should want to earn whatever his services bring.

At the same time, he doesn't want to go back down to the salary he started out making as a newcomer. But that's hardly what he's being offered, not with those incentives.

"We agreed to talk again," says Moorad. Forget that. Sign. Here, there or anywhere.

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