Wave in Lee Smith to retire Rotisserie

INSIDE THE ORIOLES

April 13, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Mention the name Lee Smith to a Rotisserie League baseball player and watch visions of dollar signs illuminate his face. For most of his 14-plus major-league seasons, Smith has been a ninth-inning fixture, an intimidating, 6-foot-6 presence on the mound.

Whether blowing hitters away with a 95 mph fastball as in younger days, or mixing pitches with precise control as the past couple of years, Smith consistently has ranked among the league leaders in saves.

Baseball's all-time saves leader has earned a lot of money for people wise enough to call his name in Rotisserie drafts. But just because Rotisserie players are huge Lee Smith fans doesn't mean huge Lee Smith is a Rotisserie fan.

On the contrary, Smith loathes the growth in popularity of the fantasy baseball leagues.

"All the Rotisserie bull has screwed up the way some fans watch games," he said. "Instead of rooting for the hometown team, they are rooting for individuals. They complain about players being loyal to the almighty buck, but the way they watch the game, they aren't loyal to their team, they are loyal to the almighty buck."

Betting and sports don't blend, by Smith's way of thinking. He never participates in the annual NCAA tournament pool, a tradition in major-league clubhouses.

"I never have," Smith said. "Not for me."

The Orioles on Jim vs. Jim

The Orioles are regarded as one of the more media-friendly teams in the American League, but they are willing to make exceptions.

They would not have taken the insults of ESPN2's Jim Rome sitting down had they been in Jim Everett's chair. To hear some Orioles tellit, Rome is fortunate Everett was the athlete he called by a woman's name (Chris Evert).

"I probably would have thrown some blows," third baseman Chris Sabo said. "Everett just wrestled him to the ground. Professional athletes are very competitive individuals. You put one in that situation, you egg him on the way that guy did, and what do you expect is going to happen? I saw the guy's apology, and I thought that was brutal, too. It was like I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry."

Sabo wasn't alone in defending the New Orleans Saints quarterback who, when playing for the Los Angeles Rams, was ripped repeatedly by Rome.

"I thought Everett showed a lot of restraint," outfielder Lonnie Smith said. "I thought the guy was very fortunate Jim didn't knock his dang block off."

Orioles first base and base running coach Davey Lopes didn't find fault with Everett's reaction.

"I think I would have done a little more than what Jim did," Lopes said. "I probably wouldn't have done the guy's show in the first place. I've seen it, and he's an idiot as far as I'm concerned."

Broadcaster and Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said both parties could have handled themselves better.

"The mistake Everett made was sinking to the guy's level," Palmer said. "He could have really made the guy look like a jerk by getting up and walking off. . . . I'll say this for the guy [Rome], he was as obnoxious to his face as he apparently was when he wasn't there."

Rome does have at least one ally in the Orioles' clubhouse. Left fielder Brady Anderson, a friend of Rome's, has gone on his show and said he would not hesitate to return.

"Sure, I'd go on again," he said. "Why wouldn't I? If I were Jim Everett, I don't know if I would go on again."

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