When Sabo cooled off, O's were listening

INSIDE PITCH

June 12, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

When last heard from, before this weekend, Chris Sabo was dTC on a mission. He wanted out of the dugout, Baltimore, the American League and his role as an occasional designated hitter -- in that order.

"Trade me," he said. "Send me to the minor leagues," he said. "Get me out of here," he said.

All of the above less than a week after his return from the disabled list and with Leo Gomez hot-corner hot as his replacement at third base. And Sabo, considered the free-agent acquisition most likely to endear himself to Orioles fans, had a lot of people agreeing with him.

Within two months, Sabo had accomplished the near-impossible. The epitome of the blue-collar player had turned off the epitome of a blue-collared town.

Had the Orioles traded Sabo for a suspect rather than a prospect, let him go for the waiver price, sent him to the minor leagues or released him, nobody (certainly none in the media) could've objected without being labeled an instant hypocrite.

But knee-jerk reactions don't work in baseball any better than elsewhere. Compounding one merely doubles the displeasure.

Sabo was out of line, or at the least too early, with his brutally frank remarks about not being "the one who hit .190 last year." It was a slap at Gomez, who hit seven points higher and suffered by trying to play through a wrist injury last year.

When Sabo sounded off, it was a knee-jerk reaction. He didn't come here to play second fiddle, unless Mike Schmidt were to come out of retirement, and he made sure everybody, especially the Orioles, understood.

Sabo is not a boat-rocker, but despite his insistence to the contrary, he's never been bashful about speaking his mind.

If Sabo was hoping the Orioles would overreact to his comments and unload his disenchanted body, he evidently got a different message. Within days of claiming his only position was third and that he despised the DH role, he discreetly mentioned the possibility of playing the outfield to manager Johnny Oates.

Maybe the Orioles would have considered the possibility eventually, but certainly not without Sabo's consent -- and probably not without his suggestion. The bottom line is that, in one game, Sabo provided all of the reminders why the Orioles wanted him in the first place. He may not get his third base job back. He may even ultimately get his wish for a trade.

This could turn out to be a classic example of why the best reaction to an overreaction is no reaction at all.

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