Sid's era or is that error? over

July 10, 1995|By JOHN EISENBERG

CHICAGO -- Right to the end, bless him, Sid Fernandez saw it as a weight thing.

"I admit it, I've felt weak all season," he said in the clubhouse after the Orioles released him yesterday. "My body is just now getting adjusted to all the weight I lost."

Whatever that means.

Clearly, Sid should have listened to the advice offered here and gained back those 40 lost pounds on a monster pizza binge. He might have rediscovered his lost fastball and forced the Orioles to give him back his place in the starting rotation.

Instead, he lost his job and the Orioles are eating his contract, which, needless to say, is kind of ironic.

Not that Sid will go hungry, of course. The Orioles are going to pay him $2 million not to pitch, and the Philadelphia Phillies apparently might pay him some more to pitch for them. If he gets hungry, he can just eat his wallet.

But enough of such talk. On the occasion of the ending of the Sid Era in Baltimore, we should reflect on the many highlights.

Let's see.

Hmmmm.

Well, maybe we'll come up with one in a couple of minutes.

His totals were six wins, three stops on the disabled list and a little more than $7 million in salary after a buyout, which works out to some $1.2 million per win and some $2.4 million per injury.

And you thought lawyers charged a high hourly rate.

Speaking of lawyers, Sid managed to put the screws to Peter Angelos like Bud Selig always wanted to, but couldn't. Maybe the Bud Man should seek Sid's counsel. Just a thought.

Anyway, back to the highlights of the Sid Era. How about that memorable first win? Anyone out there remember it? Hello? Anyone?

Oh, well. We're bound to come up with something in a few minutes. Meanwhile, let's reflect on the Era from the all-important medical perspective.

The injuries Sid incurred as an Oriole were a) biceps tendinitis, b) strained rib-cage muscle and c) strained muscle under the left collarbone. Anyone able to name the order in which they occurred wins a free pizza with extra cheese. (Answer below.)

Actually, Sid's brief time here (we hardly knew ye) will go down as one of the most baffling passages in Orioles history. As overweight and prone to injury as he was in his decade with the Mets, he was still a quality pitcher there. He won 98 games and had a 3.15 ERA. He had something of a track record. Even if he belly-flopped as an Oriole -- picture that! -- he figured to win seven or eight games and chew up some innings.

Instead, he was far worse than anyone could have envisioned, so bad that he didn't even merit a mop-up role. He completely lost it. Why? Maybe it was the change to the American League. Maybe it was the newfound comfort of a big contract. Maybe it was a decade of midnight pizzas finally taking their toll.

(Wait, here's a possible memory to savor: Sid's last win as an Oriole. Oops, it was 359 days ago. No wonder no one remembers it.) In any case, the Orioles finally grew tired of waiting for his physical moons to become aligned. Their first idea was to trade him and his big contract to another team. The conversations went something like this:

Orioles: "We'll give you Sid Fernandez, and you'll give us . . .

Other Team: "What is this, the Def Comedy Jam?"

Orioles: "Seriously, we'll give you Sid, and you give us . . .

Other Team: "Are you sure this isn't a crank call?"

Orioles: "Sid Fernandez for . . .

Other Team: "Police!"

So much for Plan A. There are a lot of dopey front offices in the major leagues, but apparently there is a limit to how low they can go.

Sid then hastened his departure, however unintentionally, by trying to turn himself into a martyr; he threatened to retire, then complained that manager Phil Regan wasn't using him properly. No one bought it. And at that point, the Orioles decided that their game plan was, simply, to get rid of Sid any way possible short of a felony.

The problem, of course, was that they still owed him $4 million. But he agreed to shave $2 million off his price tag because he wants to be a starting pitcher and he was never going to start for the Orioles again.

"This is probably best for both parties," he said yesterday.

Easy for him to say. He's cashing the checks, not signing 'em. (Answer to injury pop quiz: a-b-c. Fooled ya!)

Now, the Phillies apparently are considering signing him. Which begs one question to be asked: Have they been paying attention?

In any case, the Sid Era suddenly is over, and we're left with only memories. It's just that we can't seem to come up with any right now.

Oh, well. Maybe we're better off just putting a headline on the Sid Era and letting it float away into history like one of those big balloons in a Thanksgiving parade.

The Sid Era: A Guy Who Just Wasn't Big Enough (In Lots of Ways).

Perfect, don't you think?

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