The Orioles made headlines last week when they called up minor-leaguer Jimmy Hurst and then released him because he had gone to training camp with Texas as a replacement player.
The move was consistent with owner Peter Angelos' anti-replacement philosophy, but it still left the club looking inconsistent and arbitrary. Remember, the Orioles were prepared to open the season with replacement umpires at Camden Yards, making it clear that principle sometimes depends on the price tag.
Baseball's chronic labor dispute has created a cloudy ethical environment. Hurst gets blackballed by the Orioles for allowing himself to become a pawn in Major League Baseball's ill-fated replacement scheme. But the club had no problem acquiring pitcher Scott Erickson, who proudly admitted he tried to hit former replacement player Edgar Caceres with a pitch earlier this season.
Hurst loses a chance to play in the major leagues because he made the mistake of showing up for spring training. Darryl Strawberry gets not one, but two chances to return after disappearing from spring training two years ago and sullying the sport with drug and tax evasion scandals. You figure it out.
When things go your way, they really go your way. Cleveland closer Jose Mesa has been unhitable this year -- and he set the major-league record for consecutive saves last Sunday to prove it -- but when he finally proved human, even that wasn't enough to derail the Indians. Mesa blew a save on Friday, breaking his string of 38 successful attempts, and the Indians still went on to win the game on an 11th-inning home run by Sandy Alomar. Fun factoid: The Indians have won more games in their last at-bat (22) than the last-place Minnesota Twins have won in all their at-bats at the Metrodome this year. . . . Time to start taking the Milwaukee Brewers seriously. They have heated up right along with the wild-card race, going 5-1 last week to creep within a half-game of the cooling Texas Rangers.
Did the Rangers turn into a supernova this week, or what? They scored 11 runs in the first inning of Monday's game against Minnesota and went on to score their seventh victory in nine games. Then they proceeded to lose four of six against the beleaguered Twins and rallying Kansas City Royals. . . . The Oakland Athletics may be at the bottom of the division, but they are not out of wild-card consideration. They went 5-2 last week, and split a weekend series with Boston to serve notice that they have not given up on the postseason.
The rejuvenated Philadelphia Phillies have never had much respect for Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching phenoms. They were the first team to put a dent in Fernandomania back in 1981 and Friday they knocked around Hideo Nomo and two middle relievers for 17 runs in six innings. Meanwhile, Phillies fans are catching Fernandezmania. Sid Fernandez won for the fifth time in six decisions Saturday to help the team take over the lead in the NL wild-card race and further befuddle anyone who watched him pitch for 1 1/2 seasons in Baltimore. . . . Letterman alert: The New York Mets recently went on an 8-2 run and it still wasn't good enough to get them out of the NL East cellar.
The Houston Astros are falling so fast that they may need to install heat shields to avoid a burn-through. Their 10-game losing streak has dropped them into third place in a wild-card race they once seemed certain to win. Sweeps by Cincinnati and Atlanta were understandable, but they looked just as helpless against Florida. . . . Cincinnati outfielder Reggie Sanders had another big series. He drove in six runs in the Reds' 19-run rout Friday and helped bail out comeback starter Frank Viola with a home run and two RBIs Saturday. In yesterday's series finale, he drove in two more runs to give him 10 for the series and 90 for the season.
The San Francisco Giants were threatening to get back into the NL West race, until their offense took the weekend off. The Giants -- with Matt Williams back in the lineup full time -- scored just two runs in the final three games of a four-game series at Montreal and were fortunate to come away with a split. . . . The San Diego Padres missed a major opportunity, dropping three of four to the last-place Mets. They were just fortunate that the Dodgers also stumbled in Philadelphia. . . . The Colorado Rockies could be facing a make-or-break road trip. They need to get fat on a relatively soft trip to Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Chicago before going home to face the Reds and Braves.