Winning attitude not lost on O's Team matter-of-fact about early success

April 16, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The clubhouse atmosphere at All-Star Games is different: strong professional camaraderie, tremendous mutual respect, the feeling that whatever is achieved is a natural progression resulting from the talent of the All-Stars.

Ken Griffey won the home run hitting contest? Well, that's because he's a great player. Randy Johnson struck out the side? course -- he's a tremendous pitcher. Barry Larkin made a diving catch of a line drive? Yeah, no big deal, he's one of the best.

With so many All-Stars on the Orioles, and the team playing so well, it's no coincidence that you can see and feel this All-Star Game atmosphere in the clubhouse this year. "Absolutely," said designated hitter Bobby Bonilla, a member of five All-Star teams. "Guys come here and they're serious about doing their work and they have fun playing and everybody gets along."

The Texas Rangers started quickly, and manager Johnny Oates acknowledged he's worried his guys are getting too caught up in their quick success. On the other hand, the Orioles won nine of their first 10, the second-best start in club history, and carry themselves as if this is just something to be expected.

Randy Myers saved four games in the first week, and Mike Mussina was asked what he thought about Myers' early performance. "Randy's been coming in and getting the job done," Mussina said, matter-of-factly. "He's been doing what they paid him to do."

The Orioles. Rent-A-Streak.

Brady Anderson hit two home runs Thursday night and the Orioles thrashed the Cleveland Indians, 14-4, completing a two-game sweep. Before the Indians scored a couple of runs in the ninth inning, this game was going to be Cleveland's most lopsided defeat in almost four years.

How big was this, Brady, stomping the Indians? Are you pumped up about beating the best team in the AL?

Anderson stared at the cameras and reporters for a few seconds. "Look," he said, "you guys are looking for Jack [Armstrong] quotes about us making a statement, and I'm just not going to say those things."

None of them are getting too excited. They don't seem particularly surprised, any more than a collections of All-Stars would be about beating the NL. Sure, Robbie Alomar is making a great play, but then, he's a great second baseman.

They are generally calm, serious about their work -- six of the nine position players have a history of playing just about every single game -- and, above all, professional. Go out, get a couple of hits and win the game. "We expect to win," Bonilla said.

After the Orioles rebounded from a five-run deficit to beat the Twins last Saturday, several players mentioned the dugout had a rather collected air about it. Everybody was sure the Orioles would win, one said, "and nobody was jumping around, like they were playing in a College World Series or something."

Pitching coach Pat Dobson said, "If you look around here and you see the names, you'd think we should play like we should play and be competitive all year. Not at a .900 clip, but well-above .500.

"With our pitching, there shouldn't be too many long losing streaks, because it would be hard to imagine losing more than one time through the rotation.

"There are real professional guys on this team, the way they handle things and go about their business. They come to play and they play hard. There aren't any petty jealousies or that kind of thing."

No. In fact, the Orioles seem to get along well. During Saturday's comeback, Rafael Palmeiro had his arm flopped around Alomar's neck on the bench. Ripken and Alomar chat constantly on the field. Wells and Kent Mercker seem to be close friends. Mike Devereaux's locker is alongside that of Anderson, and Bill Ripken and Cal and B. J. Surhoff share a corner of the clubhouse. Bonilla has been outspoken in his dislike for being the designated hitter (and Johnson said in a radio interview yesterday that Bonilla will play at least a couple of games in the outfield this week against Boston), but it's not as if he and Johnson are in the midst of a cold war over the issue; they talk and joke regularly.

All very professional.

"You've got a good bunch of guys here," Alomar said. "There's a good atmosphere in the clubhouse. . . . I enjoy everything about [this team]. Good defense, good offense, great bullpen, good starting pitching. Good guys."

Cal Ripken agrees. "The atmosphere and attitude here is very professional," he said. "[The team] has assembled a good group of players. . . . It's a great feeling to look around and see Robbie to my left, knowing that he brings a certain amount of stability and skill level, and to my right I look over at B. J."

In recent years, Ripken has played with different second basemen and different third basemen. "I see B. J. and know he's going to be there, and Robbie is going to be there, and Raffy is going to be there. . . . That's exciting."

Fast-start facts

Facts and figures regarding the Orioles' 9-2 start:

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