Is O's trade worth price it carries?

August 31, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

The trade makes sense. Every Orioles trade makes sense, from a narrow, short-sighted, Rotisserie-crazed perspective.

What to do if the team struggles against left-handers? Simple, go out and add two right-handed sluggers!

Never mind that the Orioles rank second in the American League in runs.

Never mind that their biggest need is a starting pitcher.

Never mind that Calvin Maduro could develop into a No. 3 or No. 4 starter -- he's of no use to the club now, so what good is he?

This is what the fans want, or so owner Peter Angelos believes.

He could not be more mistaken.

This is no way to reward your fans, no way to reach the postseason, no way to run a club.

The Orioles are the baseball equivalent of junk food.

They might eliminate a craving, but they won't leave you satisfied.

The fans don't want this dramatic a turnover.

The fans don't want prospect after prospect traded.

The fans don't want the Orioles to repeat their mistakes every year.

Angelos hired general manager Pat Gillick to restore the glory days, but he won't let Gillick run the team, so why not just bring back Roland Hemond?

Gillick wanted Kevin Seitzer, but Angelos didn't want to part with Jeffrey Hammonds or Jimmy Haynes for a 34-year-old veteran.

So, the Orioles acquired Todd Zeile and Pete Incaviglia for Maduro and Don Florence, an inconsequential Triple-A reliever.

Angelos evidently approves.

Better the Orioles parted with Maduro rather than Haynes or Hammonds, but the whole thing would be a lot easier to justify if they had acquired a pitcher in return.

Denny Neagle?

In their dreams.

So, the Orioles continue with a four-man rotation, while their closer, Randy Myers, has allowed 34 base runners in 18 1/3 innings since July 7, not to mention five home runs.

Yes, they are tied for the wild-card lead, and four games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees.

And yes, they needed someone better than Brent Bowers to play left field.

But what is this team's identity?

Where is the organization headed?

What is the point of this endless Rotisserie binge?

It's not just this trade, it's all the trades, the entire jumbled vision.

Sixteen of the current 25 Orioles weren't on the Opening Day roster in 1995. Six of those new arrivals have joined the club since July 21.

Injuries are partly responsible -- the losses of Hammonds, Tony Tarasco and Mark Smith created a shortage in the outfield, the losses of Arthur Rhodes and Roger McDowell a shortage in the bullpen.

What's more, the Orioles aren't alone in their revolving-door approach. Cleveland traded Carlos Baerga and Eddie Murray. The Yankees dealt Gerald Williams and Bob Wickman. The Boston Red Sox sent Jeff Manto to Seattle -- then reclaimed him on waivers.

Still, with Gillick, it was supposed to be different. It might have been different, too, if he were allowed to implement his vision and start bringing young players into the organization before the July 31 trading deadline.

Sacrificing the season?

The fans could have handled it.

They grew up rooting for an organization that was the envy of baseball, an organization so loaded, it would force players like Don Baylor and Bobby Grich to spend an extra year in the minors.

They supported the team when it lost 107 games in 1988, reveled when a collection of rookies and rejects nearly stole the division from mighty Toronto in '89.

They're not stupid.

They know that when you try to win every year, you end up never winning at all.

Gillick has made his share of blunders -- most notably, Kent Mercker and Luis Polonia -- but this is his first year in a new organization. Leave him alone, and he'll not only win a World Series, but also provide a foundation for long-term success.

Instead, the Orioles already want to give Zeile a contract extension -- no doubt, to help justify this trade.

What would that mean for next season?

A 31-year-old Zeile at third, a 36-year-old Cal Ripken at short and a 32-year-old Surhoff in left.

Angelos is also on record as saying he would like to retain Eddie Murray, 40, Bobby Bonilla, 33 and Chris Hoiles, 31.

In such a win-now atmosphere, young players face enormous pressure to succeed. When they don't, they're either dismissed or traded. Some, like Maduro and Alex Ochoa, never even reach Baltimore.

On Thursday, the Orioles started the struggling Haynes because he was the best available starter in their farm system, yet traded Maduro, a pitcher with a chance to crack their 1998 rotation.

Oh, they've still got Nerio Rodriguez and Chris Fussell as right-handed prospects, but they were saying that last season about Billy Percibal and Brian Sackinsky, both of whom are now injured.

When does it all end?

It never ends.

When the future is now, there's no future at all.

Lineup turnover

'95 Opening Day lineup .. Today's lineup

B. Anderson lf ......... .R. Alomar 2b

B. Barberie 2b ......... .B. Anderson cf

R. Palmeiro 1b ......... .C. Ripken ss

C. Ripken ss ......... ...R. Palmeiro 1b

H. Baines dh ........ ....B. Bonilla rf

C. Hoiles c ......... ....B.J. Surhoff lf

A. Van Slyke cf ........ .T. Zeile 3b

L. Gomez 3b ....... ......E. Murray dh

J. Hammonds rf ....... ...C. Hoiles c

'95 pitching staff ..... .Today's staff

M. Mussina ......... .....M. Mussina

B. McDonald ......... ....D. Wells

K. Brown .......... ......S. Erickson

S. Fernandez ......... ...R. Coppinger

J. Moyer .......... ......R. McDowell*

J. Orosco .......... .....J. Orosco

A. Rhodes ............ ...A. Rhodes*

D. Jones ............ ....R. Myers

A. Benitez ........... ...A. Benitez

A. Mills ........... .....A. Mills

M. Oquist .......... .....T. Mathews

B. Pennington ........ ...M. Milchin

............. ......... ..A. Corbin

*on disabled list

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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