Piazza not such a catch for Orioles

May 16, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

Should the Orioles trade for Mike Piazza?

Not unless they can steal him, and don't count on that happening.

Piazza, 29, is one of the top offensive players in the game, but he's also a selfish dunce who turned down the richest contract offer in major-league history.

He's getting what he deserves -- a trade to Triple-A Florida, after the deal was approved by another beauty, Gary "Show Me The Money" Sheffield.

The Orioles probably can't get Piazza. They probably wouldn't want to re-sign him. They probably should just forget the whole thing.

General manager Pat Gillick said yesterday that he might contact Florida about Piazza once the trade becomes official.

Offer Sidney Ponson, wait for the rejection, then hang up.

The Orioles already are loaded with stat-conscious sluggers, and adding one more won't solve their problems.

It's time to stop bleeding the farm system.

Enough is enough.

The success of the Bobby Bonilla trade might be enough to tempt owner Peter Angelos into making another blockbuster move.

But fortunately, the Orioles probably don't have enough prospects on the verge of the majors to satisfy the Marlins' insatiable hunger for minimum-salary infantrymen.

Ryan Minor?

Not for a potential free agent.

Enough is enough.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said last night that he doesn't want Piazza, preferring to stick with his catching tandem of Jorge Posada and Joe Girardi.

The Orioles have a more glaring need for a catcher, but what happens when Piazza demands his precious $100 million?

That's what created this ridiculous trade in the first place -- that, and the Marlins' cost-cutting frenzy.

Where's acting commissioner Bud Selig?

Authoring his autobiography, "Why I'm Not Bowie Kuhn."

The Marlins have "acquired" Piazza and Todd Zeile for Sheffield, Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich and a player to be named.

Piazza should not pass go. He should not unpack his bags. He should not even risk waiting on line for a table at Joe's Stone Crabs.

The Marlins will want to get rid of him worse than a certain president wants to get rid of Kenneth Starr.

Frankly, it's too bad Piazza won't be stuck with the coupon-clipping defending World Series champions beyond the July 31 trading deadline.

There should be a new rule in sports -- do something stupid, and go directly to small-market jail.

It happened to Chris Webber, who is now condemned to spend the next three seasons in Sacramento.

It should happen to Piazza, the U.S. hockey players who trashed the Olympic Village and the Bam Morrises of the world.

Alas, Piazza is going to get his money -- he batted .362 with 40 homers and 124 RBIs last season. Rest assured, Sheffield will get his, too.

All Sheffield wanted the Dodgers to do is give him a raise that would account for the state taxes he doesn't pay in Florida, and guarantee his $11 million option for 2004.

The six-year, $61 million extension he signed last season?

Expense money!

"I am going to make a decision that will be beneficial for the well-being of my family and include all the components necessary for the continued growth of my career on and off the field, as well as my personal happiness," Sheffield said in a prepared statement before approving the deal.

"Whatever the outcome, I hope my fans will support my decision, as they provide the passion that drives me."

Don't you just love these guys?

Sheffield, a native of St. Petersburg, Fla., also is said to be torn by family matters -- two of his daughters live in Florida, while his 4-year-old son lives in Arizona.

But back to Piazza, who probably would love to play close to his hometown of Norristown, Pa. -- provided, of course, that the Orioles could make him whole.

Angelos has the money to sign him -- or will have it, after he receives his expected fee of more than $500 million in the state's lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

You say tobacc-a, I say Piazza.

You say a slugger, I say a catcher.

Tobacc-a, Piazza.

A slugger, a catcher.

Let's call the whole thing off.

Piazza's knees will enable him to catch two more seasons, tops. Then what? He could move to first base, assuming Cal Ripken is still at third or out of the picture.

Let's not even go there.

RTC Piazza already earns $8 million, more than any Oriole. Angelos prefers to sign players for below market value. Piazza rejected $14 million a year from the Dodgers.

The Orioles' unwritten rule that no player can earn more than Ripken?

"We might want to crawl past it, instead of hopscotch over it," one club official said. "Once you go up there, it sets whole new parameters."

Some team will trade for Piazza. Some team will give him his money.

For once, the Orioles should just pass.

Enough is enough.

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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