Alomar cleans locker, perhaps for last time Behind scenes, All-Star and Miller feud bitterly

Inside the Orioles

September 27, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- There is one fewer exhibit on display at the Babe Ruth Museum today than last week. Second baseman Roberto Alomar's All-Star Game MVP trophy was packed, crated and shipped to his Clearwater, Fla., home last week.

Likewise the locker wall at Camden Yards that served as a makeshift shrine to fellow Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente has been cleared.

Both are coincidence. Alomar's trophy was scheduled weeks ago for shipment, and Sunday was the Orioles' last home game. However, the signs of a pending divorce seem obvious between the All-Star second baseman and the club.

The Orioles haven't extended a contract offer to the pending free agent, and Alomar broke his boycott of Toronto media last week to say how nice it would be to return north of the border. Explosive quotes regarding Baltimore and the franchise were attributed to Alomar's agent, Jaime Torres, in June. Though Alomar said the statements -- including a claim that he doesn't feel comfortable in Baltimore -- were either taken out of context or out of the blue, little has happened to indicate otherwise.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Alomar said recently. "I like playing here. I like these fans. They have been great to me. But I have no control over whether they will make an offer or not. I can only play."

Alomar scratched himself from Friday night's lineup for reasons other than an injury. He entered the weekend batting .284 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs in 581 at-bats. He had 18 stolen bases in 23 attempts and committed 11 errors. Though not embarrassing, his numbers are hardly reflective of a player many consider among the game's top 10 talents.

"It's been a difficult year. I've had a [hand] injury, and I've batted all over. I've hit first, third, fifth. There has never been a great deal of continuity," he said.

But why do the Orioles and Alomar seem headed for a breakup due to irreconcilable differences?

Perhaps because Alomar is again playing with bruised feelings PTC associated with a perceived double standard within the Orioles clubhouse. And once again, he and his manager have reached an impasse.

In the words of one club official, Alomar "decided to lay down about a month ago." The feeling exists that his signature has become one of flash without accompanying production. Alomar attempts more headfirst slides into first base than anyone else and has become a notorious first-ball hitter.

Alomar's disagreements with Ray Miller have been kept to a lower profile than his messy public feud with Davey Johnson, but they have grown nearly as intense.

The differences peaked Aug. 26 in Chicago during a volatile clubhouse meeting convened by Miller. Agitated by the previous night's sloppy play, Miller singled out Alomar and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro for what he considered mental mistakes. Alomar was allegedly out of position on a bunt play, and Palmeiro had failed to execute a rundown play, allowing a run to score. Nothing was said, however, about Anderson's tardy break on a wild throw by catcher Lenny Webster that allowed a runner to score from first base.

According to eyewitnesses, Miller approached Alomar's locker and mocked his effort. Alomar rose from his locker and got in Miller's face, screaming his lack of respect for the manager. No one separated the two, and the confrontation nearly became physical.

Alomar, who successfully fought a $10,500 fine levied by the since-departed Johnson, addresses the recent issue by saying only: "You don't have to like everyone you work with. Do you like everyone who sits in the press box? Does it make a difference how you work? Not if you're a professional."

Alomar used the same description a year ago regarding Johnson. But unlike Johnson, Miller enjoys the support of the club's majority owner. And unlike the celebrated spitting incident involving umpire John Hirschbeck, Alomar hasn't rallied support from the warehouse. Just as Johnson did last October, Alomar will shortly leave Baltimore for Florida, uncertain of his possible return.

Pub Date: 9/27/98

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