Former O's make for cruel World

October 18, 1998|By JOHN EISENBERG

NEW YORK -- This is the World Series From Hell for the Orioles.

First pitch of Game 1 last night at Yankee Stadium? Thrown by former Oriole David Wells.

First extra-base hit of the Series? A double by former Oriole Steve Finley, now starting in center field for the San Diego Padres.

Possible Series-ending headlines? Either "Former Oriole President Larry Lucchino Builds Series Champion in San Diego," or "Yankees Rule!"

Call it a nightmare, a worst-case scenario and a really bad case of indigestion all rolled into one for the Orioles.

Like a clumsy burglar begging to get caught, they have left their fingerprints all over the Series this year. For all the wrong reasons.

Kevin Brown and Wells, the two ex-Orioles who started Game 1 last night, are just part of an impressive sweep of wouldas, couldas and shouldas spanning almost a decade.

Gruesome reminders of bad trades, bad moves and bad karma are everywhere.

MA It's a wonder the Orioles didn't also once trade away crooner

Tony Bennett, who sang "America the Beautiful" before the first pitch last night.

They probably would have wasted him in a bad deal for Jim Traber, another legendary anthem singer.

Not that the Orioles are the only team ever to make a deal they regret. After watching the Padres' Greg Vaughn hit two home runs in Game 1 last night, the Yankees probably aren't too happy that they traded for Vaughn last year and sent him back to the Padres because they thought he had a bad shoulder.

Guess it wasn't too bad.

The Mariners also probably wouldn't mind having back Tino Martinez, whose grand slam gave the Yankees a 9-6 victory last night.

Anyway, the point is that the World Series just started, and for the Orioles, it can't end soon enough. Who needs such torture?

Wells, Brown, Finley and the Padres' Randy Myers and Davey Lopes are all ghosts of disappointments past for the Orioles, who have watched 17 different teams reach the Fall Classic since they last played in 1983.

The Brown-Wells matchup was almost too much, almost a 15-yard penalty on the baseball gods for piling on. Who could make it up?

Brown, who pitched for the Orioles three years ago, and Wells, who pitched for them two years ago, combined to go 36-11 during the regular season and 5-1 in the first two rounds of the playoffs this season -- as opposed to a combined two games under .500 for the Orioles.

The Orioles weren't sorry to see either go. For that matter, neither was anyone else in town.

And now?

Talk about a matchup that embarrassed the Orioles.

Neither was at the top of his game last night, particularly Wells. Still, a pair of mulligans, anyone?

But the Orioles can't get either move back, of course. Just like they can't get back the amazingly bad deal in which they lost Finley nine years ago.

For those who don't remember, Finley was Brady Anderson's running buddy in the Orioles' outfield of the future until they traded him to the Astros along with pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling for -- punch line, please -- Glenn Davis.

Finley has played well for almost a decade, Harnisch has won more than 60 games and Schilling has become one of baseball's best pitchers, with more than 300 strikeouts in each of the past two seasons. Davis? Do we have to say it again? He was a total bust.

Considering how Schilling alone has developed, the trade involving Finley set the Orioles back many games in the loss column over many years.

So there's that lovely memory galloping around in the outfield at this World Series.

There's also Myers, the closer who was the Orioles' Most Valuable Player a year ago, then left in the off-season when the Orioles declined to offer him a three-year deal. He's with the Padres now. Call him the ghost of last year's success and this year's collapse in Baltimore.

That's not to say the Orioles' season would have turned out any better if they'd signed him. But it might have. And Armando Benitez's inconsistency as Myers' replacement was a problem. The Orioles are now shopping for another closer.

Lopes? He's a symbol of the instability that has marked the Orioles in recent years. He was the first base coach at least one regime removed.

And Lucchino? He's nothing if not a symbol of the front-office talent that has left the Orioles in the '90s. Lucchino, Doug Melvin, Pat Gillick and Kevin Malone are all considered among baseball's best.

Lucchino left Baltimore to chart his own course, hired his own young general manager, Kevin Towers, and now he has a team in the Series.

Could he have done it in Baltimore? Not under the current conditions. But on his own? Who knows?

In any case, it's a symphony of sour notes for the Orioles, a plate of spoiled food, a flat-out bummer.

And as if all the ghosts haunting this Series aren't enough, there are the Yankees, the 114-win, history-chasing Yankees, who have become what the Orioles expected to become when they assembled baseball's most expensive team ever.

Oh, well. It wasn't the first wrong turn the Orioles have taken. As this galling World Series proves.

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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