To Jordan, Palmeiro's fate is key Orioles pull out stops in bid

commitment to winning concerns OF

Quick decision vowed

Milford Mill grad gets four-year, $30M offer

November 21, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Making their most impressive pitch ever to a free agent, the Orioles yesterday rolled out the orange carpet for Brian Jordan -- Milford Mill High grad, projected center fielder and potentially the centerpiece of the club's offensive makeover.

Jordan, in turn, suggested how the Orioles could help their chances: re-sign free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

The Baltimore native, ex-Pro Bowl safety and former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder ended two days of meetings with Orioles officials by insisting his final decision -- which he expects to make by next Thursday -- will be more heavily influenced by an opportunity to win than dollars.

The Orioles pledged both, offering him a four-year deal approaching $30 million they hope will lure him away from the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees and New York Mets.

"I don't want to sit around waiting on people. I want to decide, get on a team and be happy," Jordan said. He described the Orioles' elaborate presentation as "very impressive" and contradicted suggestions that the Braves are close to signing him.

"No one team has an advantage right now," he said. "It's just sitting back with my family making a decision."

If he signs with them, the Orioles have offered Jordan center field, a position he favors over right field, where he is projected by the Braves. But all considerations are secondary to finding a ++ winner, he said.

During an early-afternoon meeting, Jordan received assurances from majority owner Peter Angelos that the club is committed to constructing a championship-caliber team for next season. However, the Braves and Yankees can offer further proof.

Jordan is apparently serious enough about the club retaining Palmeiro that he says he will phone the incumbent Orioles first baseman before making his decision.

"I'm waiting to see if Palmeiro comes back. I feel he's a key player for Baltimore," assessed Jordan shortly after his tour of Camden Yards. "He's a great hitter; a great, quiet leader; a producer.

"They need him in this lineup to be able to compete with the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Hopefully, that's going to work out, and that will enhance my chances of coming to Baltimore."

Reached at his Dallas home, Palmeiro said he shares Jordan's questions about the Orioles' ability to compete, especially given the growing uncertainty surrounding free-agent left fielder B. J. Surhoff and the club's continued search for pitching help.

"I think [Jordan's comments] show he wants to win and he's concerned about the direction the team is going in," Palmeiro said. "If I was coming from a different organization, I would be asking the same questions."

Palmeiro called the uncertainty surrounding the team "an issue," and noted that the other clubs expressing interest in him -- Boston, Texas, Anaheim -- are proven contenders.

"It's been an issue. I'm concerned, also. I'd like for them to sign players for us to win. I've looked at that," he said.

If there was any doubt about the Orioles' desire to land Jordan, it vanished yesterday as the team's front office unveiled a lavish presentation that tugged at his roots here and his projected place in the organization.

Jordan was taken on a tour of Camden Yards that ended with a 10-minute stop at home plate, which was connected to the backstop by an orange carpet.

With chief operating officer Joe Foss, general manager Frank HTC Wren and agent Jim Turner among those looking on, Jordan took in a cinematic production that began with his live introduction by PA announcer Dave McGowan and continued with WBAL play-by-play guy Jim Hunter's call of an opening-day, ninth-inning showdown against Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Rolando Arrojo.

According to Hunter's call, Jordan smashed a two-run homer to give the Orioles a 2-1 win, presumably too late for Mike Mussina to get the fantasy decision.

The presentation continued with taped messages from some of Jordan's former teachers and coaches at Milford Mill.

"Welcome home, Brian Jordan" flashed on the auxiliary scoreboards.

Perhaps most revealing was the lineup projected on the center-field scoreboard.

It had Jordan batting cleanup, left fielder Brady Anderson batting leadoff, right fielder Surhoff batting second and Palmeiro fifth. Jeff Reboulet was at second base, batting ninth. Of course, neither Surhoff nor Palmeiro are signed for 1999.

Turner has maintained throughout the process that Jordan intends to sign before Thanksgiving, a point the outfielder reiterated yesterday.

"I just want to get it over with and get on with my life," Jordan said.

Jordan may discover his and Palmeiro's timetable for signing conflict. Palmeiro doesn't anticipate signing before Thanksgiving, though he insists he will not wait for fellow free-agent first baseman Mo Vaughn to land if a suitable offer arrives first.

Pub Date: 11/21/98

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