O's Way? No way. Embrace the badness


November 30, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

Albert Belle? Oh, why not? Bring him on, baby. Let's taunt this guy, goad him into rages demoniacal. Let's see what he can do. I think I'll get a bleacher ticket - I won't buy one, I'll get one from somebody - and, during one of those notoriously long lulls in action and noise at Camden Yards, I'll taunt him when he trots into the outfield. You know ... just to see what he does. Just to see if he comes after me. Just to see if the Orioles get their money's worth.

"Hey, Albert! Didja drink your Tension Tamer Tea today?" Something nasty like that.Or maybe I'll paint a bull's-eye on my chest and yell, "Hey, Albert, throw it here!"

Bring him on, baby.

He's perfect for Charm City, isn't he? He'll fit right into Cal's team, won't he? This is an exquisitely weird time in which we live. Premillenial Baltimore - you gotta love it.

The Orioles let Eric Davis go. Roberto Alomar is gone. Alan Mills is gone. The Orioles should have wrapped up a deal with Rafael Palmeiro months ago, but didn't. The general manager shoved off. And what are we looking at now? How are we to be saved?

Albert Bloomin' Belle, baseball's baddest bad man, in orange and black.

Where have you gone, Brooks Robinson?

Quite a record, this Belle - six suspensions from play in Major League Baseball because of ugly behavior on and off the field. He's thrown a baseball at the chest of a taunting fan, and at a Sports Illustrated photographer. With his foul mouth, he's chewed out television commentator Hannah Storm.

I could go on, so I will.

He's been caught using a corked bat (cheating, in other words). He's charged the pitcher's mound twice. He's destroyed a clubhouse bathroom. (Hey, Albie, come over to my house and go nuts here. We could use a new powder room!)

Nice, eh? What do I tell my kids?

That you can get $65 million for putting the ugh in ugly? That you can be a huge jerk and still have people throw huge amounts of money at you?

Is this the Oriole Way?

Is there an Oriole Way?

As Charlie Eckman used to say: "Ain't no way."

There's a reason we Baltimoreans seem to some overly nostalgic.

Remember when we had honest, hard-working, decent players on the team? Guys who didn't dog it? Guys with personality? Guys who didn't embarrass us? Remember Dempsey, Belanger, Bumbry, Roenicke and Lowenstein? Remember Flanagan, Brooks and Boog? Remember Tito Landrum? Remember Floyd Rayford, for crying out loud! Guys who people actually liked? We liked B.J. Surhoff, and he may not return. We liked Palmeiro, the strong, steady and silent type - we liked his BGE commercials, too - but his return isn't a given. We liked Davey Johnson, and he's gone. We came to revere Eric Davis, not for his bat as much as for his strength and grace in the face of a cancer threat, and he's gone.

But ho-ho-ho, boys and girls, Albert Belle might be coming to town.

Didn't we boo the hell out of this guy last season, and the season before that, and the one before that?

Don't we despise him because of his boorish behavior?

Ah, life, she is a femme bizarre, no?

There are two ways to react to the prospect of Albert Belle becoming an Oriole - spend the next five baseball seasons at Baysox or boccie games, or embrace the idea and learn to love Belle badness.

We can't sit around decrying the lack of morality in the Orioles' decision-making for the next five years. What's the fun in that?

If Belle gets ugly again, on or off the field, we should go with it. We should do what the U.S. government has done with an array of dictators around the world: Embrace them, adopting the motto: "He's a - , but at least he's our -."

Of course, Mad Albert must do his part, too.

We're going to need outbursts from this guy. He cannot be allowed to rest on his record of suspensions and fines. He's got to keep being bad. If he comes to Baltimore and announces that he's a changed man, if you see Albert carrying himself with quiet grace and dignity, if you see him doing decent things, even gentlemanly things - if you see him handing out flowers on Eutaw Street on Mother's Day - then you'll know the Orioles got a raw deal.

It's warped thinking, I know. But it's the kind of thinking that modern baseball hath wrought.

Where have you gone, Brooks Robinson?

Colts off our backs

Now that the Ravens have beaten the Colts in Baltimore, can we move on to other business? Can today be the first day of the rest of our lives? God, I hope so.

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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