They weren't just representing their city. They weren't just representing their country. They were representing all of Major League Baseball, and the Orioles blew it.
That isn't one man's opinion of the Orioles' 12-6 loss to the Cuban all-stars Monday at Camden Yards. It's the opinion of the Orioles' peers, the defending world champion New York Yankees.
David Cone and Mariano Rivera were so disturbed, they told The Record of Hackensack, N.J., that the Orioles' performance damaged the image of Major League Baseball.
"They embarrassed everyone the way they played," Rivera said. "I don't even know why they agreed to the game. I saw [Albert] Belle, standing there, taking pitches. That's not him. You could tell the Orioles weren't interested."
The Orioles had no choice but to participate -- their owner, Peter Angelos, arranged the home-and-home series with the Cubans. And they had excuses -- some more valid than others -- for their seeming indifference.
They were frustrated with their 7-17 record. They were starting a pitcher on a rehabilitation assignment. They were upset about losing their only day off in a 20-day period. They grew uninterested after a 56-minute rain delay.
Still, B. J. Surhoff did not take exception to the Yankees' remarks.
"I said after the game that people are going to have their opinions about the game. They're entitled to them. We played horrible," Surhoff said.
Was Surhoff embarrassed?
"I was embarrassed by the way we played -- of course I was," he said. "I never want to walk off the field having gotten my butt kicked."
The Orioles were in a no-win situation, for victory was expected, and defeat could only produce embarrassment. But the Yankees didn't want to hear it.
"Some games are bigger than the sport," Cone said. "It's easy as major-leaguers to get wrapped up in your own schedule, wanting to have a day off. But the political ramifications of that game were huge. It's a huge victory [for the Cubans]."
Cone reportedly was so disappointed by the Orioles' effort, he said the Yankees would like the next shot at the Cubans, asking reporters to "tell George [Steinbrenner] to schedule it."
"I would try to win that game as hard as any game I've ever played in," Cone said. "I would love to pitch against them."
Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez expressed a similar desire.
"They probably think they're better than us," Martinez said. "I mean, we obviously have better teams and better players. But right now, they've got to be thinking they can play at our level."
Belle was the most flagrant offender Monday night, taking 11 straight pitches at one point, then declining to shake hands with the Cubans. But even if the rest of the Orioles were trying, the visitors played with more joy and passion, played harder.
It didn't help that the Orioles started Scott Kamieniecki, who hasn't pitched in a major-league game since last August.
"It's unfortunate we couldn't start [Mike] Mussina. Had we started Mussina, it probably would have been different," catcher Lenny Webster said. "But it wasn't."
Was the effort lacking?
"I didn't play," Webster said.
Mussina, perhaps the Orioles' most candid, analytical player, disputed the charge that his teammates weren't trying.
"Professionally, I would say it's impossible not to put in 100 percent," Mussina said. "Are we playing as well as we can play? No. Are we putting in 100 percent effort? I would have to say yes."
Center fielder Brady Anderson agreed.
"All I know is that I played as hard as I could the entire game," Anderson said. "I wanted to play the game. I looked forward to it. Maybe I don't have a lot to do on my off day, but I wanted to be here."
Pub Date: 5/06/99