O's figure to think big: Alex Rodriguez

On Baseball

July 25, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles will have to work hard this winter to rebuild their sagging image, and what better way to do that than by making a major play for Seattle Mariners superstar Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who can become a free agent after the 2000 season, has given every indication that he is not interested in signing a contract extension with the Mariners during the coming off-season. He's apparently looking forward to breaking baseball's salary record the following year.

Look for the Mariners to solicit bids and try to get a huge package of major- and minor-league talent for him. The Orioles are not flush on the farm, but they probably could package a major-league starter and a couple of their "untouchable" minor leaguers to acquire one of the best all-around players in baseball.

Of course, the Orioles would also have to come to terms on a multi-year deal with Rodriguez, which would figure to cost about $100 million.

Sound outrageous? Maybe, but the Orioles need a hook for next season -- something other than Albert Belle's misguided attempt to develop a new form of sign language.

Even if they could put together an acceptable package, the odds against persuading Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras to forgo free agency would be very high. But Rodriguez is a huge fan of Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken and just might be willing to make a deal to play alongside him in 2000.

Never know until you ask.

Mo's bitter blues

Mo Vaughn is having GM problems again. He left Boston after engaging in a long-running feud with Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. Now, he's at odds with Anaheim Angels GM Bill Bavasi.

The reason: Bavasi's cavalier response to the concerns that Vaughn and other players raised about manager Terry Collins during a lengthy meeting in June.

Bavasi gave Collins a contract extension, anyway, and told reporters that he disregarded the players' complaints after "about 15 minutes." Vaughn hasn't spoken to him since.

"He asked us and then turned it around on us," Vaughn told the Orange County (Calif.) Register. "He threw it in our faces. That's not right. I haven't been upstairs. I won't go upstairs. You don't do that. I've been through that. I didn't expect this here."

The Angels are in free fall, and emotions are running hot. The day before, outfielder Darin Erstad ripped the team for going "soft," and who could argue as they have dropped nine straight games to fall out of the AL West race?

New-stadium blues

Mariners fans may be oohing and aahing about new Safeco Field, which opened last week, but the deeper fence dimensions have some of the club's power hitters pining for the cozy Kingdome.

Rodriguez hit a grand slam on Monday night and came away shaking his head.

"I hit that ball as hard as I can hit one," he said. "I thought it was 10-15 rows out in right-center field and it barely cleared the fence. They could move these fences in 20 feet. You try to hit home runs in this park, you'll hit .220."

Manager Lou Piniella agrees, but he still is enamored of the new park. "The fans, the media, the players -- everyone has fallen in love with the home run," he said. "This park puts a premium on playing an all-around game on defense and pitching and manufacturing runs. This park will make you play better baseball."

Perfect irony

New York Yankees pitcher David Cone used the City Hall celebration of his perfect game to take an apparent verbal shot at unannounced New York senatorial candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Cone publicly thanked New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his long-standing support of the Yankees and called into question the sincerity of other politicians who have tried to make political capital out of their recent success.

"Mr. Mayor, I'd like to say, on behalf of all the Yankee players how your sincerity as a Yankee fan really comes across," Cone said. "We see it. I mean, there's a lot of politicians that say they're baseball fans and put on the cap and "

He trailed off at that point, but that seemed to be an obvious jab at Mrs. Clinton, who appeared at a White House function honoring the champion Yankees recently and proclaimed that she had been a Yankees fan all her life.

A's get serious

The Oakland Athletics may be the surprise contender of 1999, but manager Art Howe is taking his club's place among the American League's wild-card hopefuls very seriously.

"As serious as a heart attack," he said recently. "If you don't shoot for the moon, you won't get there. We're going to keep going until somebody proves different."

So far, so good. The A's are three games above .500 and just 2 1/2 games back of wild-card leaders Toronto and Boston.

"We're playing well enough that we can look at the scoreboard and see how [AL West leader] Texas is doing," said pitcher Gil Heredia. "That's really fun."

Milestone men

San Diego Padres star Tony Gwynn has slipped into a neck-and-neck race with Wade Boggs to be the first to get to 3,000 hits, thanks to the nagging leg injuries that have limited his playing time, but he still wants to beat Boggs there.

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