Breaking silence, he rips media, fans

Belle denies voiding no-trade clause

fans `have nerve to cheer'

July 26, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Orioles right fielder Albert Belle used the occasion of yesterday's offensive breakout to address local media for the first time since spring training, and his comments during a third-floor news conference included a denial that he recently renounced the blanket no-trade provision in his five-year, $65 million contract and disappointment with the reception he has received from many Orioles fans.

Interrupting a media boycott, Belle criticized last week's report by The Sun that he approached the club last month to renounce the no-trade provision.

"I didn't waive it," he said. "If I waived my no-trade clause, I'd get up here and tell you. If people believe what [The Sun] says, then I'm very disappointed. I don't know where he got his information from, but it's pretty sad for the people of Baltimore to believe that and what was said."

Orioles executives continue to give a different account, reiterating that Belle orally acceded to waive the provision after a dugout confrontation with manager Ray Miller in Florida. According to a club source, Belle's agent, Arn Tellem, became alarmed that his client would relinquish such a potentially valuable clause and quickly contacted general manager Frank Wren.

Tellem, said a source familiar with the situation, informed Wren that he would only grant "a window" for the Orioles to initiate a trade.

Tellem, unavailable for comment since the issue was raised, believed Belle's irritation with Miller prompted his request/demand, according to a club source. Belle and Miller have at least partially mended their relationship since and Belle approached Wren as recently as last Friday to confirm that the organization's window of opportunity had closed.

"It was an issue at one point but it isn't an issue now," said a club official who asked anonymity.

A club executive with another team last night confirmed Belle's availability for trade, adding that his organization considered any deal too great a risk.

Belle's denial also contradicts Chicago White Sox manager Jerry Manuel, a Belle confidant as well as his manager in 1997 and '98. Manuel told Chicago reporters last week that Belle informed him of his decision to renounce the no-trade provision during the Orioles' visit to Comiskey Park on June 17-20, less than a week after Miller benched Belle in Atlanta and ended his major-league-high consecutive-games streak at 392. "We were talking in the outfield and he told me he had agreed to void" the no-trade provision, Manuel said.

Manuel added: "He told me that after the incident he told them they could do something if they wanted."

With the trade window's closure earlier this month, Belle posted a sign next to his locker informing reporters that he intends to play out his contract in Baltimore. He also asked for them to "show me some love."

"That's why I put that sign up in my locker -- 4 1/2 more years. I tried to make it as simple as possible," Belle said yesterday. "I know it's hard for some reporters to comprehend that and read in between the lines. But I tried to make it as simple as possible."

Belle hinted that what he perceives as negative coverage has only motivated him. In recent weeks, The Sun has reported that owner Peter Angelos apologized to two families who were allegedly on the receiving end of Belle's obscene hand gestures during a June 4 game against Philadelphia. The offended fans were invited to attend a game in Angelos' box and an investigation was launched into the right fielder's conduct.

The Orioles also were put off by Belle posting a petition to boycott a June 28 exhibition in Rochester.

"When you think about it, every time [The Sun] writes a bad article, I get three hits, so maybe I could get [the paper] to write a bad article every day," Belle said.

Added Belle: "I'm not worried about what the media says. You can't control me going out on the field between the white lines. As long as you can't control that, I don't have anything to worry about."

Belle sounded equally unimpressed by the reception given him by yesterday's crowd. After hitting his third home run, Belle received a long ovation but elected not to give a curtain call.

"Actually, I was shocked" by the cheering, Belle said. "That's the way it's happened before -- you do bad, they boo you; you do good, they cheer for you. Actually, I'm disappointed that it's come to a time when they boo me. But it's a long season.

"I'm not going to get a hit every time in clutch situations, but over the course of the season I'll get a lot of clutch hits. I'm very disappointed. And then to turn around and have the nerve to cheer for you that's the way baseball goes."

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