`Thanks, but no thanks' on Canseco is good sign

ON BASEBALL

April 01, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jose Canseco was tempting. The redeveloping Orioles could use a little more personality, so the bigger-than-life slugger might have put some meat in those empty green seats in the upper deck.

Still, the decision to pass on Canseco is the latest indication that the team finally knows in which direction it's going. The club's increased emphasis on player development cannot coexist with the rent-a-player mentality that signing Canseco would have represented.

Even if he were to get healthy in a hurry and contribute 30 home runs to the Orioles' attack, the long-term result would be just another missed opportunity to develop younger talent.

If Canseco held to recent form, the Orioles would have been saddled with another chronically injured player and more dead payroll, though he wouldn't have cost very much at this desperate stage in his career.

It's too bad, really. Canseco's physical problems -- he has played just one full season since 1993 -- prevented him from being a truly Ruthian player. If he could have stayed healthy, he might be pushing 600 home runs now instead of hanging on for a long-shot chance at 500.

Who knows, he still might get there. He still might be able to be the missing piece in some team's offensive lineup. He just didn't fit into the long-range plans of a team that needs to continue building from the bottom up for at least the next couple of years.

Faint praise

Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Bob Daly gave general manager Kevin Malone a vote of confidence recently, though the organization has taken steps to reign in the outspoken former Orioles executive.

"I've said it many times already and I'll say it again: I'm pleased with the type of organization Kevin has put together," Daly said.

"I'm pleased with the type of draft picks we've made. I'm pleased with a lot of the people that work for Kevin. Most of the people that work for Kevin I know intimately, and I like very much. I like the way Kevin approaches a lot of things.

"Obviously, there have been a lot of distractions, before I got here and after I got here. ... And Kevin does say things sometimes that can put people off. But the truth of the matter, as far as a baseball manner is concerned, and as far as the way the people work for him, and the way he utilizes the people that work for him, I think he does a good job.

"There are other times when he sometimes puts his foot in [his mouth] when he's talking to the media. I understand that and I take everything into account. ... So, look, everything is not perfect, but the truth is he's a very good baseball man and I'm very pleased with the staff he's put together."

Loose translation: Malone has a job as long as the Dodgers stay in contention this year. If they begin to slip, there will be a new sheriff in town.

Monetary policy

Today's big international opener between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays in San Juan, Puerto Rico, isn't going to mean big cake for the players, who get a piece of what's left after the teams are compensated for home-gate losses associated with the trip.

That's quite in contrast to last year's Chicago Cubs/New York Mets opening series in Japan, which generated $9 million in revenue and netted each player on the trip $30,000.

"It won't be anything like the Mets and the Cubs," Rangers pitcher Rick Helling said. "It shouldn't be. It's not as long of a trip and Puerto Rico is not nearly as inconvenient."

The game is a sellout and is expected to gross about $2 million. The players are guaranteed a percentage of the profits, but there is no guarantee there will be any after the clubs offset the lost dates.

Still, there was general approval for the trip, which gives Puerto Rican fans a chance to see two prominent native sons -- Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Delgado -- in a major-league setting.

"Everybody was pretty much in favor of it," Helling said. "It's good to get international expansion and to bring home players like Carlos Delgado and Pudge [Rodriguez]."

Bad blood brewing

Houston Astros starter Jose Lima started out to pay the St. Louis Cardinals a compliment, but it just didn't come out right.

"I hope they're not better," Lima said. "They played too good last year; like over their head too good. They have some good hitters, don't get me wrong. But the pitching staff, they have only one guy to me and that's [Darryl] Kile ... and [Andy] Benes can win some. To me, everything that had to go right went right for them."

That didn't sit real well with the Cardinals, especially coming from a guy who went from 21 wins in 1999 to 7-16 last year.

"Evidently, he was playing over his head," fired back Cardinals outfielder Ray Lankford. "There is no way he can pitch the way he was pitching a year ago, and he came back to reality.

"Sometimes, when you're doing good, you just stay humble. Evidently, sometimes with certain guys they don't know how to handle it, and that's a prime example."

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