New O's MVP Tejada drives in 150th

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Shortstop gets 26 1/2 out of 28 first-place votes

O's glad Mazzilli staying

October 04, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The Orioles signed Miguel Tejada to a six-year, $72 million deal in the offseason, looking for a marquee star. From Opening Day to yesterday's season finale, in which Tejada knocked in his team-record 150th run, the shortstop delivered.

He hit .311 with 107 runs, 203 hits, 40 doubles and 34 home runs in addition to his RBIs, becoming the first Oriole ever to lead the major leagues in that category, while emerging as the new face of the franchise.

Tejada was recognized yesterday as the winner of the 2004 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award, presented by the Sports Boosters of Maryland.

In balloting conducted among members of the media who cover the team on a regular basis, Tejada received 26 1/2 out of 28 first-place votes.

"I'm really happy to get an award like that," said Tejada, who personally thanked the media members gathered around his locker. "When I came here, I knew I had to do something for the team. I worked real hard in the spring. I feel a little bit sad that we didn't [win more games], but I just tried to play good baseball."

Third baseman Melvin Mora, who set a team record by hitting .340, received the other 1 1/2 first-place votes and finished second for the second straight season. (Jay Gibbons won it last year.) Reliever B.J. Ryan finished third.

"His numbers pretty much match anybody in the league," said outfielder Larry Bigbie, who also praised Tejada's leadership. " ... If we had to name a team captain, he'd be the guy."

Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller agreed. "He's one of the greatest players I've ever been with," he said. "Everybody overlooks what an MVP is. If you take him away from what our club's done, you'd see drastic reductions in a lot of areas."

After he got his 150th RBI yesterday on a sacrifice fly in the third inning, Tejada got a standing ovation.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli then removed him from the game right before the first pitch of the top of the sixth, allowing for another standing ovation.

"I think the people of Baltimore should be happy to have him here," Mazzilli said. "When you look at players to emulate, he's a good one to pick."

Welcome back

Yesterday's report in The Sun that Mazzilli would be back for a second season was not a surprise for most of the Orioles.

"That was my assumption," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "It's always how you finish and we finished pretty well."

That was the consensus among several Orioles, who said Mazzilli would take the lessons from his first year and become a better manager next year.

"He'll be even better now that he knows everybody in here," said Tejada, who called Mazzilli a "great guy."

Added Rafael Palmeiro: "You want stability, you want to establish a base with the people you have. I guess it's a good thing that Lee will be back."

Mora recognized that Mazzilli walked into a challenging situation. "I think to be a rookie manager and with the veterans in this clubhouse, it is tough and I think he did a great job," he said. "I think Ray [Miller] made things easier on him."

Gibbons wants to stay

Gibbons is eligible for arbitration and the club could choose to not tender him a contract, but the outfielder-first baseman left no doubt where he wants to be.

"I absolutely want to be back," said Gibbons, slowed by injuries all season. "I think this team is going to contend next year and I want to be a part of it."

Around the horn

The Orioles' tentative schedule for next season doesn't include a road series at Pittsburgh and a road series against Colorado, as reported here yesterday. It does include a home series against Pittsburgh and a road series against the Chicago Cubs. ... . The Orioles are tentatively scheduled to play the new Washington team three times in spring training, but not in the regular season. ... Yesterday's attendance of 42,104 at Camden Yards left the season total for 80 dates at 2,747,573.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this article.

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