With fans hoping for a changeup, Orioles wasted yet another pitch

December 13, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

WE LET IT SLIDE last year. The Orioles were content to upgrade their lineup and wait for a more favorable free-agent market to put a marquee pitcher at the front of their young rotation.

Now, it looks like that isn't going to happen, and - if it doesn't - long-suffering Orioles fans have every right to feel disappointed and even betrayed.

Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan supposedly entered this offseason with the resources and resolve to make the key acquisition that would turn the Orioles into a legitimate wild-card contender. Instead, the pitching market is drying up and club officials are starting to make those familiar noises about being comfortable going into next season with the pitchers already on the roster.

They apparently have shifted the emphasis at the winter meetings to another productive bat, and first baseman Richie Sexson would certainly help, but he won't be the answer unless he has a 98-mph fastball that he hasn't been telling anybody about.

The front office was fooling itself if it imagined that there was enough good young pitching last March to compete against the Yankees and Red Sox. Maybe this spring, the Orioles will fool themselves into thinking Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard have come along far enough to make the American League East a three-team race, but they won't be fooling us.

Don't tell me about the Nationals and don't tell me about the high price of talent when the fans of Baltimore have waited patiently for seven years for a winning team. If you want to run with the big dogs, at some point you have to get off the porch.

This isn't about Carl Pavano. The guy was headed to the Yankees all along. The only regret is that the Orioles wasted a lot of time and effort on a player who probably wasn't sincere in his interest in Baltimore.

Only Beattie and Flanagan know if their Pavano quest affected their ability to acquire anyone else, but it certainly didn't advance the club's offseason agenda.

I was at the Ravens game yesterday, but I am honoring Ray Lewis' request that the media keep the focus on the future instead of the past.

That was very unselfish of Lewis, because it means I can't applaud the Ravens' defense for its outstanding effort yesterday or Lewis himself for making a pivotal fumble recovery in the first quarter. Instead, I have to focus entirely on next week's game at Indianapolis.

The Ravens are going to have their hands full with Peyton Manning, who will be gunning for Dan Marino's single-season record of 48 touchdown passes.

Can't say Peyton will need any additional motivation to excel next week, but the Ravens have to hope he didn't tape his brother's performance.

"He'll probably have a chip on his shoulder next week," said linebacker Adalius Thomas.

Deion Sanders agreed.

"I think that big brother is going to try to do a lot better than little brother did," he said.

My choice for the most clever sign in the stands at M&T Bank Stadium yesterday: "Hey look, it's a little practice Manning to help us get ready for next week."

Brian Billick's career record after a loss is now 25-11, which raises an interesting question. Does that mean the Ravens can improve their chances of beating the Steelers on Dec. 26 by losing next week?

Have to agree with the Tribune poll of 150 likely Hall of Fame voters, 65 percent of whom said they would still vote for Barry Bonds when he becomes eligible for induction at Cooperstown.

I'm also about 65 percent certain I would vote for Bonds when he lands on the ballot, but I'm 100 percent sure I would hold my nose while doing it.

Final thought: Ken Murray's story in yesterday's Sun, "Genetics, athletics mesh for Mannings," left me with only one question after the Ravens' 37-14 victory:

When is somebody going to tell Eli he's adopted?

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter. schmuck@baltsun.com.

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