Ponson's latest incident is reason for Orioles to be bent out of shape

December 27, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

THERE ARE TIMES when I can't help but like Sidney Ponson, the enfant terrible who was jailed on Christmas Day for allegedly assaulting a local judge on an Aruban beach.

Ponson, like myself, is defiantly out of shape. You have to respect that. He also is a fun-loving guy who tries to squeeze the most out of every day, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if he had a clue about how to go about it without ruining a promising baseball career.

This is just the most egregious episode in a misspent youth that has left Orioles officials scratching their heads on more than one occasion. Ponson reportedly was confronted by several beach-goers in Boca Catalina after operating his personal watercraft in an inconsiderate manner. Police say he struck one of the men in the group several times, sending him to a local hospital.

Nice.

Ponson is supposed to be a hero in Aruba, where he was granted knighthood in the Order of the Dutch Royal House in 2003. He is wealthy beyond the imagination of most of his countrymen, and might be expected - at age 28 - to act in accordance with his local stature.

Instead, he apparently was acting like an obnoxious teenager and didn't appreciate being called on it. Now, he's likely to face charges of assault and battery in an Aruban court ... a situation certainly complicated by the fact that the man he allegedly beat up is a judge.

So much for the notion that Ponson experienced some kind of epiphany at the halfway point last season and started to mature as a pitcher and a person. He's obviously still the same, old Sidney, which means the Orioles are under even more pressure to sign a free-agent starting pitcher to help lead their young rotation.

It is times like these that I'm reminded of the famous scene in Animal House, when Dean Wormer tried to give the portly freshman known as Flounder a little life lesson.

"Fat, drunk and stupid," he said, "is no way to go through life, son."

Don't know if Sidney was drinking that day, but two out of three is bad enough.

If you understand football, and apparently I don't, it probably makes perfect sense for Kyle Boller to try to throw downtown every time the Ravens get an uplifting first down.

Hey, you've got to play vertical football if you want to get anywhere in the NFL, right, so you've got to take a shot now and then. I just think (and, remember, I don't know the first thing about football) that Brian Billick and Matt Cavanaugh keep getting ahead of themselves.

There were at least two instances yesterday when Boller went for the home run on first down and interrupted what appeared to be a pretty nice offensive rhythm. No doubt, Billick was hoping to persuade the Steelers to loosen up on the defensive line - and cut Jamal Lewis some slack - but all the Ravens succeeded in doing was making it that much tougher to move the ball with any consistency.

Forget about the element of surprise, because everybody in the league has figured out that the Ravens are going to take those shots ... and when they are going to take them. They've been doing it ever since Boller started to get comfortable behind center in a vainglorious attempt to prove that he is the right quarterback to lead them to the Super Bowl.

So here's where the whole thing gets a little strange for me. I'm starting to believe that Boller will get there, that he will be the star-quality quarterback Billick has envisioned since the team made him its first pick in the 2003 draft. There were flashes of brilliance during yesterday's game, and there have been signs of real progress throughout the season.

The trouble lately has been the seeming obsession with pushing him out of his comfort zone and into an accelerated learning curve to keep up with the other good young quarterbacks in the league.

The kid can throw, and he has shown that he can run a little bit when the situation presents itself. But he does not have the playmakers at the other end of the ball to take the giant developmental leap that would allow Billick and the Ravens to trump their critics with the ultimate "I told you so."

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

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