As Ponson continues to fall apart, Orioles must put together a trade

July 18, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

SIDNEY PONSON teased us again. He spent five innings yesterday showing us what could be, then came unraveled in a five-run sixth that reminded us why the Orioles have been mentioned prominently in just about every recent trade rumor involving a starting pitcher.

So, if you're Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, what do you do? Do you look at the first five innings of yesterday's lopsided loss at Safeco Field -- in which Sidney looked refreshed after an extended rest -- or do you look at the sixth inning and conclude that he lacks the arm strength, general conditioning and mental toughness to help you down the stretch?

I'm guessing that Mazzilli gives him one more chance, but I look at his 6.04 ERA (which, incidentally, was the highest of any regular major league starter before it went up again yesterday) and wonder just how many chances you're entitled to in this life.

There is the temptation to look at the two-run jam shot in the sixth inning and say that if Ponson had been a little luckier, he might have stayed around to record his eighth victory ... or to look at the Orioles' soft offensive performance and say that it would not be fair to judge him on a day when he got so little run support.

Ponson always leaves just enough on the table to let you wonder if tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of a solid career, but we're eight years in and he has only briefly -- in 2003 -- delivered on his tremendous promise.

It's time for the Orioles to cut their losses. The second half of this season is too important to long-suffering Orioles fans to risk it on a guy who doesn't respect the game and doesn't respect himself.

Move him to the bullpen, give James Baldwin a couple of chances to complete an uplifting comeback, and spare no expense to acquire one more quality starting pitcher before the July 31 deadline for completing trades without waivers.

Erik Bedard returns from the disabled list tonight, but please don't be fooled into thinking that a healthy Bedard is as good as a midseason pitching deal. Bedard is already part of the second-half equation, because he was a big reason the Orioles played so well in the first half.

If he can pick up where he left off -- which is a big if -- the Orioles will have four solid starting pitchers along with the continuing uncertainty surrounding Ponson's slot. It'll take more than that to get where they want to go. It will take real pitching depth, and that doesn't come up from the minor leagues in September.

It's good to see Tiger Woods back on top after his five-stroke victory in the British Open. A couple more big wins and he might start getting as much publicity as Michelle Wie.

What a relief to know that University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams didn't know he was breaking any NCAA rules when he approved cash payments and gifts to departing players while he was coaching at Kansas.

NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from receiving gifts or money from fans even after they cease to be student-athletes, which actually makes sense when you consider that boosters could otherwise bypass recruiting rules by promising compensation after a player exhausts his eligibility.

Williams should have known this, because it's only common sense, but I guess you have to take him at his word when he says he is "saddened" by the unintentional violations, but I'm guessing that will be small consolation to the current Kansas athletes who will suffer the consequences.

Jamie C. Arnone of Hunt Valley has stepped up to defend the honor of my kid, the Redskins fan:

It's nice to see that someone in your house has good taste in football tradition and success. I would take [Patrick] Ramsey, or even Bert Jones, over your man [Kyle] Boller. You have a good team, but with [Brian] Billick's big head in his way it will just stay good while the Redskins are in Year 2 of their five-year Super Bowl plan.

Jamie, I still don't know where I went wrong with the kid. Joe Gibbs is a fine gentleman, but the last time he won a title, I think my son was in diapers. That might have been the day I dropped him on his head.

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