Score it an error if O's let Perlozzo go

September 25, 2005|By DAVID STEELE

The Orioles don't appear to have a mission right now, except possibly to send every player on the roster home by the season finale. So here's a suggestion: Make the organization match the vision Sam Perlozzo has of it.

Then, make sure Perlozzo's still part of it, in his present capacity.

Before yesterday's game at "Camden Yards" (which this weekend sounds like Fenway), Perlozzo sat in the home dugout and pondered the near-biblical plague of ills that has visited his team - but then gave the sort of glass-half-full, silver-lining assessment of his tenure as manager that could be turned into a commercial if anybody would believe it.

It also was the most expansive he's ever been about what he's faced this year and what he might face in the offseason, when his fate will be decided.

"I'm a little boy from Cumberland, Maryland," he said. "I'm a Maryland resident. I've been a Maryland fan. I've been an Oriole fan all my life. I have so many friends in the area who root for the Orioles. It's like a dream come true that you're managing a team, the Baltimore Orioles.

"And this is a great franchise. I'll tell you what, we've been off track for a little while, but when this organization is on track, there is no better place to go and watch a ballgame, and hopefully no better team to come see play. Here at Camden Yards, it doesn't get much better than this."

Perlozzo said a lot more, but focus just on that for a minute. "When" they're back on track, not "if." Off track for "a little while," not "forever," as the past eight years - the past eight weeks, actually - have seemed.

Most of all, it's a "dream come true." What are the chances that the Orioles would find anybody else who thinks that way about working for Peter Angelos and whomever the next general manager is, even if it's the guys doing the job now? That ought to be considered when the time comes.

Of course, he could be saying the Orioles have a bright future just to polish the apple for his current or potential bosses. Wrong, Perlozzo said. "If I didn't think [things could turn around quickly], I wouldn't take the job," he said.

Whoever does next year won't have to deal with what Perlozzo has dealt with since his promotion Aug. 4. No Rafael Palmeiro, no Sammy Sosa, no Sidney Ponson.

Then again, Perlozzo doesn't have any of them now, either. But he also doesn't have somebody who actually was a help instead of a hindrance, Brian Roberts.

Ever dream about managing a clubhouse stripped of its best players for various unsavory reasons, with the term "interim" attached to your title and the term "lame duck" stuck on the end of the co-vice presidents? Suuure, you did.

Still, you can't wipe that smile off Perlozzo's face so easily.

"Did I have a great hand here to deal with? I have not," he said. "But you know what? I've got it. If nothing else happens, I will have had the best two-month experience in my life. Was it great? I can't say it was great, but it's been a real learning experience, and I think it will be invaluable for me the rest of my career."

Besides, he added, "I feel like I can get through this mess. How much worse can it get?"

That made him and everyone around him laugh. "I hate to say that right now. I know that it can get worse," he acknowledged. "I just hope that if it does, it's this year. I can take anything else they give me this year."

That all may sound like a man donning rose-colored glasses. But he's fully aware of what's going on, and he not only can still stroll on the sunny side of the street, he can avoid sounding as if he's pleading for his job. Dignity is in short supply around here lately, yet the manager appears to have enough to go around.

He praised the all-but-departed Sosa, even making a reference to "whatever Sammy does next year," which most everyone else figures won't include wearing a major league uniform.

He admitted how challenging it is to score runs these days with the supposed heart of his lineup scattered, hurting or slumping. "You almost have to get five hits an inning to get a couple of runs," he said. And he believes that he has wrung as much out of the pitchers as possible.

"I think I've done everything that I possibly could. I don't regret anything that I've done," he said. "I know things look a little bleak with the losses that have mounted up on us, but if you're a little bit realistic, that's going to happen.

"I just don't believe that people will judge me on that kind of thing," he added, "especially with all the things that we have gone through and how we have handled them. I think I have done a really good job."

He's right.

What the Orioles should do is reward him for it. What they shouldn't do is make him out to be a liar about the kind of organization this is.

Points after/David Steele

To all the fans back in August who welcomed Rafael Palmeiro back with ovations and signs and all that support, and who replied so nastily to the idea of staying home instead - still feeling good about your choices?

If nothing else, if Raffy ever runs into Kobe, they'll have something to talk about. Same thing for Miguel Tejada and Shaq.

Donovan McNabb's advice for Terrell Owens could be applied by Tejada for Palmeiro: "Keep my name out of your mouth."

As Raffy exits and Barry Bonds returns, look who's on the horizon: Mark McGwire, for the farewell to St. Louis' Busch Stadium this week. But he won't be there to talk about the past.

Just wondering, now that Michelle Wie is about to become a millionaire: If a young Kevin Garnett had picked up a 9-iron instead of a basketball, would we now have 15-year-olds in the NBA and a 19-year-old age limit in pro golf?

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