If O's take a pass on Konerko, they'd better land a catcher

Commentary

November 04, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

Let me get this straight. Orioles owner Peter Angelos said again recently that he was willing to do what is necessary to get the team back in the hunt in the American League East next year, and the first real peep out of the newly restructured front office is that the club is not willing to get involved in the big-money bidding for free-agent slugger Paul Konerko?

OK, there is some logic here. If the Orioles want to fill a lot of holes this offseason, they can't afford to put all of their eggs in one free-agent basket. Konerko probably wouldn't sign here anyway. But if this is going to be a three-year plan, I think the club should just come out and say so.

Otherwise, the wishful whispering that top prospect Nick Markakis may be ready to be an impact outfielder soon just sounds like an excuse for hoarding all that new television money that is about to start raining on the team because of the great Mid-Atlantic Sports Network deal that secured a share of the Washington Nationals' broadcast revenues.

The Orioles do have some fine young talent that should blossom over the next few years, and they should be careful not to throw any unnecessary roadblocks in front of the promising players who could turn the franchise back into a consistent winner. They also have to be careful, however, that they send some clear signals to a frustrated fan base that has earned the right to be skeptical about the club's intentions.

The best excuse for avoiding the Konerko auction is the need to acquire an everyday catcher and move Javy Lopez either to first base or into a full-time designated hitter role.

If the Orioles make a successful run at either Ramon Hernandez or Bengie Molina, it all makes perfect sense. If they end up with Lopez still behind the plate in 2006 and no new impact hitter in the lineup, they'll be a third-place team - at best - no matter what they do to upgrade the pitching staff.

Do you think former All-Star outfielder Matt Lawton and his advisers were paying attention while Rafael Palmeiro spent weeks engaged in a self-destructive exercise in equivocation that irrevocably soiled his great career?

"I made a terrible and foolish mistake that I will regret for the rest of my life," Lawton said in a statement after he became the 12th major league player to be suspended under baseball's steroid abuse program. "I take full responsibility for my actions and did not appeal my suspension. I apologize to the fans, the game, my family and all those people that I let down. I am truly sorry and deeply regret my terrible lapse in judgment."

It's Damage Control 101: Quick. Remorseful. Unequivocal.

I've already forgiven him.

While we're on the subject of accepting responsibility, did you read the strange comments from Boston Red Sox owner John Henry after youthful general manager Theo Epstein held a news conference to explain why he had chosen to break off contract negotiations with the team?

Henry was so broken up by Epstein's resignation that he nearly broke down in front of reporters.

"This is a great, great loss," he said. "I have to ask myself, maybe I'm not fit to be the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox."

Weird. Kind of reminded me of the classic Cheers episode in which Norm gets a human resources job and keeps bursting into tears every time he has to fire someone.

It must be nice to be Joe Torre, a guy who is so comfortable with himself and his job security that he will have a coaching staff next year made up largely of former major league managers.

The Yankees already have hired former managers Lee Mazzilli (bench), Larry Bowa (third base) and Tony Pena (first base). Should be great fun for the local tabloids if the Yanks get off to a slow start next season.

Final thought: On one hand, I thought it was pretty cheeky of Epstein to turn his nose up at a 400 percent raise from the team that gave him the chance - and the big payroll - to develop into one of the most respected young executives in baseball. Even in Boston, you can live pretty well on $1.5 million a year. On the other hand, the Red Sox just gave Mike Timlin $3.5 million for the 2006 season. Go figure.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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