For Orioles, it's a Classic case of absenteeism in workplace

March 12, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

JUPITER, FLA. — JUPITER, Fla.-- --Orioles officials continue to toe the MLB line when it comes to talking about the effect of the World Baseball Classic on their preparations for the 2006 season, but it's apparent that the true impact of the disproportionate roster depletion caused by the event is even worse than anyone imagined.

If I were Sam Perlozzo, I'd be starting to wonder if my team had become the victim of identity theft.

It probably is not a coincidence that the Orioles have lost five straight games since the Classic got into full swing Tuesday. No team contributed more players to the new international tournament because no other team is as internationally diverse as the Orioles, which proves the adage that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

Factor in all the sore arms in the bullpen and the absence of Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons from the lineup because of injuries and you end up with a team that featured two certain full-time players (Melvin Mora and Kevin Millar) against a St. Louis Cardinals team that is almost intact.

Orioles pitching prospect Hayden Penn threw three scoreless innings, but the defending NL Central champions still won handily. They are playing without Dominican superstar Albert Pujols, but they fielded a representative lineup and got solid performances from front-line pitchers Jason Marquis and Jason Isringhausen.

The Orioles used 26 players at Roger Dean Stadium, and - I've got to be honest with you - I would have recognized maybe five of them in street clothes.

"It's a unique situation," Perlozzo said. "We've been hit extremely hard and it's showing right now, but we've got to keep plugging along and learn something about our guys."

Of course, that's really all you can do, though names on the back of the exhibition jerseys would probably help.

Perlozzo knows that his team is 2-8, which isn't exactly the kind of thing that helps advance ticket sales, but the Orioles are just a third of the way through the Grapefruit League schedule and the circumstances surrounding their soft exhibition start are well-documented.

"I think you've got to be careful to realize what we're dealing with," he said. "If you let losses bother you at this point, you're not focused on the big picture. I don't think it's a time to panic. We've got a lot of ballgames this spring and we're going to get something going."

The tissue-thin roster also presents problems for the front office, since this normally is a time of intense evaluation. The absence of so many front-line guys does provide some opportunities to size up the player development system, but the major league operation is essentially on hold for at least another week.

There is one thing the Orioles could do right now to smooth the way into the regular season. They could get Melvin Mora's contract situation resolved.

Mora reportedly wants a contract extension worth about $10 million per year. The team would like to sign him for an average salary of around $8 million. I don't think Melvin is a $10 million player on paper, but if you factor in everything else he brings to the table, the Orioles might be wise to get close enough to that to get a deal done before Opening Day.

The guy helped clean up the Miguel Tejada mess. He lives in the Baltimore area year-round and has gotten heavily involved in the community. In short, he's a throwback to the old Oriole Way. Larry the Cable Guy says ... "Get 'er done."

I had the privilege of attending the funeral of former Colts and Dolphins assistant coach John Sandusky here in South Florida on Friday. It was an inspiring and heartwarming service that was attended by dozens of former NFL players and coaches, including his longtime boss, Don Shula, and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

Two of Big John's sons, Gerry (WBAL-TV sportscaster) and Jim, delivered eulogies during the service, which was held at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Ranches. There weren't a lot of dry eyes, but it really was a celebration of a long life well-lived. peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.