Comings, goings pain to O's

exit of top scout hurts worse

The Kickoff

March 17, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

JUPITER, Fla. -- Guess I picked the wrong 10-day period to evaluate the ballclub.

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo is understandably excited about the prospect of getting back several of his top players as the World Baseball Classic draws to a close, but I'm going to have to be content in the knowledge that Brandon Fahey is going to be a pretty good player as soon as he gets out of middle school.

I've never been known for my great sense of timing, so no one should be surprised that I arrived in Florida right after about half the Orioles' projected 25-man roster headed out to compete in baseball's version of the World Cup. Now, I'm headed home just as most of them are filtering back into camp.

New catcher Ramon Hernandez is scheduled to return today. Javy Lopez and Luis Matos shouldn't be far behind. Rodrigo Lopez and Geronimo Gil also are en route now that Mexico is out of the tournament. I hope they have a great exhibition season - all two weeks of it - but I'm taking my impressive collection of loud Aloha shirts back to Maryland now that the weather's warming up. (It's going to be 77 degrees again today, right?)

The Orioles have spent the past couple of weeks in roster limbo, unable to field a competitive team for their early preseason games and clearly disadvantaged by the separation between new pitching coach Leo Mazzone and four-fifths of his starting rotation.

Now, they'll also have to do without my legendary scouting acumen, which - you might recall - led to last year's guarantee of a winning season in the first of a series of irritating Jimmyville columns.

Perlozzo tried to make the best of it, pointing to the unique opportunity to look at a whole bunch of minor league prospects who normally might never see the light of major league camp, but that had to be small consolation at a time when his chief divisional competitors were far better configured to prepare for the AL East race.

Lest anyone forget such a watershed moment in pharmaceutical sports history, today is the one-year anniversary of the infamous hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.

Indeed, it was just a year ago today that Raffy pointed, Big Mac squirmed, Sammy spoke no English and Jose Canseco actually gained credibility during a marathon day of testimony that actually did shed surprising light on baseball's growing steroid scandal and led to real progress in the sport's attempt to discourage the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Sadly, a year of damaging revelations later, there still is no end in sight for one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the national pastime.

That's why commissioner Bud Selig is expected to announce soon that he will order an investigation into the alleged steroid abuse of superstar Barry Bonds. Everybody already has a pretty good idea of who did what - and Selig doesn't have the power to punish Bonds for past steroid use - but that isn't going to stop everyone from picking at this scab for a couple more years.

If you think Selig is in a difficult position, consider Giants owner Peter Magowan, who has been forced to walk a political tightrope as the club prepares to honor Bonds if and when he passes Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list. Magowan confirmed recently that the Giants will stage a celebration appropriate to the historic achievement at about the same time he has promised the club will cooperate in any investigation.

I'm glad that the World Baseball Classic doesn't take place again for three years because it's going to take me at least that long to figure out the event's strange tiebreaker system.

Figure this out. When umpire Bob Davidson mistakenly took a home run away from Mexico's Mario Valenzuela during last night's second-round game between the U.S. and Mexico, he briefly helped the Mexican team stave off elimination because Mexico's only hope for advancing to the final round was to defeat the U.S., 3-0, in 13 innings.

The tiebreaker system actually created a scenario in which a team was better off trying not to score. Fill in your own Orioles joke here. peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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