With Tagliabue's retirement, time to let go of resentment

The Kickoff

March 22, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

I've spent the past day or so pondering the paradox of Paul Tagliabue ... and what it says about us that a guy that dull could be one of the biggest villains in the history of Baltimore sports.

I totally get Robert Irsay. The guy engineered an egregious civic betrayal that broke the hearts of a generation of loyal, old-school football fans, and - if you're keeping score at home - the NFL commissioner at the time was the popular and media-savvy Pete Rozelle, who didn't do a thing about it.

Somehow, much of the post-Colts resentment landed on Tagliabue when the NFL decided to expand and left us in the lurch for a second time. He probably didn't deserve that, but he certainly didn't help matters with his arrogant recommendation that Baltimore take its stadium money and build another museum.

Fortunately, we didn't listen to him. We already had a $300 million building full of fossils, though the Orioles have gotten a lot younger since then.

It's time to let it go. The Ravens have been here for a decade and M&T Bank Stadium has completed one of the nicest multi-sports complexes in the country. The NFL did us wrong, but we ended up all right.

By some accounts, the big loser in the World Baseball Classic was Japanese star Hideki Matsui, who chose not to represent his country because he felt that it was more important to prepare himself to help the New York Yankees win another World Series.

His popularity in his home country figures to take a hit because Japan won the Classic without him, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman told The New York Times that it would be unfair to question Matsui's national pride.

"He plays for Japan every day," Cashman said. "Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, this is one of the guys who goes above and beyond."

Matsui's nickname in Japan is Godzilla, but it is George Steinbrenner who created this monster. The Boss' very public opposition to the timing of the world tournament created the perception that Matsui was bowing to his wishes when he decided not to interrupt spring training to take part in the event.

The Washington Nationals really do hold all the cards in the dispute over whether Alfonso Soriano plays left field this year. His eligibility for free agency depends on him getting all of his service time this season, so the team's threat to put him on the disqualified list for failing to take the field has real teeth.

I'm guessing the Nats trade him instead, but there is a middle course that might make the most sense. Just park him on the bench until a combination of peer pressure and option year angst convinces him that it's better to be in left than left out.

Let me get this straight. The Orioles are suing the city because the construction of the new convention hotel will create an obstacle for fans who want to get into Camden Yards?

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has won a lot of lawsuits in his great legal career, but I find it hard to believe even he could file this one with a straight face. If you recall, Angelos originally attempted to gain the development rights for the huge new hotel, which presumably would have created the same kind of problems for pedestrians around the ballpark.

Of course, the suit isn't really about the fans or their safety. It's part of a larger civic battle over who really controls the downtown area. If only Angelos was half as committed to gaining control of the American League East.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is getting close to a decision on the No. 5 spot in his starting rotation, and it appears the job will go to Sidney Ponson.

Ponson has given up 12 hits over 15 innings this spring (3.60 ERA) and - at an attractive salary of just $1 million - appears to represent the path of least resistance since the Cardinals can still option rookie Anthony Reyes and use young Adam Wainwright in the bullpen.

Sidney may have gone down in flames in Baltimore, but there are a lot of people around here who are rooting for him to keep his life together and re-emerge as a frontline major league pitcher. I'm one of them.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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