By extension, Mora deal would have positive effect on Tejada

The Kickoff

March 29, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

My worst fears have been realized. Miguel Tejada is in a funk and Melvin Mora still does not have a contract extension, which doesn't exactly bode well for the long-term health of the Orioles franchise.

The last thing the Orioles need after their August meltdown is for two of the team's clubhouse leaders to enter a new season with lingering doubts about their future in Baltimore.

Whose fault is that?

There's plenty of blame to go around. Tejada should have gone through the proper channels with his offseason complaints about the front office, and the team should have done a better job of confronting the controversy before it turned into a winter-long soap opera.

The Orioles should have moved aggressively to extend Mora's contract as soon as he moved in to help mediate the Tejada situation ... and Mora's agent, Lon Babby, may have polarized the negotiations with his initial pie-in-the-sky request for a four-year, $41 million extension.

The good news is that owner Peter Angelos can have a positive effect on both players by stepping in this week and working things out with Mora, because the thing that could be weighing on Tejada is the knowledge that his favorite teammate could be traded in July if negotiations break off.

Manager Sam Perlozzo and team officials seem confident that Tejada has put his winter of discontent behind him, but they might be better served to assume the opposite until they have dealt with all the possible intervening variables.

The Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. has rejected the $15.6 million claim filed by the Houston Astros on the contract of first baseman Jeff Bagwell, and I have only one question:

What exactly did the Astros expect to happen after they spent the winter publicly pressing Bagwell to retire so they could declare him disabled and recoup most of the salary he is guaranteed for 2006?

This might be the first time I've ever sided with an insurance company on anything, but the unseemly attempt to manipulate the insurance situation sounded to me like the funny "Bring out your dead" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Bagwell wanted one more chance to prove this spring that he could still play (Python equivalent: "I'm not quite dead"), and the Astros wanted him to hurry up and admit that he was done ("C'mon, you're not fooling anyone. ... Don't be such a baby").

Here's another shocker: The Astros are threatening a lawsuit if an armored truck doesn't pull up to Minute Maid Park soon and drop off $15.6 million.

"It will go to court if they don't change their position very shortly," Astros attorney Wayne Fisher told the Associated Press.

Just a hunch, but I'm guessing that the insurance company had a pretty good idea that there would be litigation if it denied the claim. I'm pretty sure big insurance companies have lawyers, too.

Outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday that his successor should have "vision, intelligence, persuasiveness, work ethic, integrity, the ability to pull together a strong leadership team and keep it together."

In short, somebody like Pete Rozelle, only with less personality and an abiding dislike for Baltimore.

What are the odds? Out of the 3 million entries received for its ESPN Tournament Challenge, only four correctly picked the Final Four exactly right and only 1,583 entrants picked George Mason to get to Indianapolis.

Russell Pleasant of Belleview, Neb., leads the contest and told the Associated Press that he got confused and thought he was picking George Washington University to get through the first four rounds. Apparently, it really is better to be lucky than good.

It was nice that Sun columnist Rick Maese got to go home to New Mexico to cover the Maryland women in the Elite Eight. I wonder if he stayed around to go to his senior prom.

Don't laugh. The only reason Maese agreed to go to the Albuquerque Regional is because he has a thing for older women.

Banned all-time hits leader Pete Rose told students at Cincinnati's Moeller High School on Monday that he believes baseball's steroid cheats should be punished.

"In my case, I broke the rules and I've been suspended 18 years," Rose said. "So if guys broke the rules the last two years then they have to be handed out some kind of sentence."

Because baseball did levy 10-game suspensions on players who tested positive for steroids last year, Rose may have been trying to draw a comparison between the light discipline meted out to the likes of Rafael Palmeiro (10-game suspension) for using steroids and the lifetime ban he received for betting on the Cincinnati Reds while he was the team's manager.

Rose doesn't deserve anyone's sympathy, but it is rather curious that Jose Canseco, who openly admits to spreading baseball's steroid problem, remains eligible for the Hall of Fame while Rose - whose crimes against baseball came after his great playing career was over - is not.

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