Ryan a reminder to O's to get moving on Mora


May 03, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY

It would have been perfect timing, simultaneously a good-news proclamation and a well-placed diversion.

With former closer B.J. Ryan making his first trip to Camden Yards as a Toronto Blue Jay this week, it would have been an ideal time for the Orioles to announce that third baseman Melvin Mora had been signed to a three-year contract extension.

In essence, it would have shown fans that the Orioles learned their lesson after not signing Ryan when he would have been a bargain last March. It would have proved the team is now intent on locking up its quality players before they become free agents. First with right fielder Jay Gibbons this winter, and then with Mora this week.

Except there's one problem.

The Mora deal still isn't finalized.

You probably remember reading that the sides were extremely close, that terms were agreed to and only specific contract language and a physical needed completion for this saga to end.

That's what all sides believed 10 days ago.

But the contract sat in owner Peter Angelos' office for about a week. It finally made its way to Mora's people Monday night.

Now, it will be reviewed again. Changes - maybe small, maybe large - likely will be made by Mora's agent, Lon Babby. The dance will continue.

And with each passing hour, Mora becomes more disillusioned.

"I don't know if that is how they do it, take a long time, but that is not me," Mora said yesterday. "I don't have patience for that. If you want somebody, you treat a person good. If you don't want somebody, you leave it like that."

Mora believes he has done his part. He originally wanted a four-year deal. He originally wanted $10 million a year. But he has dropped to $8 million a season for three years plus a fourth-year option ($1 million buyout). That's three years and a guaranteed $25 million - about right for a two-time All-Star and a fan favorite.

What Mora wanted for reducing his demands was a blanket no-trade clause, and that's where it presumably got dicey. Over the past few years, the Orioles have been unwilling to include a no-trade clause for anyone - which is understandable.

Lose ability to trade a player, and you lose the little control you have of someone with a guaranteed contract. So it's a risk. And so is a three-year contract for a 34-year-old. But Angelos and the Orioles apparently are willing to accept the risks for someone who means a lot to this team and this community. Especially when he plays a position in which the club's farm system is bone dry and there are no attractive options on the pending free-agent market.

Yet if Mora wants to be here, the Orioles want him here, the money is right and the no-trade clause is included, then why isn't this a done deal? Because this is the way the Orioles often operate. Each winter we hear it from agents and other teams: "The Orioles were interested, but they didn't get back to us." Or, "They just weren't as aggressive as the others." Or the real killer, "They are very difficult to deal with." As an outstanding attorney, Angelos has made a career of being cautious and deliberate. No one ever forces his hand. It's not a bad business strategy, either. But there comes a time when you should move swiftly so you don't alienate others.

A great example of what not to do sat in the opposing dugout last night.

Ryan set a negotiating deadline for the end of spring training last year, the sides exchanged initial figures that were less than $5 million apart and then the Orioles never countered again. Instead of paying $15 million in March, he left for $47 million in November.

"This is a tough game and it wears on you with all the failure and everything and you don't need to be distracted by anything you can't control," Ryan said. "I didn't want to be in that situation."

Now, his old buddy Mora is.

"I would never step on anybody's toes and tell them how to run their business," Ryan said. "But I like Melvin, he is a great player ... and he is a guy you would like to have stick around. But that is just my opinion."

The Orioles say that's their opinion, too. Just be patient.

Mora has been patient. Now he is hurt, frustrated, angry. And those close to him wonder whether he's finally willing to walk away.

"Me and my wife were talking a lot, and if we have to go somewhere else, we'll go somewhere else," Mora said, "because it has been so long for the contract."

The deal was supposed to get done last week. It would have been a great announcement yesterday. Instead, the process and the frustration grow. dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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