Hey, O's, bad teams can change their stripes

just look at Tigers

The Kickoff

May 29, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig needs to act right now. If he lets the Detroit Tigers continue their amazing turnaround, it could have a negative effect on the Orioles.

The precedent already has been set. The arrival of the Washington Nationals was such a threat to the well-being of the Orioles that Major League Baseball eventually agreed to a huge compensation package to help build the two-team Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and assign the lion's share of the broadcast rights to the Orioles.

That was great, but what good will it be if the Tigers succeed in proving that there is no real small-market excuse for the continuing struggles of the beleaguered Baltimore baseball franchise.

There was no more downtrodden franchise than the Tigers, who won just 43 games in 2003 and now stand atop the major leagues with a 35-15 record. If they were playing in the American League East, they would be leading the first-place Boston Red Sox by four games.

That can happen when you've got all five of your starting pitchers throwing well, from veteran Kenny Rogers (7-3, 3.76 ERA) to highly promising 23-year-old Justin Verlander (7-3, 2.55 ERA), and four hitters with 10 or more home runs - including previously unheralded Chris Shelton, Brandon Inge and Chris Monroe.

Apparently, while Orioles officials were pulling out all the stops to find the black cat that Peter Angelos recently claimed was roaming the grounds at Camden Yards, the Tigers were out taking risks and looking for imaginative ways to turn around a similarly disheartening situation.

Obviously, desperate situations call for desperate measures, such as the controversial decision last year to sign chronically injured Magglio Ordonez to a huge contract that - even in the glow of the team's terrific start - still could come back and haunt the franchise. But the important thing is, the Tigers were bold and now they are beautiful, though there is still a long, long way to go.

The Arizona Diamondbacks also have made a dynamic turnaround, leading the National League West with a 29-20 record, though they recently traded for former Orioles reliever Jorge Julio to correct the problem.

Former Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson remains undefeated (4-0, 2.92 ERA) in St. Louis, though his first season with the Cardinals was interrupted for a few weeks because of a sore elbow.

I'll be interested to see the reaction in Baltimore if Sidney goes on to have a solid season. He certainly has the raw talent to emerge as a marquee-caliber starter - especially with such a solid team behind him - but the Orioles did the right thing by cutting him loose last year because of his erratic off-field behavior.

Just did consecutive Yahoo, Google and Nexis searches to find out the last time I used the word string the Orioles did the right thing in a column or article. Got no hits.

Guess I'm just a negative guy.

Is one of the nation's top televangelists on steroids? Pat Robertson, one-time presidential candidate and host of the 700 Club, claims on his CBN Web site that he leg-pressed 2,000 pounds.

Fitness experts dispute the possibility that a 70-something guy could come anywhere close to lifting that kind of weight, but Robertson credits his amazing septuagenarian strength to his Pat Robertson's Age-Defying Shake - which lists among its ingredients soy protein isolate, glutamine and flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed oil? Isn't that the same stuff that helped Barry Bonds become a member of the 714 Club?

No doubt, there will be some local gnashing of teeth about Maryland's loss Saturday in the NCAA lacrosse final four, but let's keep it in perspective. Dave Cottle is a great coach who has made a habit of reaching the NCAA tournament at both Loyola and now Maryland.

There are a lot worse things than being one of the top four teams in the nation, though I will refrain from pointing out the obvious example a few hundred miles south of here. peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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