O's may be just good enough not to get a whole lot better

The Kickoff

July 10, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Orioles will be able to enjoy the All-Star break a little more after taking two out of three games from the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field, but the uplifting weekend was just another in a series of mixed messages that make it hard to figure out just what the front office is going to do between now and the July 31 waiver deadline.

Two days ago, the club was 10 games under .500 and in danger of being overtaken by the last-place Devil Rays, which seemed like as good a reason as any to start shopping everybody who was born before 1980. Not much has really changed from a competitive standpoint, of course, but every time Erik Bedard gets another win or Chris Ray adds to his impressive save total, some of the air leaks out of that sense of urgency.

Owner Peter Angelos sought to end any speculation about a midseason fire sale a couple of weeks ago when he insisted that shortstop Miguel Tejada would not be traded, but nobody in his right mind would pre-emptively rule out any possibility that might dramatically improve either the near-term or long-term prospects of the club.

Since I am not a psychologist, I'm going to refrain from drawing any conclusions about the owner's current mental state, but it has been my experience that he is about as crazy as a low-risk mutual fund. He probably meant what he said about Tejada at the time, but he has proven in the past that he is not afraid to change his mind, even at the risk of being accused by a certain ruggedly handsome sports columnist of being a flip-flopper.

I still believe that if the Orioles sink into the American League East cellar or fall 15 games under .500 in the next couple of weeks, they must consider moving Tejada ... or commit to a huge increase in payroll that will result from the kind of free-agent spending spree necessary to get them back in contention next season.

Meanwhile, Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette will continue to try to create interest in Javy Lopez and some of the other veterans on the roster, but it's unlikely that they'll be able to get enough in return to change the outlook for 2007.

While you're chewing on that, here's another mixed message from Orioleland: Tejada looks like he's happy again.

The formerly sullen shortstop has begun to display the yappy, upbeat persona that so endeared him to Orioles fans during his 1 1/2 seasons in Baltimore. Maybe it has something to do with his selection to another All-Star team, but whatever. It's nice to see him look like his old self.

It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say when he faces the national media this afternoon at the All-Star media session. Each player is required to sit at a table and answer questions for nearly an hour, and Tejada figures to hear a few about his trade status and the controversy that has followed him since he expressed discontent with the Orioles organization last December.

The thing I like best about this year's All-Star Game: Tejada will finally get to play for something important, even if it is just home-field advantage in the World Series for his friend David Ortiz and the Red Sox.

Obviously, the biggest surprise of the season is the otherworldly performance of the Detroit Tigers, who were supposed to replace the O's as this year's 60-day wonder but apparently didn't get the memo.

They're on pace to win 109 games, but let's not get carried away. If they play just .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll still finish with 96 wins, which should be enough to get into the playoffs even if the White Sox end up grinding out the AL Central title.

Either way, there shouldn't be one AL Manager of the Year ballot without Jim Leyland's name on the top line.

Who knows what was going on in French soccer star Zinedine Zidane's head when he decided to drive that noggin into the chest of Italian star Marco Materazzi during yesterday's World Cup final. That moment of temporary insanity may have cost France the Cup (which, of course, breaks my heart), but Zidane can take consolation in the fact that somewhere in great beyond, Bobo Brazil is smiling.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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

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