Tejada stays, but troubles of aimless O's also remain

The Mistake

The Trade That Wasn't

August 01, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

So, to sum up: The Orioles got Miguel Tejada and didn't get any better. The Orioles then floated him on the trade market - and didn't get any better.

Where do they go now, then? To where they've always been, to where they were before they signed Tejada, to where they've been ever since he arrived, to where they will stay the rest of this season.

Is it even fair to celebrate the fact that Tejada is still here? It should be, and unless Tejada is the greatest actor of our time, he is genuinely happy to still be an Oriole. Fans ought to be happy, too.

Except ... they had a chance to be happy with what he was going to bring back from the Houston Astros. Happier, even.

All the fans have now is what they've had since Tejada showed up for the 2004 season ready to impose his talent, spirit and will upon the aimless drift this organization had become.

That is, more aimless drift.

At least two more months of it. Maybe three more years, the length of Tejada's contract after this season. Unless they trade him for something special, the only kind of trade for a recent Most Valuable Player and franchise cornerstone that makes sense.

Which, of course, is the kind of trade the Orioles don't appear capable of making.

The sad truth is that the Orioles are stuck. They squandered the opportunity Tejada's presence provided them, to the point that they now have to move him for any chance to get demonstrably better. (Speaking of squandering, if anyone has come across that 3-0 lead they had after three innings last night, please contact the proper authorities.)

Yet the past 48 hours have only provided more evidence that the Orioles can't make the move with him any more than they could make one without him.

They had a chance to make one - for a package headlined by Roy Oswalt - and didn't.

If you're going to trade Miguel Tejada, trade him for someone like that. Not prospects, not cash, not spare parts. Make it count. And make it before the other team changes its mind. Right?

Uh ... umm ...

The guys in charge at the warehouse - and this time, it appears that does not include Peter Angelos, the default villain around here - flinched. Apparently, the hair-splitting among the other elements of the deal stretched things out just long enough for the Astros to back out.

Nice job of losing sight of the ocean because of the speck of sand on your glasses. Oswalt is a hell of a return for a hell of a player. When that's staring you in the face, you grab hold of it and smooth out the details later.

The Orioles have failed to get better with Tejada here, but that deal would have made the Orioles better, now and next season, even if that's only as long as they could have kept Oswalt. The odds of improving when dealing a player of Tejada's caliber are pretty long. Anyone will tell you that.

In fact, Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette told reporters that yesterday, post-deadline. He's an MVP, not just in the recent past, but possibly this year, they said. You don't just give a guy like that away, they said.

Yet keeping him isn't any better. Not this time. Not when you've already sunk into irrelevancy with him and almost - not quite, but almost - extinguished his joy.

Thankfully for him and everybody else, Tejada's joy is back. It's all over his face and mannerisms, radiating from him and absorbed by his teammates. After his dark detour into being perceived as the problem, he's now back to wanting to be the solution.

"I didn't feel like I had to perform under pressure [from the trade deadline]," Tejada said yesterday, once the media horde dispersed. "I play the same all the time. I've just been happy. I've been a lot happier lately. I feel like myself."

That's great for him, for his team, for everybody. The mess he inherited two springs ago was not his fault, and the mess that has come along since then isn't, either. Even in the depths of his moodiness, with the trade rumors, the tardiness, the griping about whether he ran out ground balls, did anyone really think that shipping Tejada out of town would really make anybody happy?

Well, no. Not really.

Except that getting Oswalt for him would have made a lot of people happy.

Maybe even Tejada would have liked that. The Orioles would have gotten better because of him after all.

But the Orioles didn't do that. Today, they're the same old bunch, the happy MVP on the second-tier team, the one that isn't any closer to the Yankees and Red Sox than they were the day they signed him.

And they aren't looking like they'll get closer any time soon. With or without him.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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