O's fans, blaming Millar is baseless

October 23, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

The first pitch of Game 7 of Sunday's American League Championship Series at Fenway Park was thrown out by Kevin Millar. In certain precincts north of here, he's better known as Kevin Mil-laaaaaaahhhh. And as the Cowboy Up guy. And as a key member of the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

Only as a trivia question, or as a "whatever happened to ... " answer, is Millar known there as a member of the Orioles, which is how he's known here. At least he was until Sunday, after which he was known as "traitor."

Folks around here are mad. Hearing that Millar was OK with it makes them mad. Hearing that sort-of-still-new Orioles team president Andy MacPhail approved it makes them mad. Quite likely, hearing that manager Dave Trembley essentially is saying his name is Bennett and he ain't in it makes them mad, too.

What do you know - Orioles fans, angry in October.

Naturally, it's all the other reasons Orioles fans are regularly angry in October that makes them most mad about Mil-laaah's cameo Sunday night. Are they mad at Millar himself? It really doesn't seem that way.

The sight of an Orioles player on the field in a playoff game, and not wearing an Orioles uniform, "Baltimore" on the jersey or not, that's what makes everybody mad.

Knowing that an Orioles player has a legacy of championships, and that the legacy has nothing to do with the team he's currently on, and that he'll probably never have one with this team, makes them mad.

Seeing another ballpark crackling with that postseason, winner-take-all electricity that can't be duplicated and knowing that the beautiful gem of a ballpark here hasn't crackled like that in 10 years - and yet seeing one of our own basking in that atmosphere - makes them mad.

Poor Mil-laaaah. And poor MacPhail and Trembley. They're blameless in all of this. Millar can't be separated from his own history and should never be asked, much less told, to deny it. He signed a contract with another team, so he should give up his right to the continued glory of his past? Of course, these are questions about which we are painfully unfamiliar.

As for MacPhail and Trembley, they haven't been on the scene of this crime long enough to be implicated much. In granting permission to Millar, not hardballing the Red Sox and low-keying the whole thing, they did the right thing. And they'll do the right thing this offseason and next spring, when they look over this roster and figure out where Millar fits in - and whether he can play anything close to the role he played in Boston three years ago - here in Baltimore.

He already has, in a way. He played well last season, earned a chance to play every day and thus an extra year on his contract, had a handful of heroics, stayed accountable even during the rotten times. And, as one Boston Herald columnist described him after Sunday's pennant clincher, "Millar was/is all about clubhouse camaraderie and shaving-cream pies." As long as he still hits, he's good to have around.

Millar, by every possible account, had a ball at Fenway. He didn't seem hesitant to relive the glory years, although to his credit, he sounded very aware of how it put the Orioles in a ticklish situation. He's not the type to disrespect anyone he works for or with. Whether he did will become known soon enough, or at least by the time the Orioles report to spring training in Florida.

If MacPhail and Trembley do their jobs, Millar will be able to re-enact Sunday's moment at Camden Yards one day, and this will be just another chapter in his nutty life story. If it's not Millar, then it will be someone else. As long as it's somebody in orange and black. One of these days, they'll have to stop trotting out Cal Ripken Jr. every other day and run video of some other player between innings, right?

If the president and manager do their jobs the way their predecessors have, though, the Orioles faithful might keep feeling that needle in future Octobers. There are a lot of former Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals (and Florida Marlins and Anaheim Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks and even New York Yankees, if you want to go back that far) roaming about, available to be signed and to be a stand-up guy through more miserable summers.

And then to be resurrected in the fall in a pre-game ceremony in some other ballpark.

So be mad at the situation Millar was in Sunday night at raucous Fenway Park, if you want to. But be really mad about where he wasn't, in Camden Yards, which is silent in October once again.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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