Who's boss?

ON BASEBALL

If it's a deal, MacPhail has reins

Angelos' role

December 06, 2007|By DAN CONNOLLY

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- --One year after the Great Brian Roberts Trade Veto of 2006, the Orioles' diminutive and popular second baseman is back at the center of wheeling and dealing at baseball's winter meetings.

This time, the hot rumor is that he's going to the Chicago Cubs for a couple of young players, including a starting pitcher, possibly 21-year-old right-hander Sean Gallagher.

This time, dealing Roberts would represent so much more than last year, when he almost was shipped to the Atlanta Braves - along with pitcher Hayden Penn for second baseman Marcus Giles and first baseman Adam LaRoche - before the deal was nixed by Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

This time, dealing Roberts would signify at the very least that Angelos is on board with new club president Andy MacPhail's plan to blow up this franchise and start again. More important, it would demonstrate what MacPhail has been saying since he was hired in June: He has full authority to make moves without looking over his shoulder.

Roberts is the ultimate test case on whether there's a new day dawning in Baltimore, on whether this team and its owner are serious about playing for the future.

It's something longtime observers of this franchise don't buy.

Trading Miguel Tejada may be a step toward rebuilding, but it's not a steep one to take. With his sporadic trade demands and occasionally lackluster effort, the star shortstop has lost some status in Baltimore. He no longer sells tickets. Neither does catcher Ramon Hernandez nor third baseman Melvin Mora.

However, the hard-charging Roberts, with the boy-next-door good looks and the community outreach programs, is beloved in Baltimore. Angelos, understandably, wants those kinds of players to stick around.

A Roberts deal also would mean Angelos trusts MacPhail's trading instincts. That wasn't the situation last year, when Angelos torpedoed the Braves trade that was orchestrated by executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette. To be fair, Angelos was absolutely right on that one.

Penn had myriad health and attitude problems and never pitched in Baltimore, but Roberts turned in an All-Star year, tying for the league lead in stolen bases. LaRoche was solid after a dreadful start, and Giles had the worst season of his career.

Whether one agrees or not, it's Angelos' right to shoot down whatever he wants - that's his prerogative as owner. But it's also embarrassing to have a deal done with another team and then have to go back and say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

MacPhail said that shouldn't happen in his regime. Because he said he keeps Angelos continually updated on what he is doing, there will be no surprises.

"I talk to Peter a couple times a day on average, or at least I try to touch base with him and let him know what's going on and why," MacPhail said. "Same thing I have done with any team that I have ever worked for. Just give them an update on what we're thinking, why we are thinking [it], who we've talked to, what it is about, where our mind-set is.

"So, right now we have no issues. We both understand what it is we are trying to do and how we are trying to do it."

Asked whether Angelos had ever disagreed with him on his vision for the club, MacPhail said, "Not yet."

So, based on the above, we know this much: The Orioles are in discussions to trade Roberts to the Cubs. MacPhail has been informing Angelos about what he is doing. Angelos loves having Roberts as an Oriole.

Without knowing the specifics, it's impossible to tell whether this is a good trade for the Orioles. Eventually, we'll hear the names involved and be able to make that decision for ourselves.

What's important to note here is that this is the fulcrum of the Orioles' rebuilding effort and the new regime of Andy MacPhail. He said he has the authority to make things happen.

Therefore, if MacPhail covets the Cubs' offer - which the Cubs apparently believe is significant - it must get done. Or it will appear that nothing has changed with this franchise besides the names and titles of those supposedly in charge.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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