Four days after admitting he used human growth hormone, Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons said he has work ahead to win the fans back. Speaking at the team's annual Christmas party for a local elementary school, Gibbons also maintained he is done talking about the topic and his 15-day suspension from Major League Baseball "for now."
"There really is not a whole lot more to say about it than what I told you the other day," Gibbons said. "[Fans] are going to react how they are going to react. I can't control all that. All I can do is go out there and try to play good baseball and try to win them back. That's my goal. They have the right to react however they want."
Gibbons, Brian Roberts, Jeremy Guthrie and Jamie Walker and former Orioles Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Dave Johnson represented the club at the party at the Inner Harbor's ESPN Zone, where the Orioles played host to 90 students from George Washington Elementary School. Roberts later teamed with the Baltimore police and fire departments to sponsor a shopping excursion for four underprivileged city families.
"It's about the kids," said Gibbons, who said he is done rehabilitating his surgically repaired shoulder, calling it a non-issue. "[Longtime Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks] got me into this about five years ago, and I love it. Seeing the kids smile and playing the games with them, I'm not going to miss this for anything."
Lots of talk
Orioles president of baseball of operations Andy MacPhail did not attend the party, instead spending the time in his office up the street continuing trade talk that started to heat up at last week's winter meetings. Despite rampant rumors that Roberts, shortstop Miguel Tejada and ace pitcher Erik Bedard are about to be traded, MacPhail said no deals were imminent as of last night.
"There's no shortage of talk, but it's just that - talk," MacPhail said. "The conversations have not ebbed since we left Nashville."
MacPhail said the club is in the process of filtering the number of suitors to decide who is the best trade fit for several Orioles. At this point, it appears the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners have emerged as the leading contenders for Bedard. The Houston Astros have been the most aggressive suitor for Tejada, and the Chicago Cubs have honed in on Roberts.
Asked about the trade rumors, Roberts said: "It's kind of like what I said last year - if somebody wants you, it's a good thing. Hopefully, it means that you are doing something well. I don't lose sleep over it, but it does make life a little more interesting for a week or two."
Guthrie and Walker said they haven't been surprised to hear all the trade talk, especially for some of the club's top players.
"Everybody would be expendable, I would think, on a team that has lost this many years," Walker said. "The city of Baltimore is tired of losing."
Said Guthrie: "If you were to trade a Miguel Tejada and an Erik Bedard, that obviously tells everybody right away that we're in a rebuilding phase. Those are two key components, and if you throw Brian Roberts in there, you're talking about three of our MVP players. That would be difficult in the short term to understand, but obviously in the long term, there are reasons."