The limb-O's

ROCH AROUND THE CLOCK

Waiting on deals, team seems stuck between regressing and rebuilding

On the Orioles

January 31, 2008|By ROCH KUBATKO

Orioles minor league third baseman Billy Rowell will appear in an Under Armour commercial during the Super Bowl. It's supposed to run for 60 seconds, or roughly the amount of time it should take for the Orioles to be mathematically eliminated from the playoff race.

But seriously ...

If you're a fan, you want the Orioles to move forward. You're tired of fourth place, and you don't consider fifth to be a refreshing change. The view is different, but you wouldn't want to take snapshots and put them on a disc.

However, this club is likely to take a step backward, no matter what it does during these final weeks before spring training. The idea is to have someplace else to go later. Consider your current residence to be a rental property. Don't plant shrubs or put nails in the wall. (It's pretty cool when you get your security deposit back. It's like found money.)

You trade ace pitcher Erik Bedard and second baseman Brian Roberts, you move backward. You keep them, you probably stumble anyway. The Tampa Bay Rays are getting better - and their nickname is getting shorter. They seem poised to finally leave the cellar in the American League East after living there long enough to get a tax break.

The Orioles' only significant move so far was dealing shortstop Miguel Tejada and his briefcase of B-12 to the Houston Astros for five players - none of them Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio or Jose Cruz Jr. in their prime. I don't see a Cesar Cedeno in the bunch. At this rate, I'd take Dave Smith as the closer, and I mean today's version.

The Tejada trade is supposed to set up the Orioles for the future. And the relatively near future - maybe another year or two down the road. But it leaves a gaping hole in the 2008 lineup.

I haven't seen an opening this big since the last time Michael Strahan smiled. If Andy MacPhail succeeds in trading Bedard to the Seattle Mariners and Roberts to the Chicago Cubs - and nothing is expected to happen in the next 24 to 48 hours - the Orioles will be in full-fledged rebuilding mode. There will be so many youngsters running around the clubhouse at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Melvin Mora's kids will finally be outnumbered.

MacPhail continues to talk trade and maintain dialogue with the representatives for a number of free agents, virtually at the same time. It's a tricky balancing act, with MacPhail having to impress upon the reps that he's interested in their clients while also trying to eliminate the need for them. He might as well hold a phone to each ear.

"It's pretty much ongoing," he said yesterday while taking a short break to return calls from reporters. "You're basically running on a parallel course and you're in contact with both simultaneously. I think they understand. They read the papers. They have a pretty good sense of what's going on."

At least somebody does. It can get awfully confusing at times, especially when deals are rumored to be finalized and killed, depending on the hour, and players either are headed to Baltimore for a physical or they're not. They're either in the U.S. or they're in Venezuela.

Through it all, the national media outlets take turns playing the guessing game.

It has felt more like one long waiting game.

I guess we'll have to be satisfied with Billy Rowell appearing in a Super Bowl ad. It's always nice when a member of the organization makes it into the postseason.

Enjoy the moment.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.