Tejada was better Oriole than many thought

April 20, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY

Observations, opinions and musings from the week in Major League Baseball:

The Misadventures of Misunderstood Miggi continued last week.

After being confronted - some might say ambushed - by an ESPN reporter holding a birth certificate, Miguel Tejada admitted to the Houston Astros that he was two years older than he had previously claimed, meaning he turns 34 next month, not 32.

It's one more reason trading him in December to the Astros for five players - the day before he was implicated as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report - was the right move for the Orioles' future.

It also will be another example used by Tejada bashers on why he shouldn't be remembered fondly around here.

That's understandable, but it's a shame because Tejada was one of the most talented and gracious players to wear an Orioles uniform in the past 20 years. In four seasons here, he made the All-Star team three times, was the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player once, won an RBI crown, two Silver Sluggers, two Most Valuable Oriole Awards and set the club's single-season hits record.

The losing ate at him, and though he won't admit it, there's no question his energy, hustle and focus slipped in his last two seasons here.

That's what many fans will remember.

One e-mailer wrote last week that he thought Tejada was "just like Albert Belle. He was supposed to walk on water while he was in Baltimore and fell flat on his face."

There's no question Tejada has made poor decisions and gotten some terrible advice, but he's no Belle, one of the surliest men to ever walk on a diamond and one whom many of his teammates avoided.

Ask those who played with Tejada, and most will tell you he was one of the best teammates they've ever had.

Many Orioles fans, however, will point to a hefty paycheck, declining skills, focus lapses, deception and distraction to define Tejada's tenure here.

An unfortunate end to what should have been a fine marriage.

Closer conundrum

Having a set closer to finish games is essential for a bullpen's well-being. The Orioles learned that last year when Chris Ray and Danys Baez went down with elbow injuries and the club had to mix and match, throwing off their bullpen alignment.

Now other teams are experiencing the pain the Orioles went through in 2007.

Already this season, the Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels have lost their primary closer for at least a few days this month.

Of that group, only the Angels were in first place in their division heading into the weekend, and their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, missed just five days.

The Braves lost their closer, Rafael Soriano, and his backup, Peter Moylan, and now they're searching for another replacement.

A closer has to have a short memory, a bulldog mentality and quality stuff, but also needs to be durable. That's a tough combination to find.

And that's why the Hall of Fame is now opening up for the best ones.

Honoring Jackie

Some good baseball ideas run their course. But MLB's decision to honor Jackie Robinson annually by allowing selected players to wear his retired No. 42 still resonates.

"What does it mean? It means the world," said Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper, a former All-Star player and one of only four African-American managers in the major leagues. "That's the guy that set the stage for me and all the rest of us minorities. It is big."

Baseball is rich with history, and this is one accomplishment that should be acknowledged every year. It won't get old.

Bats of faith

Whenever he can, Orioles left fielder Luke Scott, a devout Christian, literally carries his faith to the batter's box. If Scott receives a new shipment of bats that have a hollow cup at the end of the barrel, and if his uniform number hasn't already been printed in it, he does a little artwork.

Scott takes a pen and draws an Asian symbol with various scraggly lines that mean "To believe in Christ" in each barrel. He said he has been doing it for years. He also had it tattooed on his arm.

But before he adopted the symbol, he said he visited a couple of sushi and Chinese restaurants to make sure it meant what he thought it did.

Orioles 18th in worth

Forbes magazine came out with its annual baseball report last week and the Orioles were listed as 18th in franchise value at $398 million. They were four spots behind the Nationals at $460 million, who were slightly under the league average of $472 million.

The average is skewed - surprise, surprise - by the New York Yankees, who are valued at $1.3 billion, nearly $500 million higher than the next club, the New York Mets.

What does it all mean?

Baseball continues to surge in profitability, after reportedly losing money five years ago. And there's plenty more money coming.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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