Orioles need to treat Teixeira like real blue-chip recruit

November 18, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

The Orioles have taken the first step in their pursuit of Maryland-born first baseman Mark Teixeira.

"We have had discussions with his representative," club president Andy MacPhail said yesterday.

The Orioles contacted Teixeira's agent, Scott Boras, on Friday, the first day clubs were allowed to officially court free agents, MacPhail said.

There were no offers; Boras indicated he would get back to the Orioles when he wanted to talk specifics. It was simply an initial conversation between two deliberate, thorough men in a process that will take weeks, maybe months before resolution.

The waiting game begins, but the Orioles shouldn't sit back and enjoy the music while they're on hold. They need to do something highly un-Oriole-like. They need to recruit Teixeira as if he were at Mount St. Joseph looking for that perfect school.

For the most part over the years, the Orioles have adhered to the low-pressure sell, with the occasional Camden Yards tour or dinner engagement. There have been no over-the-top, light-up-a-cell-phone recruitment efforts.

That holds true so far. No one has been given the green light to dial up Tex.

But if MacPhail and the Orioles are serious about signing him - and, to a lesser extent, Monkton resident A.J. Burnett - there has to be a full-court press.

Will it work?

Probably not, but it wouldn't hurt. There's nothing but a 12th consecutive sub-.500 season to lose.

"I think there are situations and places where [a full recruiting effort] can be very effective," MacPhail said. "We are all human beings and we all want to feel wanted. At the same time, you have to recognize there are other real-life factors going into these decisions."

Money is one, of course. There's also the potential to win and quality-of-life issues. And did we mention money?

There's no question, though, that a significant recruitment effort can be a factor. When B.J. Ryan left here for Toronto, he said a primary reason was that the Blue Jays were unrelenting in their interest from the first allowable minute until he signed a deal. They also offered the best contract. Let's not be naive here.

But the personal touch helped. It often does. Ask Adam Loewen, who bolted from Baltimore last month after Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston called and asked him to join his favorite childhood organization.

The Orioles can't offer Teixeira a chance to play on an immediate contender. But they could wrap up the saltiest offer in their history with a heartstring tug.

Think of all the people who could and should visit or call Teixeira on behalf of the Orioles. There's Gary Kendall, the Aberdeen IronBirds manager, who coached Teixeira when he was a teen. There's Orioles scout Dean Albany, who has known the Teixeira family since Little League.

Current Orioles such as Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Dave Trembley could pitch in. And so could former standouts still with the organization: Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Rick Dempsey, Boog Powell.

Then there's a significant ace up the Orioles' sleeve. A hometown boy who did OK for the hometown team: Cal Ripken Jr.

Ripken is on a goodwill baseball trip to Nicaragua; he's always busy with his own endeavors. But it's hard to believe Ripken, if asked, wouldn't place a call to Teixeira at some point as a favor to Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Even more so than Ripken, Angelos' individual pursuit of Teixeira could be the key here. He has done it before, though he has distanced himself from that process recently.

Here's a situation in which fans would welcome the owner's involvement. Angelos is an impressive personality; he can be charming and persuasive. And the fact that he would get involved would have to impress Teixeira.

Boras likes to deal directly with owners, such as the Texas Rangers' Tom Hicks and the Detroit Tigers' Mike Ilitch, who recruited Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez.

Ilitch "was there and personally involved. He said to Pudge, 'Look in my eyes. I am going to change this team,' " Boras said. "And in three years he did that. ... Those are the things, in my mind, that impress players. No doubt about it, they do."

That, and Ilitch and Hicks surrendered boatloads of cash to the superstars.

Orioles fans don't expect Teixeira to end up here. They don't want to be embarrassed, either. They want to know that a true effort was made.

The most important part of the equation is financial. But it's not the only part.

Cue the marching band; it's time for the Orioles' old college recruiting try.

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