No joy in Mudville over news

O's fans upset, frustrated at Teixeira going to Yankees

December 24, 2008|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,childs.walker@baltsun.com

Feelings of outrage, frustration and betrayal swept the Orioles' fan base yesterday as once-hopeful supporters heard that hometown boy Mark Teixeira had signed with the New York Yankees.

"What?" shouted Jimmy Mengle of Hampden when informed of the news over a beer at the Midtown Yacht Club. "Come on!"

Mengle was one of many Orioles fans hoping that owner Peter Angelos would open the vault to lure the slugging first baseman away from the sport's usual heavyweights.

"I thought he could be a real figurehead for the team," he explained. "We really haven't had that since Cal Ripken. He's a hometown guy and that means something extra. He could've been a face of the franchise for 10 years. That's worth paying for."

For weeks, reports had suggested the Orioles were behind in a derby that also included the Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels. Few fans seemed really shocked at the news. "I was just hoping he would be a little present for Christmas," Mengle said. "But I didn't have much hope, so it doesn't really upset me. I don't think they had enough to compete, even with Teixeira."

Beyond gloom about the Orioles, fans unleashed distress at the Yankees' deep pockets. Teixeira was only the latest big-ticket item in a spending spree that began with a $161 million deal for the top starter on the market, CC Sabathia, and continued with an $82 million deal for pitcher A.J. Burnett. The four highest-paid players in baseball are now Yankees.

"The Yankees own baseball and it's ruining the game," said Erika Nusholtz of Woodberry, who grew up rooting for the Orioles and held season tickets for most of the 1990s. "Once [Mike] Mussina went to the Yankees, that was it for me. It's boring."

She said she'll probably make it to a few games this year. "But now, all I have to look forward to is rooting against the Yankees in the World Series."

Despair about the economic state of the game led some to call the Teixeira signing the last straw for their fandom.

"But for the jobs the club brings to the City, I could care less if the O's packed up and left town forever," said one poster on baltimoresun.com, who went by the user name "Done With Baseball."

"Goodbye, Orioles," wrote another poster, named SM. "It was nice knowing ya. Been a fan since '79 when I was 8 years old and stuck with them throughout the turmoil and losing of the last 10+ years, but this is the end of the line. If Mr. Angelos isn't willing to pay the going rate to compete in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees, then what's the point?"

Teixeira, the best position player available on this year's free-agent market, is from Severna Park and played high school ball for Mount St. Joseph. His background led many to believe the Orioles had a shot at signing him, even though he's the type of premium player who usually ignores them. But Teixeira also grew up loving the Yankees and Don Mattingly.

"The rich get richer," said Jayson Hill of Pasadena. "Unreal. First Sabathia, then Burnett, now Tex? You would have thought growing up in Severna Park he would have some loyalty to the area. If he didn't sign with us, at least don't become an enemy and play for the Yankees."

That was tame compared with what many people said on Orioles message boards. Fans called Teixeira a greedy traitor and vowed to boo him vociferously when he shows up at Camden Yards on Opening Day.

But others said they couldn't blame Teixeira for going to a contender that will pay him $30 million more than the Orioles' reported best offer.

"Nah, they should have offered more if they wanted him," Mengle said.

The move did not crush the last bits of optimism out of every fan.

"I still love the Orioles' young core of pitching," Hill said. "As stacked as the Yankees are, they still have to play as a team, something they haven't been able to do for about a decade."

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