He's just not that into you

December 24, 2008|By PETER SCHMUCK | PETER SCHMUCK,peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Don't beat yourself up.

You're not the first Orioles fan to let down your guard and make yourself vulnerable again. You're not going to be the last, and you're certainly not alone.

Mark Teixeira seemed too perfect. He was the homegrown superstar everyone had been waiting for since Cal Ripken Jr. retired. He was the guy the Orioles missed by a few draft choices in 2001, and, admit it, that was when you started counting the days until he would be eligible for free agency. Along the way, you idolized him and assumed he felt the same way about you.

In reality, he hardly gave you a second thought. Oh, he was polite whenever the subject of Baltimore came up, but never committal. He said the right things so he wouldn't hurt anybody's feelings, but he didn't make you any promises, and - if you could have seen through your infatuation with his geographical desirability - you might have saved yourself some heartache, because he wasn't really all that interested.

Remember, in this little high school romance, you were Ugly Betty and you were competing with the star quarterback on the football team (the New York Yankees) and the star pitcher on the baseball team (the Boston Red Sox) and the Washington Nationals, who don't really fit into this analogy, but you'll just have to trust me that this will all make sense very soon.

The Orioles tried to persuade Tex to come home and make you the happiest fan in the world. They didn't try as hard as maybe you think they should have. They didn't send agent Scott Boras a blank check and tell him to fill in any amount he wanted. They didn't put Cal, Brooks Robinson and Ray Lewis on a Learjet and send them to Texas last week with a fruit basket. They didn't beg - even though you were begging them to.

Andy MacPhail made an offer that would have made Teixeira the fourth-highest-paid player in the history of the game (in terms of average annual salary), and you're almost as mad at him as you are at Tex for turning it down.

It should be obvious by now that you were never his first choice. He grew up rooting for the Orioles, too, but his favorite player was Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, so that sense of betrayal you felt when you heard it was the Yankees really is more about you than it is about him. He also grew up wanting to play in the World Series, which is much more likely to happen in a Yankees uniform than in those new Orioles togs - even the road ones with Baltimore on the front.

Sure, he would have made the Orioles more competitive, but even you know deep in your heart that one player wasn't going to change the balance of power in the American League East. This was more about Peter Angelos showing you the money and Teixeira showing that playing at home was more important than that. In the end, Angelos apparently was willing - though a lot of Orioles fans will never believe it - but Teixeira was not willing to risk his competitive future on a rebuilding plan that is still in its early stages.

Give him some credit. He didn't toy with you. Boras never pushed the Orioles to make the market. In fact, he apparently did just the opposite, keeping MacPhail at arm's length even as the O's attempted to remain a factor in the bidding.

No doubt, Teixeira is going to be portrayed by a lot of people around here as a guy who just wanted the last dollar, and it's fair to assume that every star-quality player who employs Boras as his agent is looking to maximize his economic potential without apology. It's never as simple as that, but Teixeira held out for a giant contract from the richest team in baseball and will have to live with the perception here that he is more Alex Rodriguez than Ripken.

The Orioles have earned your wrath, too, though not necessarily because of the way MacPhail handled this negotiation. They didn't lose Teixeira because they didn't offer enough money - though I suppose there was a number he could not have turned down. The Orioles lost Teixeira while he was still playing college ball at Georgia Tech. They lost him with a string of 11 losing seasons that transformed Oriole Park from the place where everyone wanted to be on a summer night in the 1990s to the place where it seems like nobody wants to be unless the Yankees and Red Sox are in town.

If you're going to point fingers, point them in the right direction. MacPhail did not preside over that decade of disaster. He's the guy trying to turn things around against overwhelming odds that have gotten even more overwhelming in the wake of the Yankees' $423.5 million free-agent spending spree. Now he'll go back to the original plan and keep trying to build this team from the bottom up, but the competitive landscape has changed so much over the past few months that he's got to be wondering whether it's even worth the effort.

You're wondering the same thing. You're wondering whether you can ever really trust anyone again.

You'll get over it.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Fridays and Saturdays.

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