Orioles draw interest despite subpar record

Trade rumors at winter meetings attract hopeful fans

December 09, 2009|By Peter Schmuck

INDIANAPOLIS — Nobody cares about baseball anymore. That's why ESPN spent the entire day Tuesday doing incremental updates on the slow-developing three-team deal that will put - if you want to just hit the high notes - Curtis Granderson in the New York Yankees' outfield and Edwin Jackson in the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation.

I know, Granderson and Jackson are real good players, and the five other guys involved make it a very big deal, but it's not like any of them are dating Kate Hudson.

Nobody cares about the Orioles anymore. That's why there were 45,000 page views to my Orioles blog ("The Schmuck Stops Here"… read it, live it) during the first day of the baseball winter meetings Monday, even though Andy MacPhail and his staff didn't do anything more than dance around a medium trade rumor all day.

That's pretty amazing when you consider that just about everybody in Baltimore claims to have stopped caring about baseball when you could still count the consecutive losing seasons on the fingers of two hands.

Obviously, there is some kind of logical disconnect here.

Orioles fans have every reason to be frustrated after what has happened to their once-proud franchise, and baseball fans everywhere have a right to be disenchanted by the economic inequity that divides the sport. Yet an afternoon of trade speculation about 34-year-old right-hander Kevin Millwood, who won 13 games for the Texas Rangers last year, brings everybody and his or her brother out of the woodwork to start talking ball again.

The same kind of thing is going on nationally. I can't tell you how many times I've heard some talk-show caller in some far city claiming that baseball is dead and nobody cares about it anymore, even though it took the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression for major league baseball to register even a small decline in overall attendance.

The game was supposed to be dead after Bud Selig canceled the World Series in 1994, but the combined revenues of all the major league franchises have more than tripled since then.

It kind of reminds me of Yogi Berra's legendary misstatement about a popular restaurant.

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

We're right in the middle of a Ravens' playoff run - such as it is after Monday night's lambasting at Lambeau Field - and suddenly there is this giant reservoir of Orioles interest simmering over the likes of Millwood and San Diego Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Admit it. You wouldn't know Millwood or Kouzmanoff if they had the two PSLs next to you at M&T Bank Stadium, but you can't help yourself. One minute, you're promising that Peter Angelos will never see another dime of your money, and the next minute, you're on the Internet looking for updates from Indianapolis.

So far, it's pretty quiet, but Millwood is still a very real possibility. No one has totally shot down speculation that the Rangers are trying to shed some payroll and might be willing to accept a David Hernandez-type pitching prospect in return. The odds are longer when it comes to Kouzmanoff, since a lot of teams have inquired about him, but he's an intriguing possibility nonetheless.

Obviously, the love affair Baltimore once had with the Orioles has turned into a much more dysfunctional relationship over the past dozen years, and that's understandable. Orioles fans have been seduced and abandoned more than once and have become bitter and cynical.

Nothing that happens over the last two days at the winter meetings is going to change that.

It'll take years to heal those wounds and bring the disaffected multitudes back to Camden Yards, and there is no guarantee that the Orioles will ever recapture their past glory in the current economic environment of major league baseball.

Amazingly, however, just the possibility - even when it bubbles up in the city that stole a big chunk of our sports history - seems to be enough to get Orioles fans interested again.

Listen to Peter Schmuck | The Baltimore Sun when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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