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Not many folks came to Oriole Park for Wednesday afternoon’s game against Texas, the last game played in Baltimore before the fire-inspired recess. The announced crowd of more than 33,000, which saw the O’s turn in their 11th losing performance in 13 outings, seemed about triple the actual attendance. Those who showed up were clearly uneasy with the team’s 2001 odysseywhich is understandable, given the downward trend and all the anonymities (Roberts, Lunar, Richard, Gibbons, etc.) who made up that day’s Ripkenless starting lineup. One fan walked around the overwhelmingly empty field box seats behind the plate waving a Day-Glo yellow sign reading, “Trade Angelos.”
Peter Angelos is an old and easy target, for sure. But although he’s been less obviously obstructive this season than in years past, the cancer profiteer has still done enough to justify his targethood. Most heinously, he didn’t attend Cal Ripken’s retirement-announcement ceremony, adding more fuel to years of suspicion that he’s long wanted to drive the city’s favorite son out of the game.
Next to the asbestos and tobacco industries, Ripken has put more millions in Angelos’ coffers than anything or anybody else. That press conference alone will be worth several more million to the organization, because it instantly transformed tickets to the rest of this otherwise trivial season into a commodity.
Angelos, remember, is the guy who fired general manager Frank Wren in 1999 and came up with the famously bogus excuse that the canning was necessary because Wren had once ordered the O’s charter plane to take off without Ripken when the star was late to the airport. Through a team spokesperson, Angelos said he wouldn’t tolerate anybody who would “treat anyone in this way, especially someone such as Cal who has done so much for the Orioles and for baseball.” And Angelos’ absence from the press conference makes it all the more galling that he petitioned the league to add an extra day to the season to make up games lost to the train accident, so he can milk more money from the Iron Man’s farewell. (Commissioner Bud Selig turned the O’s owner down.)
The “Trade Angelos”-placard-carrier, like most who paid to see the Texas loss, no doubt would have gotten a kick out of the ’70s party that had been planned for the second game of the day’s double-header at Camden Yards. Plenty of retired former Orioles players were scheduled to come to the game wearing throwback uniforms and mingle with the crowd. The nostalgic promotion, like the game, was canceled due to the train wreck and subsequent black cloud that hung over the stadium, either of which provides a fine metaphor for the 2001 season.
But in truth, ex-O’s have been coming to the ballpark all year. The only difference is, they’re playing on the other team, and many were driven away from Baltimore by the owner’s poor attitudeor aptitude.
It doesn’t take a rotisserie geek to come up with a lineup of current Major League players formerly on Baltimore’s payroll who, to judge from this year’s performances with their new teams, would kick the fixings out of the 2001 O’s.
Starting pitching staff:
Curt Schilling, now with Arizona. He’s 14-4, with a 2.97 ERA and 190 strikeouts. He was traded by the O’s to Houston along with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch for first baseman Glenn Davis, perhaps the only slugger in Orioles history who makes Albert Belle seem like a worthy acquisition.
Kevin Brown, now with Los Angeles. He’s 8-4, with a 2.95 ERA. Left the Orioles in 1995 via free agency.
Aaron Sele, now 12-1 with Seattle. Sele never put on an O’s uniform, but he did have an oral contract with Angelos during the last off-season. Hours after his agent and the O’s came to an agreement on a four-year, $28 million deal, however, Angelos tried to shave a year and $7 million off the pact. When Sele refused, Angelos reneged and had his medical staff say the pitcher had arm trouble and couldn’t pass a physical. Later that same day, Seattle’s general manager, former O’s GM Pat Gillick, offered Sele a two-year, $15 million contract, and he got healthy in a hurry.
Jamie Moyer, a lefty now also with the Mariners. He’s 9-5 this year. The Orioles currently don’t have a southpaw starter with even one win.
Mike Mussina, now with the Yankees. He’s not having a career year (10-8), but he’s still got more wins than any Orioles starter, and he makes the team just to bug Angelos, who couldn’t wait to give away Moose’s No. 35 jersey (to Josh Towers).
Arthur Rhodes, who has a 1.74 ERA after 43 appearances with Seattle. Rhodes gets the setup role; either Jose Mesa (25 saves with the Phillies), or the Mets’ Armando Benitez (23), can close. The Orioles’ top closer, Buddy Groom, has been good for just eight saves in a year when the headline “O’s Bullpen Can’t Hold Lead” shows up at least once a week.
Alex Ochoa, now with Colorado and batting .289 for the year. He hit .316 last season.
Mark McLemore, another Gillick signing, who now has a .282 average with Seattle.
B.J. Surhoff of the Braves, who is hitting .275 with a .418 slugging percentage and 42 RBI. Plus, one should never discount the entertainment value of having a guy named B.J. on the roster. No Oriole outfielder is hitting even .270.
Charles Johnson, who is hitting .281 with a .543 slugging percentage and 17 homers for the Marlins. The O’s most frequent catcher, Brook Fordyce, is below the Mendoza Line with a .199 average.
Rafael Palmeiro, now with Texas. Raffy doesn’t have much of an average (.265), but he has hit for power (.549 slugging percentage) and has knocked in 72 runs and gone yard 26 timesthe third-highest total in the American League.
Robby Alomar of the Indians. Alomar leads the majors in hitting, and through Saturday was second in the AL in hits and third in runs scored. His counterpart on the Orioles, Jerry Hairston, can’t yet hit (.251) or field.
Todd Zeile, now hitting .272 with the Mets.
That slot will have to stay open. Thanks to Cal, there aren’t any former Orioles playing shortstop in the majors. Dave McKenna