Spring Training #2 1998
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Meanwhile, Mike Mussina begins the 1998 season with an even
bigger role than he held last year. And in an unrelated story, Orioles have increased
parking spaces for this season, which
should hopefully clear up the parking problem caused by construction on the new
football stadium. No, Mike Mussina isn't going to be a parking attendant.
Now, in a season-opening installment of Ex-O's Report, see where your favorite ex-Orioles will be playing this season:
Former outfielder Jack Voigt is fighting for one of the final two spots on Oakland's bench with Kevin Mitchell and Shane Mack. Look, three guys better than Joe Carter. Designated hitter Pete Incaviglia and utility infielder Billy Ripken have both made Detroit's opening day roster. Left handed pitcher Brian Shouse, released by Pat Gillick for being too good and too young, earned the final slot in the Red Sox bullpen.
Juan Bell, the first Heir Apparent To Cal Ripken, was signed to a minor league deal by the Blue Jays, while Archie Corbin, who pitched very briefly for the Orioles, was sent to the minors by San Diego.
For years, Johnny Oates' Texas Rangers were known as the place where old Orioles went to die. But Voigt, Mike Devereaux, Damon Buford, Mickey Tettleton, and Craig Worthington have left or been shipped out, and only second baseman Mark McLemore remains. Tampa Bay now appears to have taken on the responsibility of keeping former Orioles busy in the spring. Esteban Yan has secured a job in the bullpen, while Aaron Ledesma will be the Devil Rays' utility infielder.
Meanwhile, they also gave long looks to outfielders Luis Polonia, Jerome Walton, and Dwight Smith. Smith was released, while Walton and Polonia were sent to the minors. As he did in Baltimore, Polonia whined about being sent to the minors and threatened to go home. In addition, pitcher Mark Eichhorn, catcher Tim Laker, andminor league third baseman Scott McClain were assigned to the minors by the Devil Rays.
Finally, switching expansion teams, expansion draft pick David
Dellucci has made the Diamondback's opening day roster, and
erstwhile Os closer Gregg Olson has been given a job in
the bullpen. With the lack of a Proven Closer in Arizona, Olson could pick
up some saves this season.
One of Ray Miller's stated reasons for signing all these veteran players is that they're "Gamers." He never quite explained what that word actually *means*, but there's some implication that it has to do with their positive, unselfish attitudes towards their teams. Miller never explained how he knew which players were "Gamers," either. Apparently the ones who spouted the most cliches got the label. But recent reports call this label into serious question.
Terry Mathews is basically whining that people don't think much of him as a pitcher. He's upset that after he gave up two homers in game 3 of the ALDS, Davey didn't use him again. And he thinks he shouldn't be booed. And that it's unfair that people judge him on his performance. And that the team isn't playing good defense behind him.
Joe Carter is whining that he didn't sign up to be a platoon player. Note that Miller isn't *really* talking about using him as a platoon player; as I've been insisting, the Os didn't sign him for $3.3M to get 150 ABs. They're talking about getting him 400 ABs. But to Carter, that's still being a platoon player. Of course, Rosenthal is busy kissing Carter's ass because he gets lots of RBIs, so he keeps insisting that Carter isn't Bonilla. But we're already making excuses for why Carter is going to suck -- because he needs to play regularly (as if 400 ABs isn't regularly).
BTW, if Ray doesn't pick Guillen, we probably "lose" him. Guillen has
already said that he's not going to the minors, but rather home to
Venezuela if he doesn't make the team. And I assume he's not coming back
if he does. Yeah, what a great "leader"; if he doesn't make the team,
he'll pack up and go home.
Perhaps because both Krivda and Tarasco can play, and the Orioles are trying to accumulate crappy veterans, neither one was given any chance by the brainrust to make the team. Instead, Ray Miller wasted half the spring looking at Doug Johns, an older, lousier version of Rick Krivda, and babbled about Ozzie Guillen being a left-handed bat off the bench, when that is _actually_ a description of Tony Tarasco.
It is hard to imagine what Ray Miller and Pat Gillick could possibly have been thinking when they made these decisions, assuming they were thinking at all. The club apparently no longer makes decisions based on the talent of players, and instead picks and chooses players at random and then simply releases anybody who loses the coin toss.
The signing of Ozzie Guillen to a minor league contract was defended by some as a low-cost, risk-free gamble. If he couldn't perform in spring training, the logic went, he wouldn't be added to the team. Instead, Ray Miller made it clear from day one that Ozzie Guillen would make the team no matter how badly he performed. And Ozzie Guillen has lived up to expectations, not hitting at all or fielding well. Through Sunday's exhibition game, Guillen's hitting .147 (5-34), and he has openly admitted that he has had trouble fielding second base.
This makes *THREE* players that Ozzie Guillen has cost the Orioles -- Steve Montgomery, Rick Krivda, and Tony Tarasco! All this for a player who hasn't hit adequately at any time in his career, or fielded acceptably since his knee injury five years ago!
While the 25th man on the roster is hardly the key to the Orioles' season,
this decision is indicative of the lack of mental activity in the front
office. Out of the five or six top options for that slot, the Orioles have
released two of the best and kept the absolute worst.
And as opening day draws near, owner Peter Angelos is making a strong push to complete contract extensions with B.J. Surhoff and Scott Erickson. It appears all but certain that Rafael Palmeiro, another player eligible for free agency following the season, will be elsewhere next year, though recently he has changed his public stance and said he would be willing to accept less money to stay in Baltimore.
Finally, as we've mentioned quite often here, injuries are going to be a big
concern for an old team like the Orioles. Noone is going to be watched more
closely than Jimmy Key, who had a disasterous second half last season, but
pitched 5 strong innings in the Orioles spring
victory over the Twins yesterday. Opening Day is only a week away!
This marks the second time in recent memory the front-office has made a blunder with young talent. In the trade with the Phillies that brought Todd Zeile and Pete Incaviglia to the Orioles in 1996, the Orioles were forced to package Garrett Stephenson along with Calvin Maduro. Initially, the Orioles had given the Phillies Don Florence, but that was before the front office had realized they had already released him just days earlier.
In other young-Oriole pitcher news, just one day after Rocky Coppinger blasted the organization for sending him down to Bowie without giving him a real chance to earn a job, he apparently has worked things out after talking with GM Pat Gillick and assistant-GM Kevin Malone. Coppinger had indicated that he might ask his agent to request a trade.
In ex-Oriole news, Ben McDonald, acquired by the Indians over the winter for outfielder Marquis Grissom, was traded back to the Brewers after it was realized he'd be out much longer than expected after having surgery on his rotator cuff. "In good faith, we have decided that it is fair to compensate the Indians with another player and to take Ben back," Milwaukee general manager Sal Bando said.
Finally, despite the fact that the Orioles raised ticket prices again, they
have already sold over 3 million tickets for the 1998 season, leaving less than 800,000 available.
That having been said, the Orioles have started off the spring 3-1-1, the latest game a loss to the Cardinals. More importantly, however, are the nagging injuries that are beginning to plague the Orioles. The most serious is to outfielder B.J. Surhoff, who has ligament damage to his finger and could be out for up to three weeks. We've said it before, but we'll say again that old teams tend to be more injury-prone than younger teams. Surhoff's joins Brady Anderson, Lenny Webster, Roberto Alomar, and Jeff Reboulet as Orioles bothered by injuries this spring. Of course, this doesn't even include minor-leaguers Steve Montgomery (likely out for season) and Danny Clyburn, who broke his left foot running the bases and will likely be out four weeks.
Nonetheless, Ray Miller's goal for this team is nothing less than a World Series appearance, and Thomas Boswell writes that this goal
has become an obsession for this veteran ballclub to achieve.
Anyways, back in Florida, the Orioles are faced with another injury problem carried over from last year. Roberto Alomar's shoulder is still bothering him and he won't hit for a few days to allow his shoulder to completely heal. Though this probably isn't serious, with an old ballclub, we can expect more injuries this season. Along these same lines, Cal Ripken says that the back problem that almost forced him to end his consecutive games streak last season is almost healed, but that it still bothers him from time to time.
And in an interesting story, Delegate Michael Burns
introduced a bill
that would prevent the Orioles or the Ravens from raising ticket prices without
approval from the Maryland Stadium Authority. Burns argues that there are
strings attached when the state builds a stadium for you. However, don't get
your hopes up, because a bill like this will never pass.
Bad news coming out of training camp is that the Orioles have already
suffered their first casualty of the spring. Already short on young talent
in the minors leagues, the Orioles took another hit in promising pitcher
Steve Montgomery, who tore cartilage in his shoulder socket and will likely be
out the entire season. And Brady Anderson, who has played through various
injuries in the past including apendicitis and broken ribs, says that he may not
be able to play in the early stages of the exhibition season because he is still
bothered by a sore groin. More spring training updates and
information to follow shortly...
RHP Shawn Boskie will not be an Oriole next season. Boskie, an absolutely disaster for the 1997 Orioles, signed a minor league contract with the Montreal Expos. Boskie had no history of success before he was signed to a minor league contract and then given a major league job by Pat Gillick. This pattern fuels the fears of Orioles fans regarding 1998 signings like Norm Charlton.
In other news, the Orioles are closer to a contract extension with outfielder
B.J. Surhoff, as majority owner Peter Angelos has now
entered the negotiations. Also, Angelos says that he has no intention of
enforcing the fine imposed on Roberto Alomar last season that led to Davey
Johnson's resignation. And finally, Angelos has begun talks with assistant
General Manager Kevin Malone about taking over the GM duties next season, as
current GM Pat Gillick is set to retire at the end of this season.
Gillick praised Guillen for being "not only a quality baseball player, but a quality person as well," and described him as "another veteran to come off the bench with the ability to play regularly if needed." This calls into question (a) whether Pat Gillick knows which shortstop named Ozzie he signed, (b) whether Pat Gillick has followed major league baseball in the last 15 years, and (c) whether Pat Gillick can tell the difference between a baseball player and tuna salad.
Guillen is essentially Mike Bordick, without the range in the field and with even less plate discipline. He was always one of the worst hitters in the game, with no power at all and no walks, but since his knee injury in 1992, when he crashed into Tim Raines and missed most of the season, his speed and range have been missing. Why any major league team would want *any* of Bordick, Reboulet, and Guillen, let alone all three at once, is unclear. Their skills, such as they are, are redundant. This is a another example of Pat Gillick giving jobs to undeserving veterans instead of to the young players that have earned them.
In any case, good news for Oriole fans is that second baseman Roberto Alomar will report to spring training " at or near full strength" after spending the winter recovering from shoulder surgery.
The Orioles have opened discussions with Scott Erickson regarding a contract extension. Erickson is apparently seeking a 4-year deal worth as much as $7 million per season. And unlike Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, and Brady Anderson, Erickson's agent has hinted that he wouldn't be willing to sign with Baltimore for less than his market value.
In other news, the Orioles have come to terms with outfielder Danny
Clyburn, and pitchers Everett Stull and Rick Krivda. Also, GM Pat Gillick
sent a scout to watch free-agent pitcher Jack McDowell throw, but doesn't know
if the Orioles will bid on McDowell, who was injured much of last season. And
finally, Gillick denied the rumor that the Orioles were going to trade OF
Jeffrey Hammonds to the Phillies for closer Rick Bottalico.
On a different note, OF/DH Geronimo Berroa is rumored to
be talking to the Indians, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. Some team is going to
get a tremendous bargain on the Chief, showing how foolish Pat Gillick was for letting him go.
In any case, we at DUOP have put together a brief
1998 Oriole outlook for
each position, and as we get closer to spring training, we'll compile a list
of predictions from various sources on how the Orioles will perform this year.
Soon, we hope to have a bulletin board up and running so you can tell us how
brilliant or crazy our predictions are, and just to discuss the Orioles in general.
For those of you trying to keep track of your favorite Orioles around baseball, we at DUOP (David's Unofficial Oriole Page) present you with the first installment of Ex-Os Report...
First though, a story from the Washington Post on current Oriole Eric Davis, who is set to complete his third six-week set of chemotherapy treatments early next month before reporting to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for spring training. Davis, who had a fist-sized cancerous tumor removed from his colon last June, has "the same sense of anticipation for this season that I've had for every other season."
And now, on to the Ex-Oriole Report:
OF/DH Pete Incaviglia just signed a AAA contract with Detroit, with whom he played in 1991, and was invited to spring training. With the recent release of Bob Hamelin, Incaviglia stands a reasonable chance of making the club as a bat off the bench. Bobby Bonilla, currently the Marlins 3Bman, is having wrist surgery, and is expected to miss most of spring training. OF Mike Devereaux, who began his career with the Dodgers, signed a AAA contract and was also invited to spring training, with an opportunity to win a bench role. After being released by the Rangers last year, his chances of staying in the majors appear slim. IF Jeff Huson, who was a utility played with the Brewers last season, signed a AAA contract with Colorado and appeared to have a good shot at making the team. He was chosen in the recent Rule V draft by Seattle and should remain with the Mariners all season. OF Sherman Obando also signed a AAA contract with the Rockies and received a spring training invitation. He is not expected to start the season in the majors. SP Ben McDonald, recently traded from the Brewers to the Indians, underwent shoulder surgery last July, and will be out until May after pushing himself too hard during offseason workouts. IF Pete Rose Jr., who started in the Orioles organization but never made it to the majors, signed a AAA contract with the Reds. Richie Lewis, a journeyman reliever who came up through the Orioles organization before being chosen by the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft, signed a AAA contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
And finally, Curt Blefary , who won American League Rookie of the Year with
the Orioles in 1965, participated in a chat session with ESPNet Sportszone users. He talks about winning
the 1966 World Series and playing with Frank and Brooks Robinson. Blefary, who
now resides in the Virgin Islands, has a strong desire to return to the game and
coach, but so far he hasn't received any offers.
Well, not for now, as the Chicago Cubs signed closer Rod Beck to a 1-year deal worth $4 million. Orioles
GM Pat Gillick had intensified his efforts to acquire Beck in the last few
days to replace Randy Myers, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last month as
a free agent. According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, adding Beck would
allow new manager Ray Miller to ease "youngsters" Armando Benitez and Arthur
Rhodes into the closers role. Don't hold your breath for too long though, as
apparently Ricky Bottalico of the Philadelphia remains a possibility, and the
Phillies have had an interest in one of the few players on the Orioles under 30,
Jeffrey Hammonds, for some time now.