The State of the Orioles

by Darrell Carter

Spring training is upon us. Are you excited about the Orioles? If not, you are not alone. This could be the worst-ever spring training in Baltimore Orioles history. Say what!? you might ask. Let's take a look back over the past three seasons of Orioles baseball.

Peter Angelos has owned the Baltimore Orioles for nine seasons, and this reporter has supported Mr. Angelos going way back to my old radio sports talk show in the early 90's. I started writing for The Baltimore Chronicle in 1994, and most of my readers have known my stance on Peter Angelos. It has been very favorable. Well, not anymore!!! I was hoodwinked!

I believed in his philosophy on increased spending and vetoing former general managers' decisions. In 1996 and 1997, the O's made the playoffs only because the owner rejected former general manager Pat Gillick's trade requests. One of Gillick's proposed trades would have sent troubled outfielder/third baseman Bobby Bonilla and pitcher David Wells to Seattle for catcher Chris Widger and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz. In most baseball circles the trade made some sense, but the consensus was not overwhelming.

Mr. Angelos' veto proved correct when Bonilla and Wells were instrumental in hurdling the Orioles to a wildcard berth. Hey, making the playoffs was not the point! The point is Angelos vetoed the best general manager in baseball. Gillick's claim to fame was in Toronto, where the Blue Jays won three World Series under his command. Gillick added to his resume in Seattle, and several playoff trips later his label as best general manager in baseball was intact.

There are many Peter Angelos supporters in Baltimore. I am not questioning his philanthropy or his commitment to revitalizing Baltimore. If I were talking about a great citizen of Charm City, Peter Angelos would be in the top five. We are talking about baseball, and a franchise on the downswing because of poor leadership from the top.

Do you remember the Davey Johnson decision? Hey Darrell Carter haters, I still agree with his firing. Do you remember the Mike Mussina, Roberto Alomar, Rafeal Palmeiro, Charles Johnson, and Arthur Rhodes decisions not to resign? How many losing seasons does it take to understand that the Baltimore Orioles are the laughing stock in baseball? Yeah, I know you may say many teams lose. Major League Baseball is a business of the haves and the have-nots. Translation: profit-sharing is not balanced throughout baseball, and major market teams with a new stadium and newly found revenue are not sharing the wealth with teams that are suffering.

The Baltimore Orioles are a team of the haves. Orioles Park at Camden Yards has sold out or filled to near capacity 95% of the time or more. Last season, Orioles attendance dropped nearly 25%. There is no reason to convince the people of Baltimore and surrounding towns that they should not support Orioles baseball. This team will suffer on the field and in attendance in 2002. Mr. Angelos, leave the baseball decisions to the professionals and stop vetoing deals!

Now back to spring training.

The good news is that Scott Erickson is returning from elbow surgery. The bad news is that Mike Mussina is still a New York Yankee and Pat Hentgen is out for the year. There will be one opening in the starting rotation, unless there's a trade. Youngsters Sean Douglas, Rick Bauer, Matt Riley and John Stephens will compete for that one spot. Rounding out the rotation will be Jason Johnson, Sydney Ponson and Josh Towers.

Relief Pitching:
The Orioles brass decided young-arms Ryan Kholmier and Chad Poronto were not good enough to stay on the 40-man roster and exposed the two bright budding stars to waivers. The Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox added the two pitchers to their 40-man rosters, respectively.

Held over from last season's roster are left-handers John Bales, John Parrish and Buddy Groom and right-handers Kris Foster, Jorge Julio and Willis Roberts. Maybe a free agent or a trade will facilitate the closer's role and middle relief.

Spring training starts this month and the Orioles will audition several youngsters to fill the roster. In the next Baltimore Chronicle, the infielders, outfielders and bench players will be profiled.

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This story was published on February 6, 2002.