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Get those razors sharpened

May 14, 2002|BY AL DITZEL

Don't you love a challenge? I know I do. When my sports editor challenged Baltimore Orioles fans a few weeks back, I thought for sure we'd get deluged with e-mails, letters, etc.

Instead, well, let's just say it's been less than overwhelming.

My sports editor, Mark Keller, made a bit of a wager with the Orioles fans. He said that would not finish .500 or better. Maybe after losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays over this past weekend, he has a point.

Mark was so sure of himself, he put himself on the line. Well, not all of himself, just the near full head of hair he has. He said that if the Orioles finished .500 or better this season, he'd allow an Orioles fan to shave his head.

Right away, I warned him of wild bets. Remember that television announcer who said that if the Pirates blew a nine-run lead in the ninth inning, he'd walk back to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia. Well, Jim Rooker had to make that walk.

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Now, Mark's hair is on the line. Maybe he's comfortable with it because he knows that it isn't too far off before that look becomes permanent anyway.

OK, if I'm still here tomorrow, I'll tell you what he says about that line.

Anyway, he offered up his hair to the Orioles fan who best words his/her want to shave his head. Mark asked that a possible barber-to-be write in a letter or an e-mail why he/she is the best person to shave his head.

Some Orioles fans within the office have voiced their wants. But, as these type of contests go, people working for or the family of The Herald-Mail are not really eligible. That's, of course, unless his/her letter is extremely funny and deserves a special note.

Thus far, besides those in-house inquiries, we've heard little - kind of like that tree-falls-in-the-woods-but-no-one-is-around-to-hear-it bit.

Mind you, it's not that I want to see my boss shaved. But, even if his hair grows back quickly, wouldn't it be fun to see?

Anyway, if you're interested in the contest, e-mail Mark at keller@herald-mail.com

On to another subject: We're six weeks into the Major League Baseball season and already some tendencies have been established. I'll just touch on five.

- Baseballs kept in a humidifier will not go as far in Colorado. Can you believe that MLB condones such an act? So, what if the Rockies work it out that baseballs they hit are, well, not kept in a humidifier. This challenges the integrity of the game, as much as having a baseball field in Colorado. Now, with that information disclosed it's understandable why the two Pennsylvania teams went into Colorado for two three-game series and combined for one home run.

- This just in, the Mariners are good. Seattle matched its record of last year through 20 games and seems well on its way to another 100-plus win season. The Mariners play an aggressive brand of baseball that relies on pitchers throwing strikes, fielders catching and making throws and timely hitting. Not exactly a new formula, but because they have confidence that they will make those pitches, catch those screaming liners, make the throw from the outfield to the right person and deliver that clutch hit, they do. It's all a matter of confidence.

- Tampa Bay, Florida, Montreal these are the teams that should be contracted long before Minnesota loses its team. I could see two of these teams gone in the near future and another moving some place - possibly to D.C. Yes, there are enough baseball fans to handle two teams in such a close proximity.

- The stolen base will have its value returned - soon. In recent years, with the home run so prevalent, the art of stealing a base is lost on most. They'd rather wait for the big homer. This is not new. Like the economy, the value of a stolen base has gone up and down in baseball history with Whitey Herzog's St. Louis Cardinals of the 1980s best defining the game in its times. Now, teams are built like the Houston Astros, who put as many bats in their lineup as possible and worry about others things like defense when absolutely necessary. Why else would Lance Berkman play center field and Daryle Ward play left field? Sure, Berkman can cover some ground, but he's a pretty big guy to play such an important position.

- I'm sure a few of you remember Mark Belanger, the Orioles ex-shortstop who couldn't hit a lick but made all the plays you wanted. It seems the importance of that position is getting lost. Sunday, Atlanta's Rafael Furcal made his 13th error this season. Remember, we're just six weeks into the season. The Mets have Rey Ordonez, who makes the spectacular play as well as Omar Vizquel, but then lets soft grounders go between his legs. He has nine errors. In 15 games Sunday, only two were error-free.

So, these are just a few things I've noticed thus far this season. And, with MLB Extra Innings, the special programming that gives me up to nine more baseball games a day, I'm sure I'll see a lot more.

Al Ditzel is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 7520 or by e-mail at alfredd@herald-mail.com

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