O's show promise

August 29, 2002|by ANDREW MASON

No, this isn't sports editor Mark Keller prematurely making good on his Orioles bet.

I'm the new kid on the Herald-Mail sports block - the new Dan Spears as some of my new colleagues have referred to me.

And no, unlike Mark, I didn't wager my hair on Baltimore's record this season. Actually, I started shaving it a few years ago, and I'm not growing it out until the Orioles see some late-October action.

OK, that's a bit of a stretch. By the time the Orioles are back in the World Series, there probably won't be much left to grow. But for the first time in five seasons, there have been reasons to think the Birds could reach the Fall Classic again in our lifetime - sooner than later.


The O's have grappled all season with .500, baseball's respectability benchmark, with a lineup many people thought would finish behind the Devil Rays in the AL East cellar.

Heck, who's to blame the forecasters? If all the multi-millionaire veterans who've donned the orange and black in recent times had such trouble winning, why should anything more be expected from a bunch of journeymen and league-minimum youngsters, guys you might not even recognize in the grocery store?

So, ask Jerry Hairston, who had to spend his summer proving he should be the team's regular second baseman with Brian Roberts breathing down his neck. Ask pitchers Jorge Julio and Rodrigo Lopez, who both spent the majority of last summer making their way in the minors and are now AL Rookie of the Year candidates. Ask ever-smiling Tony Batista, the squad's inspirational leader, who made the All-Star team this year after being let go by Toronto last season.

Ask any of them. They'll all likely give you the same answer: MLB's a heck of a gig if you can get it. What with all the fans, fame, glamour and travel - all while making more money than God - playing in the majors is a dream. Every kid knows it, and so do most adults. Man, I'd give almost anything to play left field in the bigs.

That's why I find all this strike talk sickening. Honestly, I don't really care about each side's luxury-tax proposals, revenue-sharing plans, numbers, needs, wants, etc. Keep the game on the field and all that other stuff behind closed doors.

If the Yankees want to spend $2 billion, so be it. Teams are a whole lot more, and often times less, than their salaries. Just take a look at some of the past O's teams with all their Albert Belles, Will Clarks and other overpaid busts, or today's cellar-dweller Rangers with A-Rod and Chan Ho Park. Money only goes so far. Oakland, which lost its best player to the big Bronx money, is the hottest team in baseball with about a quarter of the Yanks' payroll.

It takes chemistry, passion and commitment to win. That can't be bought or negotiated. But it can easily be sold to a strike. For the resurgent Orioles' and all of baseball's sake, I hope that doesn't happen.

If it does, it's a week too late. At least last Friday, when the O's finally spent a day at .500, I would've had a skinheaded partner around the office.

Andrew Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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