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Mason - O's fortunes have loyalists singing 'How Dry I Am'

April 10, 2003|by ANDY MASON

What they say is true: There is no hope in alcohol.

Not even in a case of brew.

That's what I bet colleague Dan Kauffman that the Baltimore Orioles would finish above .500 this season.

What was I drinking? Well, I'm a big O's fan, and I like beer. Which, in hindsight, isn't the best combination for this wager. I'm in a no-win situation, and I won't even be able to drown away my September sorrows.

Granted, the season's only a little more than a week old. Still, I know now what I knew then: The O's stink, seemingly even worse than in each of their last five straight losing seasons. And it's getting increasingly more difficult to swallow. I've got that bitter-beer face.

It all started with the high-priced teams Baltimore fielded from 1998 to 2000, which looked like contenders and drew in the fans with such names as Palmeiro, Alomar, Belle and Ripken in the lineup.

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That's when the great deception took over at the grandest of all ballparks, when "Oriole Magic" began giving way to "Oriole Trickery," easily pulled off with Boog's Barbeque smoke and Camden Club mirrors.

The O's finally seemed to catch on, going retro with the youth movement of the new millennium - or at least that's what they had us believe. Wins and losses didn't matter, just so long as the boys tried hard and got better. I bought into it for a while.

But I can only put so much stock into the Jerry Hairstons and Sidney Ponsons, guys with obvious talent but no future-star potential.

The whole thing now is a joke. The Orioles have shown they can neither buy a contender nor cultivate one, and they seem all too complacent in their acceptance of that.

You'd think hobbling across the finish line a dreadful 4-32 over their last 36 games last year would have led to a skull-cracking offseason. It did, as I banged my head against the desk with the reacquisitions of punchless veterans B.J. Surhoff - who's been batting third?! - and Jeff Reboulet - the poster boy for all the little mustached men who were ever counted out (which he finally was late-spring).

Was a healthy David Segui, who couldn't stay healthy in a bubble, supposed to make the difference?

Sure, the O's pitching stands out - because it's average - but it hardly matters because Baltimore can't score. Batting coach Terry Crowley is one of the best - at turning .220 hitters into .245 ones - but he can't make Jay Gibbons an Eddie Murray.

I almost believe the theory that owner Peter Angelos is purposely trying to turn fans away to show that the area couldn't sufficiently support a second team in Washington - to keep the O's price tag high when it soon (hopefully) comes time to sell.

I know, that almost sounds like the movies. Except there's no Roy Hobbs with a "Wonder Boy" bat floating around the club's equally hapless minor-league system to come save the summer.

I've invested way too much orange-and-black emotion in my life to ever stop wearing my fan-club badge, but it's certainly becoming one of my more embarrassing attributes.

And for maybe the first time ever, rubbing it gives me no hope.

Drink up, Kauffman.




Andy 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 andrewm@herald-mail.com

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