- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2000

I was in a sporting goods store yesterday and saw some Mike Mussina jerseys for sale.

Funny, I didn't see any Peter Angelos jerseys. They must have been sold out.

The Baltimore Orioles' owner did it again. He put his own personal grudges, prejudices however you want to describe his bizarre thought processes ahead of the good of the franchise he pledged to protect when he purchased it more than seven years ago. This time he did it by letting one of the best pitchers of his era leave.

Angelos has admitted that he made a mistake by panicking two years ago when it appeared Albert Belle was about to sign with the New York Yankees and giving baseball's Norman Bates a five-year, $65 million contract. So he swore he would not be making the same mistake twice when it came to re-signing Mike Mussina.

He didn't. He made a whole new mistake.

Now there is absolutely no reason to come to Camden Yards next season to watch this team play. At least with Mussina in uniform, people could anticipate that, no matter how bad the team, they stood a chance of seeing an outstanding pitching performance every five days. Fans knew they were watching a future Hall of Famer, and no matter how low the Orioles sank, they had Mike

Mussina.

No more. Now the Yankees have Mussina. They also have Clemens and Hernandez and Pettitte and Jeter and Williams and Rivera. What a lucky team, those Yankees.

The Orioles? They have Jose Mercedes and Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson and Melvin Mora and Delino DeShields and Chuck McElroy. What an unlucky team, those Orioles.

Oh, they will have Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson, still, and may have Kevin Appier, if they can actually trick a free agent into signing with them.

But so what? Really, what is the point of fielding a team next year? To complete with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for last place in the American League East?

Really, if Angelos has the courage of his convictions to hold down escalating players salaries he should show up at the Orioles Fanfest next month and make his case to the fans. He shouldn't send his son or his front man, Syd Thrift, to do his job answer for the decisions that have buried this franchise.

Does he think the Orioles have a chance to compete with the Yankees? Let's see what he says when a fan asks him that question.

What do you tell your kids, a whole generation of young fans who grew up watching Mussina pitch in an Orioles uniform? Let him answer that question.

What do you say when you will pay Norman Bates $13 million a year a man who generates loathing among Orioles fans and won't pay Mussina, a man who generates respect and admiration among Orioles fans, another million a year more?

Why come to Camden Yards next season? To watch the Yankees play when they come to town?

That will be rich, won't it? It's already a huge embarrassment for the franchise when Yankee fans show up in droves at Camden Yards and outcheer the home crowd. Imagine what it will be like when Mussina takes the mound in a Yankees uniform. I'll bet at that moment, it would be worth $14 million a year to Angelos not to have to suffer through it.

At that moment, Orioles fans will remember all the magnificent pitching performances that Mussina had turned in since coming up with the Orioles in 1991, such as the near perfect game he threw against Cleveland in 1998 or the remarkable postseason outings he had in 1997, when he struck out 41 batters and allowed just four earned runs in 29 innings.

They will remember that Mussina won a lot more than he lost. He had one of the winningest records in all of baseball, 147-81, a percentage of .645, third best among active pitchers behind Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. And he did this with a team that had losing records in four of his 10 seasons.

All they will have are memories. Mussina will have his finest years in a Yankees uniform. Pitching in Yankee Stadium, a more spacious ballpark, with a bullpen anchored by Mariano Rivera, Mussina has a chance to win 20 games a year for several years in a Yankee uniform. He will cement his place as a Hall of Fame pitcher.

And when he enters the Hall of Fame, it will probably be as a Yankee. He probably will join Rafael Palmeiro, who will most likely enter Cooperstown as a Texas Ranger.

Funny, I don't think we'll ever see Peter Angelos in the Hall of Fame.

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