Orioles’ ugliness won’t end

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It’s exhibition baseball, so you won’t get a clear idea of how good or bad either the Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles will be this season when they take the field against each other for the first time in 2007 today at Space Coast Stadium.

But any time the Nationals face the Orioles — considered to be the chief nemesis among Washington baseball fans in the long battle to get major league baseball back in Washington — it means something, even if it is the ninth inning of a meaningless exhibition game with players who may never be seen in a regular season game.

So this may be a little hard for Nationals fans to stomach, but in reality, the Orioles will likely be better than the Nationals this year. They have better players. It is that simple.

That was the one thing that struck me after spending time in both camps. I looked around in Fort Lauderdale, after spending five days in Viera, and realized how many major league players were in the Orioles camp.

Jay Gibbons. Brian Roberts. Miguel Tejada. Melvin Mora. Ramon Hernandez. Aubrey Huff. Corey Patterson. Nick Markakis, Jay Payton. Kevin Millar. This is a major league lineup.

Now, the Nationals have players who played in the major leagues, but not necessarily major league players. Like Frank Robinson once said of Gary Carter, “He may in the Hall of Fame, but he’s not a Hall of Famer.”

The Nationals have a core group of legitimate major leaguers in Brian Schneider, Felipe Lopez, Ryan Zimmerman, Austin Kearns, Robert Fick and perhaps Ronnie Belliard (we’ve seen no real evidence yet that Cristian Guzman is part of the group). Let’s face it, the jury is out on the rest of them.

Sometimes you have to believe what you see. And the more both teams are seen as spring training continues, fans will see how uncertain the 2007 Nationals roster is. Meanwhile, the Orioles appear to have perhaps the best team they have been for quite some time.

“This is talent wise, a better team than any we have before in the six years I’ve been here,” Gibbons said.

Well, take heart Nationals fans.

Where is all the talent is going to get the Orioles? Zipsville. Nadaland.

They may have better players, but they are still the Orioles, an organization run by the most dysfunctional owner Peter Angelos in the game.

The Nationals may suffer through a losing season, but it is an organization that is being run by co-owner and team president Stan Kasten with as impressive a track record for winning as there is in the game, and the Lerner family, whose business background is building things up, not tearing them down.

It’s sort of like the W.C. Fields joke, when someone said to him, “You’re drunk,” and he replied, “Yeah, well you’re ugly. And I’ll be sober tomorrow, and you’ll still be ugly.”

Next year and the year after that, the hangover of the 2007 season will have worn off for Nationals fans.

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