- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Can it get worse than this for the Baltimore Orioles?
Sure, and it probably will.
Not since phony Indians dumped all that tea into Boston Harbor in 1773, and you could look it up has a group slunk into the Hub more silently than the Orioles did yesterday. They were coming off a West Coast trip on which they led and lost all seven games. At 30-43, their season is shot. After 18 seasons without a pennant, including this one, so is their reputation as one of baseball's premier teams.
Now comes a stretch of 10 games against American League East rivals, who so far have won nine of 10 against the Woes. Is a 30-53 record on the overcast horizon? With these imitation major leaguers, who can doubt it?
Not since 1988, when they lost their first 21 games and finished 54-107, have the Orioles been so laughable (read: pathetic). Just three years ago, they went 98-64 and wire-to-wire under Davey Johnson. Over the 2 and 1/2 seasons since, they're 187-210 or a winning percentage of .471. Hark, what's that chortling sound from New Athens, Ohio? Could it be former manager Ray Miller (157-167 in '98 and '99) muttering, "I told you the problem wasn't me."
And here's a question for successor Mike Hargrove, a proven winner until this season: Still glad you took the job, Grover, instead of sitting on your front stoop and waiting for a better offer to come along?
Over the weekend, erstwhile ace Mike Mussina (5-7) told the Baltimore Sun, "It doesn't feel the same as last year, for whatever reason." He's right. Last year the Orioles merely smelled a little overripe. Now they stink worse than leftover Limburger.
If the Woes continue to act like spoiled rich kids trying to play with those AL East bullies, they've even got a shot at losing 100 games for the first time in 12 years. All they have to do is go 32-57 the rest of the way, an achievement that appears highly attainable.
But the worst news is that owner Peter Angelos, in an interview with The Washington Post last week, said all the wrong things about what's wrong with the Orioles and how to fix it.
The popular (unpopular?) perception is that Angelos is what's wrong with the Orioles that by poking his proboscis into all sorts of places it shouldn't be, he has (a) proved he doesn't know anything about baseball and (b) driven off flocks of people who do (Johnson, Pat Gillick, Kevin Malone, Frank Wren, Bruce Manno, et al).
And here was Angelos telling the Post, "You can't buy your way into contention [with free agents]." Yo, Peter, that's what baseball folks have been saying for years now. Why has it taken you an $80 million payroll for 2000 and a last-place team to get the message, if indeed you have?
Then he added, "I think we're headed in the right direction." Right. Directly ahead lie our old friends Rack and Ruin.
For good measure, Angelos also tossed in a galloping contradiction. There was this: "The team is not the combined selections of this [one] person who owns the club." And this: "The buck ultimately stops with me."
Angelos ripped predecessors Edward Bennett Williams and Eli Jacobs, saying, "We'll match ourselves against that." Well, let's see. EBW was the boss of teams that went to the World Series in 1979 and 1983. And in retrospect, mostly absentee owner Jacobs has never looked so good.
King Peter also said he might need to get "more involved" with the club, which should make hearts jump for joy around the rest of the league. Do you suppose he could pitch out of the bullpen?
Everybody seems to agree the Orioles are about to start unloading veterans for "prospects," thus following the 1997 example of the Chicago White Sox, who have emerged this season with by far the best record in baseball. That's no guarantee of success, but it makes a lot more sense than paying all those senior citizen jocks to clutter the premises.
We'll have to wait and see if Angelos ever learns as George Steinbrenner apparently has to let baseball men make baseball decisions. You can bet on this happening if you want, but I think I'll pass.
Meanwhile, I feel sorry for those talented Orioles who keep trying their best as they await possible liberation from this baseball hellhole players like Mussina, B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick and Charles Johnson. I feel sorry for Cal Ripken, whose new physical problems make it virtually certain he will retire at age 40 after suffering through all those dismal summers without a pennant for his hometown team. Mostly, I feel sorry for the fans who keep paying outrageous prices at Camden Yards and following the team on radio and TV because the Orioles used to be a class act and fun to watch.
Finally, a personal note. Eight years after the expansion Senators left town in 1971, several members of our family finally adopted the Orioles. It has been written here that Washington didn't really need its own team because we had a dandy franchise right up the road.
That was before Peter Angelos came into view, of course, but now a journalistic apology seems in order.
Mea culpa.

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