- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2001

BALTIMORE They've won 15 of 46 games since the All-Star break. They lost the first six games of their current homestand by a combined score of 44-4. Their most consistent starting pitcher has fallen into a rut and is taking out his frustrations on an umpire. And, their Class AAA affiliate is looking to bolt the organization after 41 years.
The Baltimore Orioles truly have seen better days.
In a season full of disappointments, the Orioles may have reached their absolute nadir Thursday night after an embarrassing 15-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Baltimore's most lopsided loss of the year resulted in the ejections of manager Mike Hargrove and outfielder Melvin Mora, both of whom were livid at home plate umpire Bill Welke's inconsistent strike zone.
Starting pitcher Jason Johnson took it one step further, blasting Welke for a number of borderline calls that in part allowed the A's to keep alive a pair of big innings.
"All I've got to say is that if he wants to quit, go ahead and quit. Nobody's going to be upset," Johnson said of Welke. "He's calling a game like he doesn't want to be out there. So don't even come to the ballpark if you don't want to call a good game."
Johnson, who has lost his last four starts to fall to 10-10 on the season, will likely be fined by the commissioner's office for his comments.
His offensive teammates, meanwhile, continue to struggle through a prolonged slump of epic proportions. Entering last night's game against the Seattle Mariners, owners of the best record in baseball, the Orioles were batting .153 (27 for 177) over their last six games and had scored in just three of their last 54 innings.
"We'll come out of this," Hargrove said. "And when we do, hopefully the lesson we will have learned will be worth it."
Having fallen to 25 games below .500 for the first time since 1991, Baltimore now owns the worst home record in the American League and has assured itself of it's first sub-.500 season at Camden Yards since the stadium opened in 1992.
The Orioles' troubles aren't solely on the major-league level. The organization's six farm teams were a combined 78 games under .500 (296-374) through Thursday's games, and at least one front office executive has publicly denounced the Orioles for their failures.
Naomi Silver, chief operating officer of Baltimore's Class AAA affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., blasted Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos and vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift on Thursday for her team's 59-81 record. It is the Red Wings' fourth straight losing season.
"The people that are in the decision-making roles with the Orioles have to be held accountable," Silver told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "What has changed in their philosophy? I don't know. I think they've overestimated the talent in the organization and thought that the guys they were bringing to Rochester would perform better than they have."
Silver suggested that the Red Wings, who have been affiliated with the Orioles since 1961, would have looked to break their ties if not for signing a two-year extension last summer and still considered breaking free until Angelos convinced them not to.
"We seriously considered ending it, and then put the idea aside after meeting with Mr. Angelos," Silver said. "If we didn't get a sense that he had a strong commitment to us, we could have easily made a decision to walk away. We thought he was very sincere."
Silver's primary complaint is that the Orioles have called up too many of Rochester's top players this season and did not seek to replace them with marketable veterans. Upon his release from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in April, slugger Jose Canseco expressed interest in signing a minor-league contract with the Orioles, but the team did not find such a move worthwhile.
"You'd think that going out and getting a couple of free agents would be easy for any organization to do," Silver said. "There are certainly guys out there. We've seen other ballclubs pick those guys up. Why won't the Orioles do it? I can't figure it out."
Thrift yesterday cited his team's plethora of injuries to key off-season acquisitions as the reason behind Baltimore's premature promotion of several Rochester players. Veterans Pat Hentgen, Mike Bordick and David Segui, the Orioles' three winter free agentsignings, have all missed considerable time to injury this season.
"We didn't plan on having a losing team," Thrift said. "We just signed the wrong veteran players. We've got to sign the right ones, not the wrong ones."
In regards to Rochester's losing season, Thrift said, "No one can guarantee a championship team at any level."


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