- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BALTIMORE. — Call him crazy, but Phil Nevin does not want to leave San Diego and come to Baltimore.

The first baseman doesn’t want to leave one of America’s most beautiful cities — a place where he just built a new home — and come to a city with, well, a few problems.

He doesn’t want to leave a first-place team, one of the most stable organizations in the business, to come to the Baltimore Orioles, a team falling fast out of contention and one of the most volatile organizations in baseball.

“Phil has elected to stay with the Padres and will be treated as a full member of the team,” Padres general manager Kevin Towers told the Associated Press. “However, with the team competing for the National League West title, playing time is going to be determined by both his performance and the performances of other players that will ultimately give us the best chance to win.”

When Nevin signed his deal with the Padres, he gave them a list of eight teams he refused to be traded to, and one of those teams was the Orioles.

So when Nevin refused a deal that would have sent him to Cincinnati in exchange for Ken Griffey Jr. two years ago, did the Padres think Baltimore would be different because of the crab cakes?

Padres officials thought they could convince Nevin to accept the deal with the threat he would not get much playing time in San Diego for the rest of this season and the final year of his contract in 2006. Right, the Padres are going to keep a guy who will be making $15 million over that span on the bench.

Reportedly, there were some conversations with Orioles officials assuring him he would fit in here and would get playing time. But any promises made by Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli and co-general managers Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan at least should be suspect. There’s a good chance one or all of them won’t be back next season — the final year of Nevin’s contract.

If the Padres want to trade Nevin, it is pretty clear they will have to find a team he wants to go to — if any other team wants him, which is in doubt.

Anyone who hit 147 home runs over a 733-game span from 1999 to 2004 but just nine in 71 games this season should be suspect as well. Or isn’t Sammy Sosa enough of a reminder for the Orioles of the power illusion era of baseball?

Why would the Orioles want a player who didn’t want to come here bad enough that he listed Baltimore among the unacceptable teams in his contract? Because if they got Nevin, it meant the Orioles could get rid of Sidney Ponson and their own $13 million headache.

Nevin was just the bag of hammers the Orioles hoped to get in return for yet another in a series of miscalculations Beattie and Flanagan have made during their tenure running the Orioles’ front office.

Two former pitchers probably should get it right once in a while when they evaluate pitching talent.

First, they made the mistake with Sir Sidney not once but twice. In 2003, when the Orioles had their most tradable commodity since the 1999 purge, they dealt Sir Sidney and his 14-6 record to the San Francisco Giants for three young pitchers. All they have left from that deal is Kurt Ainsworth, and he has been out the entire season with shoulder problems.

Then, what did Beatagan do? The Orioles signed Sir Sidney to a three-year, $22.5million deal after the 2003 season when he was a free agent, knowing full well the risk they were taking by giving that much money to such an immature and irresponsible ballplayer. He rewarded them by arriving in camp out of shape last season and posting an 11-15 record with a 5.30 ERA. He has followed that up with a 7-9 mark and a 5.91 ERA this year.

This was the biggest pitching decision these two former pitchers have faced, and they blew it. But big or small, Beatagan has blown them:

• Omar Daal, 2003, two years, $7.5 million. A starter who went 4-11 in 19 games with a 6.34 ERA in 2003 and never pitched again because of shoulder problems.

• Mike DeJean, 2004, one year, $1.5 million. A reliever who went 0-5 with a 6.93 ERA in 37 games before being traded to the New York Mets last July for outfielder Karim Garcia.

• Steve Kline, 2005, two years, $5.5 million. A reliever who has gone 2-3 with a 5.45 ERA in 44 games and has made it clear he is not happy here. The Orioles happy to have him anymore either.

• Steve Reed, 2005, one year, $1 million. Another reliever who went 1-2 with a 6.61 ERA in 30 games before being released July 15.

• Jason Grimsley, June 2004 trade for pitching prospect Denny Bautista. Grimsley, another reliever who is making $2 million this year, went 2-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 41 games last season and missed the first three months of this year recovering from offseason Tommy John surgery. In 22/3 innings over four appearances since returning July 14, Grimsley has given up four runs.

If Flanagan and Beattie had to go to an arbitration hearing to make a case for their jobs, here are the only two pitchers they have signed they could argue are not total failures:

• Kerry Ligtenberg, 2004, one year, $1.2 million. The reliever went 4-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 68 games and then left to sign with the Blue Jays this year.

• Bruce Chen, 2005, minor league free agent, one year, $550,000. He has been a nice surprise, going 7-6 with a 4.09 ERA, although lately he has been more like the journeyman Bruce Chen than the surprising Bruce Chen.

With the Padres trade falling through, Sir Sidney remains an Oriole, a constant reminder of a legacy of bad deals.


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