- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.

It’s certain baseball’s powers that be live in fear that Baltimore Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson will come clean someday with his own book, “Bloated: Buffets and Barbecues, Judges & Jet Skis, Smashed Faces and How I Ate, Drank and Brawled My Way Out of Baseball.”

The book, no doubt, will be dedicated to Sir Sidney’s hired apologist, his agent Barry Praver (a man who, after meeting me at the general manager’s meetings in November for the first time, declared, “You’re the one who wrote all those bad things about Sidney,” and proceeded to make a throat-slashing gesture in front of me).

Guess what, Barry? This won’t be a love letter, either.

On the heels of Sir Sidney’s latest incident — a fight in a South Florida restaurant — it was revealed the Orioles’ highest paid pitcher was arrested two months ago in Fort Lauderdale on a charge of driving under the influence, according to the Baltimore Sun.

After being pulled over by police, Sir Sidney failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a Breathalyzer. The trooper’s report stated he smelled “a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage from [Ponson’s] breath as he spoke. I observed very red bloodshot, watery, glassy brown eyes and a very red flush face.”

Sounds like Sir Sidney’s game face to me.

This report came one day after Sir Sidney answered questions at the Orioles’ spring training complex about a fight he got into at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant. He was reportedly provoked when he was verbally harassed while eating dinner, and became physical once the patron shoved him.

Sir Sidney wouldn’t confirm he punched the man, but he arrived at the next day’s workout with a swollen right hand and a story that he was just a victim of circumstances.

“It’s one of those things that hopefully won’t happen again,” he told reporters. “It’s one of those things that people are going to find out who the hell I am and try to push my buttons. I hold back as much as I can until I have to defend myself.”

Apparently, they didn’t cover walking away from any confrontation at those anger management classes that Sir Sidney supposedly took. (By the way, if you’re looking for a job, anger management consultant for athletes is the way to go. It’s the hottest new trend.)

Sir Sidney took those anger management classes because of a brawl he got into back in Aruba (where Sir Sidney is a knight, although by now he must be close to having his knight badge taken away). He was arrested on Christmas Day after he got into a fight on a beach with an Aruban judge who told Sir Sidney he was harassing people with a Jet Ski watercraft. Sir Sidney spent 11 days in jail, and later reached a settlement with the judge that was supposed to keep the case from proceeding in court — and risking a conviction for Ponson. Under the terms of the settlement, Sir Sidney is supposed to perform 80 hours of community service.

Right now, staying out of trouble for 80 hours would be a community service the Orioles would settle for.

This is the guy the Orioles agreed to pay $22.5million for three seasons a little more than a year ago. Among the many foolish mistakes by the Orioles, this one ranks among the worst. It is more evidence of the failed administration of front office duo Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie — unless, of course, it was a Peter Angelos-driven move to sign Sir Sidney to such a large contract. If so, he should own up to it and let Beattie and Flanagan off the hook for this one.

Someone’s hide should be hanging from a hook for giving a contract to a pitcher who had a 58-65 record with a 4.54 ERA over six major league seasons while displaying nothing but minor league maturity throughout his career. Sir Sidney rewarded the club’s confidence in him by reporting to camp last spring out of shape before posting an 11-15 record with a 5.30 ERA in 33 starts.

If you asked those who knew Sir Sidney what the greater likelihood would be — that he would come around and be a consistent winning major league pitcher, or that he would be a consistent screwup — no one who could pass a Breathalyzer would have chosen the brighter outlook the Orioles front office seemed to believe.

“I think the growth we saw in Sidney and the experience he has is going to make him a better pitcher for the Orioles for years to come,” Beattie said after they gave Sir Sidney the big contract.

In Sir Sidney’s book, that could make an interesting chapter: “How I Got Someone to Pay My Bar Bill for Eternity.”

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