- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Can’t you just see it coming? I know I can.

It’s Opening Day 2007, and the P.A. announcement rolls over Camden Yards like a thundercloud: “Batting fifth for the Orioles and playing absolutely nowhere, Number 25, Barry Bonds!”

How appropriate can you get?

Barry Bonds and Peter Angelos?

It’s a marriage made in baseball heaven … or maybe that other theological venue further south.

Consider:

Angelos loves big names, regardless of whether their big deeds are clearly in the past.

Bonds will be a free agent after this season, and San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan has told Sports Illustrated that the Big Crybaby would be better off in the American League, where he won’t have to totter after balls in the outfield on his surgically repaired knees.

As far as Bonds staying with the Giants is concerned, Magowan has been less supportive than Dolly Parton’s lingerie.

Does Bonds like the idea of being a designated hitter? Let him count the ways.

“I could do that,” he told the Associated Press last month during an isolated moment when he was speaking to, instead of snarling at, the media. “Oh yes.”

Barry should feel at home in Baltimore, too. His team’s colors would still be black and orange, and he would inherit the uniform number recently disgraced by Rafael Palmeiro, another player whose longtime exploits in sluggery appear to have been chemically enhanced.

There doesn’t seem to be much doubt, though, that Angelos would be foisting a stiff on his luckless manager of the moment, Sam Perlozzo. By the time another season limps around, Bonds will be in his 43rd year and more suited to pipe and slippers than bat and spikes. Despite the attention surrounding his 715th home run, there has been ample evidence this season that he’s on the downside and then some.

In 47 games through Monday, Bonds was batting .258 with just eight home runs and a slugging average of .492 in 128 official at-bats. Even last season, when knee surgery limited him to 14 games, he slugged at a .667 pace; his career marks through 2005 were .300 batting and .611 slugging. So the end is near, but Angelos is just stubborn enough to ignore that obvious fact.

Ever since Angelos became principal owner in 1993, the Orioles have tried to hide their organizational weaknesses by signing overpriced free agents. (Actually, all free agents are overpriced, but that’s another story.)

The way King Peter sees it, such supposed quick fixes are preferable to building a solid farm system and front office where baseball people make the decisions rather than an imperious, impetuous boss whose judgment can’t be challenged.

Has the Angelos Way worked? Sure, if you’re rooting for another team. The Orioles’ next winning season — and it probably won’t be this one — will be their first since 1997, when Tony Blair became Prime Minister, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died, the first Harry Potter novel hit bookshelves and gas was reasonably priced.

For remaining Orioles fans, the ones who screech “O!” during the national anthem and pray that someday another Brooks, Frank or Cal will come to the rescue, the only possible mantra is: How long, O Lord, how long? .

Granted, it should be momentarily exciting to watch Bonds prowl the dugout in Charm City, scowl at the Western world and grab a bat every few innings for his appointed rounds as DH.

How long is momentarily? Well, Sammy Sosa, another declining free-agent addition, appeared in 102 games last season before dragging himself and his .221 batting average off to horsehide limbo. I’m thinking Bonds might disappear even sooner, probably with hard feelings all around.

In his heyday, meaning before the corked bats and steroid rumors surfaced, Sosa at least projected the image of a happy-go-lucky guy who loved all humanity. If Bonds loves anybody outside of his family, he has guarded the secret well.

Rather than Bonds turning up in Baltimore, I’d like to see him vanish from baseball — along with the cream and the clear that might have turned a slender line-drive hitter into the game’s second biggest belter ever. Though he stands convicted of nothing other than being a rotten guy, suspicions surround such statistics as his 73 homers in 2001 and those 716 lifetime. And rightfully so.

But no such luck, I’m afraid. With his unerring eye for making the wrong move, Peter Angelos will do his darndest to see that Barry Bonds is an Oriole next season. One Bird brain, you might say, deserves another.


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