Orioles Fire sell change Pennant Races

Tuesday, August 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The Baltimore Orioles' 72-hour fire sale will be felt throughout the pennant races.

They made the Atlanta Braves better by handing over outfielder B.J. Surhoff. They strengthened the New York Mets by donating shortstop Mike Bordick. They beefed up the St. Louis Cardinals by contributing first baseman Will Clark and closer Mike Timlin. They reinforced the Chicago White Sox by furnishing catcher Charles Johnson and designated hitter Harold Baines.

The Orioles did absolutely nothing for themselves, at least for this lost season, but the long-term effects are extreme. Not only did they shed $22.1 million in salaries and gain 14 players, mostly prospects, mostly marginal, they also did their best to outrage their two most marketable players.

Cal Ripken Jr. and Mike Mussina may be playing their final weeks in Baltimore.

"I mean, the process saddens me. It really does," Ripken told the Washington Post. "B.J., you know, I can't help but watch his emotions and well up and feel all the same emotions he felt – and I'm not the one leaving. The friend that he's become, the time we've spent [when] we've talked about baseball, the years that he's had here. That's sad. And the process and the harsh realities of the sport, many moments are very sad."

Ripken remains undecided about returning next season. He turns 40 this month and is sidelined with back problems. One theory is the Orioles broke up the team partly to push Ripken into retirement.

Mussina will be a popular free agent after the season and wants to play for a winner. Baltimore doesn't appear to be the place, though the Orioles say they're still interested in re-signing the pitcher and may even increase the payroll back to $80 million.

"I need to be convinced that this is a place I want to play the rest of my career," Mussina said.

"But when they're trading away Bordick and Surhoff and Charles Johnson, people who still have very good years in front of them, I don't find that very convincing."

It's no secret the Orioles needed a change.

They were a group of former stars going nowhere, destined for mediocrity for a third straight year.

It was grumpy, old, slow team with a war-torn clubhouse. The remains include Albert Belle and a slew of faceless Triple-A players.