Connolly: Teixeira can go home again, but that's not to Baltimore

When it was announced that the Atlanta Braves acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira for a rookie and four prospects, some frustrated Orioles fans spewed venom on Internet message boards and sports talk shows.

They should be disappointed.

Not because the Orioles didn't land the savior from Severna Park, however, but because of where he ended up.

The simple truth is they couldn't offer a fraction of the package that Atlanta did because the top level of the Orioles' farm system is still mostly barren.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels wasn't interested in a trade with the Orioles if left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard wasn't involved. The Orioles, understandably, wouldn't include their ace, who is controlled through 2009 -- a year longer than Teixeira. That's where the talks began and ended.

Daniel Cabrera, a 26-year-old who can't consistently harness his talent, and a cadre of other marginal prospects such as Garrett Olson and Jim Hoey, don't get you in the conversation for a stud like Teixeira. Especially not when Atlanta is giving up catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 22, and four of their other top 18 farmhands, including No. 2 prospect, 18-year-old infielder Elvis Andrus, and No. 3, left-hander Matt Harrison, 21.

Baseball America rated the Braves' system 16th this season, just one spot ahead of the Orioles. But in the previous five years, the Braves never dropped below seventh and the Orioles rose above 19th just once.

Regardless, Orioles fans have a right to be angry -- or frightened, anyway. Because Teixeira will play his next year plus in the absolute worst place for those dreaming of Big Tex in Camden Yards.

It would have been slightly painful to see the native Marylander with American League East rivals, the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, this year and next. But having Teixeira with a tomahawk across his chest should pierce the heart of Orioles fans; Atlanta is the one spot that could rival Baltimore if Teixeira's feeling homesick and charitable.

The common belief is that Teixeira, who is represented by Scott Boras, will declare for free agency after the 2008 season and will go to the highest bidder. He did, after all, turn down an eight-year, $140 million extension with the Rangers last month. And Boras' guys test the waters almost without fail. Ultimately, however, Teixeira is the boss and can make the call to forgo the stress of free agency if he wants.

The hope around here was that the Orioles could get him early, remind him how great it is to play in his hometown for his childhood team and convince him to stay before he hits the open market.

Not only is that hope lost, but Atlanta is the only place that holds a similar allure.

"When I heard the Braves were the leading contender [to trade for him], I was so excited," Teixeira told Atlanta reporters Tuesday. "I spent some great years here in Atlanta."

It's his college town. It's where he met his wife, who grew up in northern Georgia. And he's made no secret that he loves the area.

"He has always told me that when his baseball career is over, he's going to live in Atlanta," Danny Hall, Georgia Tech's baseball coach, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "So I guess it's just happening a little sooner than he thought it would."

Want more heartbreak, Baltimore?

Well, in American Legion ball Teixeira wore No. 10 in honor of Chipper Jones.

Guess who has the locker next door in Atlanta?

Here's the final dagger, held securely in the hands of another local guy: John Schuerholz, the Braves' general manager and a Baltimore native, has done this kind of thing before.




Eduardo A. Encina

Eduardo A. Encina

Orioles beat writer
Peter Schmuck

Peter Schmuck

Sports Columnist
Dan Connolly

Dan Connolly

Orioles and national baseball writer
Dean Jones Jr.

Dean Jones Jr.

Orioles editor