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Call me paranoid, but I had a strange feeling that Paul Konerko didn't want to play for the Orioles. Not when he rejected $65 million. Not when he dropped "hints" about playing for Chicago or relocating to the West Coast. Not when he practically said, "I'm only eliminating teams with bird mascots and black-and-orange color schemes."

The Orioles apparently took their offer off the table - right before Konerko agreed to return to the White Sox for five years, $60 million. This guy wasn't coming to Baltimore. Let Chicago overpay for him and spend the next five years worrying about his arthritic hip. The Orioles tried that once, and it didn't work.

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I never thought that I'd be rooting for the Orioles to sign Paul Byrd, but right now the guy looks like Cy Young to me. Just go after somebody who wants to come here. A pitcher. An outfielder. A first baseman. A utility infielder. And make sure he's protected in the Rule 5 draft.

In talking to some baseball officials, it's clear that pitcher Sidney Ponson is becoming a hot commodity on the free agent market, judging by the number of teams that are expressing interest in him. People in the industry who predict that the Orioles will be obligated to pay the remaining $10 million on his contract after a March hearing envision a team signing Ponson at a discount rate and getting a potential 18-game winner for the middle or back end of its rotation. Whatever money he obtains from another club would be subtracted from the Orioles' ledger, so nobody will be motivated to dole out millions unless some sort of bidding war unfolds.

No matter what an arbitrator decides in March, Ponson won't secure another $22.5 million contract. He isn't holding out for one, either. He could be quite a bargain, given his age and his arm. It's just imperative that his head is attached properly.

I've talked to a few people who have seen Ponson in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and they all rave about his conditioning and his attitude. If he goes to a bar to meet up with friends, he drinks water. He's much thinner, and he's working out every morning.

I'm told that he'd prefer to pitch for a team that has a decent shot to make the playoffs, after experiencing that thrill with the San Francisco Giants in 2003. Also, a friend of mine who recently made contact with Ponson said that under the right circumstances, he'd be willing to change roles and become a closer. The old Sidney used to push aside that suggestion like a plate of cottage cheese and a non-alcohol beer, but he seems to be a different man now in many ways.

If a team with a deep rotation and a hole at the back end of its bullpen comes calling, he'll definitely listen. Hey, don't the Orioles need a closer?

You've gotta love the NBA mentality. Portland forward Ruben Patterson remains on the inactive list after cursing at coach Nate McMillan during a Nov. 19 game, and he told a local newspaper that he won't return unless McMillan commits to playing him at least 25 minutes a game.

Curse out your coach, then present a list of demands. I should try that with my boss sometime and see where it gets me. I'm guessing that I'll end up being a correspondent for the Sun's Antarctica bureau. Can you still blog with frostbite?

Patterson reportedly will meet with McMillan and general manager John Nash later this week. I'm sure that'll go well.

Here's a little background on the man who feels like he's being mistreated by his employer. This guy's quite a catch:

In 2001, Patterson pleaded guilty in the state of Washington to an attempted rape charge for allegedly forcing his children's 24-year-old nanny to perform a sex act. He had to register as a sex offender in Oregon, and the NBA suspended him for the first five games of the following season.

In February 2001, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault for attacking a man who scratched his car outside a Cleveland night club. I drive a 1997 Cavalier with 112,000 miles on it. Somebody could carve their name on the hood and I wouldn't notice.

Oh yeah, and in November 2002, he was arrested on felony domestic abuse charges. His wife, Shannon, later dropped the charges, but the couple divorced. The Blazers should take the same route.

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