Milwaukee's offensive brew could have been Orioles'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

If the Milwaukee Brewers find a way to win the American League East title this year, the Baltimore Orioles' front office will be spending the next off-season in second-guess city.

The Brewers have put together a formidable offensive lineup, and they have done it largely with newcomers who could just as easily have come to Twin Lakes Park this spring.

The Orioles talked about a deal for outfielder Dante Bichette last September, but the California Angels traded him to the Brewers on Thursday for Dave Parker, 39.

The Orioles made an attempt to sign free agent Franklin Stubbs during the off-season, but he signed a three-year contract with the Brewers instead.

The Orioles could have signed outfielder Candy Maldonado to a one-year contract a few weeks ago. He made no secret of his desire to play in Baltimore. The Brewers eventually signed him, too.

Don't get me wrong. The Orioles made a couple of excellent moves during the off-season. The acquisition of Glenn Davis and Dwight Evans went a long way toward filling the run-production gap. But if Evans doesn't play regularly in right field -- and there is reason to believe he won't -- the club still might have to look for outfield help.

There are only three experienced outfielders on the roster (aside from Evans). The left-field experiment involving first basemen Randy Milligan and David Segui has been delayed by injuries to both players. The performance of minor-leaguers Luis Mercedes and Paul Carey has been encouraging, but they are not ready for prime time.

If the need arises, the Orioles will have to do one of three things: keep Larry Sheets, trade for a veteran outfielder or unwillingly dig into the minor leagues for outfield depth. If they had dug into their pockets at the right time, they wouldn't have to worry about it.

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Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, who underwent extensive shoulder surgery last year, was not supposed to pitch competitively until June or July, but he's so far ahead of schedule that he's talking about pitching in the club's home opener on April 12 against the San Diego Padres.

"I don't want to say anything, because you never know how you'll feel tomorrow," Hershiser said. "But I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never does.

"I'm able to mix up my pitches. I have no soreness. I'm throwing hard enough and well enough to pitch in an exhibition game, and I should be able to go from there."

Hershiser has been pitching simulated games and could throw in an exhibition game this week.

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With the usual apologies to David Letterman, here's my top 1list of reasons Major League Baseball is facing another financial crisis:

10. Somebody thought it would be a great idea to put a team in Seattle.

9. Ueberroth plan to charge fans for foul balls was never instituted.

8. Union/management economic study group ordering too much room service.

7. Players' pension fund is now large enough to buy Portugal.

6. Greedy municipal stadiums want percentage of parking fees.

5. Little cubes of cheese in owner's box cost more than you think.

4. Price of bobble-head dolls has not kept pace with inflation.

3. Price of collusion has kept pace with inflation.

2. Revenues have fallen, and they can't get up.

L 1. $95 million-per-team expansion fee does not include tip.

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Left-hander Mark Langston is trying to put his first season with the Angels out of his mind. He was 10-17 with a 4.40 ERA after signing a five-year, $16 million contract with the club.

"I never once tried to be a $3 million pitcher," Langston said. "It's more of a media issue. I never ever felt I had to do something to prove myself.

"Confidence plays such an important role in this game. I had four or five games where I was hit hard, and, for some reason, I wasn't able to clear them out of my mind. I became a defensive pitcher. It was my worst season in the major leagues. It was very frustrating."

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The American League has been threatening to block expansion if its 14 teams do not share equally in the $190 million that would come from the two new National League franchises, even though expansion fees were not shared when the AL expanded in 1977.

Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush said that, before he purchased that team, he was assured by then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth that he could expect a share of the next expansion jackpot. Of course, that verbal contract is not binding, but the AL does have to vote to approve the placement of expansion franchises.

Look for a compromise to be reached whereby the AL teams share in the expansion revenue, but not to the same extent as the 12 NL clubs.

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Chicago White Sox first-base candidate Rob Nelson suffers from dyslexia, which makes it very difficult to read, but he's not letting it get him down.

"You don't see a slider backward," Nelson said, "and I don't know of anybody who can read Bobby Brown's signature when the ball is coming in at 90 mph. One asset in baseball is that you don't have to read a book. You learn the game by listening and watching."

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After Boston Red Sox left-hander Matt Young pitched three strong innings against the Orioles on Monday, a television reporter asked him whether he was working on a "secret" pitch.

"Yes, very secret," replied Young. "I could tell you about it, but then I'd have to kill you."

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Former Oriole Eddie Murray apparently has put the Dodgers on notice. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Murray has informed the club he will become a free agent after the upcoming season if a contract extension is not negotiated before the end of spring training. Murray will make $2.8 million in the

final year of his present contract.

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Orange County Register columnist Randy Youngman wondered print Friday what Rickey Henderson, Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco must have thought when pop singer Janet Jackson signed a three-record, $32 million contract with Virgin Records. Wrote Youngman: "It's a safe bet that Rickey has started taking voice lessons."

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The Toronto Blue Jays have added a strength coach to their staff this year, but they're having trouble picking up a five-ounce baseball. In a three-game stretch last week, the Jays committed 12 errors, five of them with David Wells on the mound Monday.

"It's time to forget all this stupid exercise business and make this a camp of fundamentals," Wells said afterward. "We have to learn to field the ball."

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Trade Rumor of the Week: The Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves are working on a deal that would send one of the Blue Jays' young outfielders -- perhaps Glenallen Hill or Mark Whiten -- for pitcher Pete Smith. The Jays need a fifth starter, and the Braves are looking for an excuse to replace outfielder Lonnie Smith.

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Ten White Sox players turned their noses up at the club's unique pay-for-performance" system and were renewed last week at salaries ranging downward from $175,000 per year.

The club has made a practice of pushing three-year performance-based contracts on its second-year players to buy off their first year of salary-arbitration eligibility, but some player agents and union reps have taken offense to the team's heavy-handed methods.

Players who do not accept the three-year plan are routinely renewed at salaries far below comparable players from other clubs, so the union has a grievance pending against the White Sox.

"The union is trying to talk guys out of it, and they are doing a disservice," Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. "Nobody who has ever signed it has regretted it."

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When the Blue Jays were host to a two-game exhibition series against the New York Mets at SkyDome last week, it was the third annual but only the first actual SkyDome preseason series. The Jays were scheduled for a similar set against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1989, but the new stadium wasn't finished. The Cardinals rescheduled for 1990, but the series fell victim to the lockout.

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The Cardinals still hope to depend on speed to get their offense hTC moving, though the loss of Vince Coleman might leave them running on empty. The Cards stole six bases in a 6-1 exhibition victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday. Two runners had been picked off the day before, but manager Joe Torre is encouraging his young team to keep taking chances. "I told them I didn't care if they got picked off," Torre said. "We're trying to

find out who can run on their own."

Stupid Injury of the Week: San Francisco Giants rookie Steve Decker suffered a sprained left foot Wednesday when he slipped while trying to elude an autograph seeker.

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