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Owners' move called dumbest yet

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Alan Meersand has looked at the game of baseball from many angles.

He viewed it from third base, the position he played for San Jose State.

He watched it from the dugout, serving as an assistant coach for the University of Colorado, then for Santa Monica College.

He studied it from the seats behind home plate, scouting amateurs for the Philadelphia Phillies for five years and the Cincinnati Reds for five more.

Entering his 16th year as an agent, he has looked at the game from his seat at negotiating tables.

He has seen the game from so many sides, and from his vantage point, the game has never looked as silly as it does now.

"Why would they want to go ahead with this? Why? They can't be this dumb, this bullheaded," he said. "They are going to lose in court. . . . When the smoke clears, there will be maybe 16 to 20 owners left standing after the losses. It could happen."

Meersand said he believes none of his clients will cross the picket line and that few in general will.

"Sure there is a possibility a few players will cross the line, but the fans, with their level of disgust and the lack of major-league product being put on the field, there isn't going to be any fan base," Meersand said. "They are just fooling themselves. They really underestimated the unity of the players.

"Too big a deal is being made of players who can't make it because of being overextended and costly divorces. I don't have any players in that situation.

"For the most part, players are professionally managed by good jTC financial people. They have some kind of nest egg they can live off of for a year or two. They are making a big mistake thinking a lot of players are going to crack."

Meersand said he is certain the Major League Baseball Players ** Association has not only a better argument, but also smarter attorneys making the argument than does the Player Relations Committee.

"This is probably the owners' dumbest move ever," said Meersand, who is among the game's most outspoken agents. "Thank God for owners like Peter Angelos, Paul Beeston and Fred Wilpon. They obviously have vision and common sense. When will more owners begin to side with their thinking?"

Meersand never has been accused of keeping his opinions to himself, as evidenced by this "quote of the year" statement:

"I nominate former San Diego Padres owner Tom Werner for top businessman of the 20th century. He bought the club for $75 million, trashed the team in the blink of an eye by trading away most of the veteran players and forcing the rest to go to salary arbitration, alienated the entire city of San Diego, then sold the club four years later for a whopping $75 million."

Red Sox are coming

Even after acquiring Jose Canseco, the Boston Red Sox have a svelte enough payroll to hit the new, expanded free-agent market hard.

The Red Sox were close to striking a deal with Kansas City Royals free-agent catcher Mike Macfarlane, a dead pull hitter ideally suited to take advantage of the inviting Green Monster.

Moreover, the Red Sox could land two of the following three restricted free agents from the Montreal Expos: right-hander Ken Hill, center fielder Marquis Grissom and closer John Wetteland.

Boston hopes to entice a couple of star Expos to the extent that penny-pinching Montreal ownership will let them walk.

The Orioles also covet Wetteland but don't have as much room to work with under the salary cap.

Replacement what?

The owners moved one step closer to fielding replacement players, but that doesn't mean general managers already are compiling rosters.

"I haven't given that any study," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said. "We've been concentrating on all the other things. Until [implementation] it was hypothetical. I can't see getting into it at this time."

Texas Rangers GM Doug Melvin said he has a plan, but he won't divulge it.

"I've got some ideas we're going to keep to ourselves because it's competitive," Melvin said. "In general, we're going to have to go over the list of six-year [minor-league] free agents and the list of major-league free agents and see. Guys who have been out of the game for a year or two are also possibilities. We still have to hope both sides get together and come to an agreement, but you still have to have alternatives."

McDonald: O's unified

"I really don't think we'll have anyone crossing the line," Orioles restricted free-agent pitcher Ben McDonald said. "I haven't talked to anyone since the strike, but our team was 100 percent unified at the time and believed what we were doing was right. Nobody was iffy, iffy; all of our guys were 100 percent. If this goes into July or August, who knows what's going to happen. Some guys might have tough decisions to make by then."

Around the horn

Left-handed reliever Jesse Orosco, a free agent who hasn't received any offers yet, could be suiting up with his fifth team next season. Orosco, 37, never has spent a day on the disabled list, has a career ERA of 2.95 and limited American League hitters to a .222 batting average last season. The best guess as to where Orosco will wind up his career is San Diego, close to his home in Poway. Padres manager Bruce Bochy caught Orosco when they were teammates with the New York Mets. As is the case with 27 other clubs, especially the Orioles, the Padres could use a left-handed reliever. . . . Nontendered starting pitchers the Orioles could pursue: Jim Abbott and Pete Harnisch. . . . Did anyone really fall for Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris' claiming the owners really wanted to settle? Did anyone truly believe that's what he was telling other owners?. . . . Sherman Obando deserves a shot at the Orioles' right-field job. Period. . . . If the Yankees sign Jack McDowell, consider it New York's gain and Baltimore's loss. Star power.

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