What Ben McDonald did to himself yesterday could best be described as self-torture.
You'd think the prospect of pitching against Randy Johnson, a k a the Big Unit, would be enough torment for one day. In eight previous attempts, no pitcher had been able to beat the Seattle Mariners in a game started by Johnson.
Johnson had 70 strikeouts while allowing only 41 hits in 50 innings. The closest the Mariners came to losing in those eight games was an 11-9 win over the Yankees, during which Jim Leyritz took exception to a pitch that glanced off his arm and chin.
Leyritz later expressed a desire to meet up with Johnson in a dark room, alley, or similar venue. If so, it would be a good idea for him to take a bat -- it undoubtedly would be more useful there than in the batter's box.
For his part, Johnson suggested the two could get together on the pitching mound. "He knows where I am, I'm not hard to find," said the 6-foot-10 left-hander.
Facing Johnson could hardly have been appealing for McDonald. Especially with a decidedly makeshift lineup behind him.
Maybe that's why McDonald decided to double his torment by sitting in on his arbitration hearing, which was held at a downtown hotel yesterday morning. Having a couple of teeth pulled comes to mind as a comparable experience.
Perhaps, with sound reason, McDonald felt it would be his best chance of participating in a victory.
However, why any player would want to sit in on his arbitration hearing remains a mystery. The only good that can come from such an experience is gaining the knowledge that your agent did good job.
Given the track record of Scott Boras, who represents McDonald, that wasn't a concern. Boras has yet to be accused of losing a dollar because he didn't do his homework.
It appeared certain that McDonald would come away a winner in the arbitration process, regardless of the outcome. His asking price was $4.5 million, no doubt based at least in part on the $4.25 million the Orioles are paying Kevin Brown this year; the Orioles offered $3.2 million.
Even at those inflated figures, when you're debating over $1.3 million, the testimony can create tension. Which is one reason the Orioles left their baseball people home and let the legal experts argue the case.
At least McDonald was spared having to listen to general manager Roland Hemond, or assistant Frank Robinson, argue the negative points to his 14-7 record last year.
But it's difficult to understand why he would want to put himself through the aggravation -- unless it was part of his mental preparation to face Johnson.
McDonald pitched his best game of the year. But he was overmatched against Johnson as the Mariners won the ninth straight game started by the Big Unit.