MILWAUKEE -- Umpire Durwood Merrill called out Orioles right fielder Kevin Bass on strikes to end yesterday's game, on a pitch that appeared to be well out of the strike zone. Merrill hustled off the field before Bass could say anything to him, but Bass had plenty to say to reporters later.
Bass, who played most of his career in the NL, ripped AL umpires, Merrill specifically, comparing them to Los Angeles policemen and saying they give preferential treatment to players who sign autographs for them.
"They've got this tight union, they're going to get paid anyway," Bass said. "They don't care. . . . They have no pride. Something's got to be done."
Bass wasn't through: "A lot of them look like they don't enjoy it. A lot of them . . . . are very vindictive, especially with a rookie or a guy they don't know. They're like L.A. cops, I guess."
Bass was batting in the ninth inning yesterday with two runners on base, a ball-and-two-strike count, with the tying run in the on-deck circle for the Orioles. Brewers reliever Mike Fetters ran a pitch that catcher Mike Matheny caught out of the strike zone. When Merrill called the ball a strike, the press box burst out in laughter, because the ball appeared so far outside.
Bass looked back at Merrill in disbelief, not saying anything.
"The plate is 17 inches wide," Bass said, "not three feet wide. That was blatant. He was tired of being there, he wanted to go home, a guy up there [Bass] hitting .240. Ring him up.
"Durwood, he's tired, he wanted to hurry up."
Bass said Cy Young, MVP and Hall of Fame candidates "will get the calls, because [the umpires] want balls signed for them. They're the first ones to put balls in your face and ask for an autograph. I've seen it before. It's almost like preferential treatment."
Bass has had several exchanges with umpires this year, and he said the umpiring in the AL is far worse than in the NL.
"The strike zone is really inconsistent," he said. "You don't know when a ball is a ball, when a strike is a strike."
The call by Merrill, Bass said, wasn't necessarily the worst he's ever seen. "Maybe," Bass said, "tied for the top three." In early September, Rick Krivda was on his way to pinning down a spot in the 1996 rotation. But he finished poorly, lasting only 1 2/3 innings in his last start of the year yesterday, after giving up five runs in 3 1/3 innings on Sept. 19.
Krivda (2-7, 4.54 ERA) acknowledged that he pressed in his last starts, in an effort to impress. "Oh, yeah, there's no doubt," Krivda said. "The first time up [in the majors], you're under the microscope. Everything you do on and off the field is watched. . . . I hate to end like this."
Krivda lost the crispness on his fastball and breaking pitches in his last starts, Orioles manager Phil Regan agreed, and he seemed to be trying to aim his pitches.
"He's been getting the ball up in the strike zone too much," Regan said. "He looked like he was pushing the ball. His mechanics looked all right to me. He just might be trying to finish strong.
"He's pitched some good ballgames. I still think he has to be more consistent with his pitches, and keep the ball down. As I told him [Saturday], there's going to be a lot of competition for the rotation next year. To me, he doesn't have a lock on it. . . . I can't sit here in September and say what his chances are when I don't know who's going to be here. It's going to depend a lot on who we sign and who we bring up."
Clothes call for Benitez
As they did in June, Orioles veterans removed clothes from rookies' lockers during the game and replaced them with ugly thrift-shop leftovers. Last time they did so, Armando Benitez refused, leading to a confrontation that held up the departure of the team bus. Benitez refused again yesterday -- "Somebody's going to die," he said, as he walked back to his locker -- but the situation was quickly defused when his clothes were returned to him.
Around the horn
Mike Hartley, making his first appearance in 12 days, relieved Krivda in the second inning and pitched 4 1/3 innings of no-hit ball, walking one and striking out two. Terry Clark, in his first appearance in 10 games, followed Hartley. . . . The relievers bTC aren't the only Orioles looking for work. Second baseman Bret Barberie's last start was Sept. 16, making it appear more likely that he won't be back with the Orioles next year. Outfielder Kevin Bass has one pinch-running appearance and six pinch-hit at-bats since Aug. 1. Jeff Manto last played on Sept. 15, and catcher Cesar Devarez hasn't played since being recalled Sept. 10. . . . With seven more hits, Rafael Palmeiro will reach 1,200 for his career. . . . Brady Anderson's streak of nine straight games with at least one run scored came to an end. . . . Mike Mussina, who pitches against Toronto tomorrow, is 4-0 in his last four starts against the Blue Jays, with an 0.79 ERA. . . . Minor-league pitcher Garrett Stephenson may be the player the Orioles designate to replace Jimmy Haynes in the Arizona Fall League.