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A club built on character needs not look to Cordero

The Orioles have discussed trading for a player charged with assaulting his wife, beating her with a dangerous weapon and threatening her life.

A player who was accused by his former wife during divorce proceedings of assaulting her repeatedly, once when she was pregnant.

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A player who could wind up in jail.

"We want to do the right thing," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said yesterday, pacing back and forth in his private box.

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The right thing?

That's easy.

Don't trade for Wil Cordero.

The chances of the Orioles acquiring Cordero are slim, but they shouldn't even entertain the thought, even if it means losing a quality hitter to a potential postseason rival.

The Orioles still need another bat, as evidenced yesterday by their 3-2 loss to Toronto in Geronimo Berroa's debut.

They don't need an alleged wife beater.

"There have been some allegations," Orioles GM Pat Gillick said. "I don't think there's been anything proven."

No, there hasn't.

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But according to police reports, Ana Cordero had marks on her arms, blood coming out of her nose and marks on her neck that she said were from Cordero trying to choke her.

His arrest occurred June 11, in the early-morning hours after the Orioles swept a doubleheader from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"She was crying. She was hyperventilating. She could barely speak," said one of the officers on the scene.

Ana Cordero told police her husband came home drunk.

Cordero said something to her in Spanish as the police put him into a squad car, and she told the officers that he said he would kill her.

Never mind that Ana Cordero withdrew her complaint later that day at the arraignment. Never mind that she now wants the charges dropped.

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How can Orioles owner Peter Angelos veto some trades, but grant his front office permission to pursue one that is so clearly objectionable?

It was bad enough when Angelos defended Roberto Alomar for spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck.

It would be far worse if he welcomed a player who allegedly beat his wife with a telephone at a time when spousal abuse is an enormous concern in this country.

Sure, the Orioles want to win.

But at what price?

Angelos, Gillick, Malone -- they'll all be portrayed as insensitive louts if they make this deal, no matter how sincere they might be about wanting to help the Corderos.

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Malone, a thoughtful man, understands that risk. But he knows Cordero better than any baseball executive, and he recalls him as "a quiet guy," not a monster.

The assistant GM was one of Cordero's coaches in 1988 at Single-A Jamestown, and later his GM with the Montreal Expos.

"It's a tough call," Malone said. "By us acquiring him, I don't think that means we're condoning it. We definitely don't condone it. If he has a problem, we want to address it, provide he and his wife with counseling.

"He made a mistake. He made a big mistake. He's sorry he did it. He never had a problem in Montreal. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors. You can't be sure of what happened."

Maybe not with Cordero's previous wife, Wanda, whose allegations in divorce proceedings were denied by the player, and never tested in court.

But something went down the morning of June 11.

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Something that sounds awful.

Something that could happen again.

The Ravens faced a similar question with Lawrence Phillips on draft day 1996, and they made the right call by declining to select him.

That team needed to sell itself to a new city. This team is virtually sold out for the season, and stands little chance of alienating its mammoth fan base.

In other words, the Orioles could get away with this, especially if Cordero helped them win a World Series. But that doesn't mean the end would justify the means.

A team's responsibility to its community goes beyond trying to win championships, especially when that team plays in a publicly financed stadium.

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Angelos, more than most owners, embraces the idea of a team as a public trust, and the importance of such a commitment. Under his ownership, the Orioles not only have tried to acquire good players, but also good people.

Cordero might be a good person. He deserves a second chance. He is innocent until proven guilty. Still, he's not the only hitter available, and the Orioles are not obligated to pursue him.

They have a choice -- a choice they make all the time. They say they want players with character. Yet, they're attempting to trade for a player whose character is in question.

Malone said he and Gillick have spoken with their wives about the possibility of adding Cordero. Presumably, Angelos will speak to his wife as well. And, hopefully, all three of them are getting an earful.

"It's a very sensitive issue," Malone said. "We want to do the right thing. We don't want to offend anybody, cause any problems. We want to do what's best for our fans.

"Hopefully, if we're able to acquire Wil Cordero, the fans would accept him, take him under their wings, provide the help and care he needs."

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Sorry, this isn't a halfway house.

This is a community, one that takes great pride in its baseball team.

How proud would it be if the Orioles added Wil Cordero?

Pub Date: 6/30/97


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