When you lose three straight to the Montreal Expos, who aren't even trying to win, it's time.
When the season is half over and you need binoculars to see the wild-card leader and a telescope to see the division leader, it's time.
When you're a $69 million team puttering along well under .500 and exhibiting all the enthusiasm of a cabdriver stuck in a traffic jam, it's time.
L Time to give up on '98 and start playing for '99 and beyond.
Time to start dealing high-priced veterans for prospects or younger major-leaguers.
Time for the front office to crank up the phones and, um, start spreading the news: All-Stars For Sale. New Direction Wanted.
The old direction was fun for a while. But not anymore. It's gone the way of the eight-track. The '98 Orioles are a bust. Put them in a museum.
But, please, break them up first.
For their sake. For our sake. For decency's sake.
Peter Angelos is said to be contemplating such action. Please, go ahead. Give the fans a future to invest their hope in, as opposed to the dreadful present.
The Orioles won 17 fewer games in the first half of '98 than they did in the first half of '97.
Only the Devil Rays, Diamondbacks and Marlins are farther out of first place. (And the Devil Rays are gaining.)
They couldn't even win one game from the Expos, who are quick to unload any player worth a dime.
Final weekend totals from Montreal: Expos 20, Orioles 9. And the Expos are the lowest-scoring team in the major leagues.
They tried. Please understand that. Angelos, Pat Gillick, Kevin Malone, Ray Miller and the coaches and players all tried to make '98 a success.
But they failed. Brother, did they fail.
If you ever wondered what it would look like to set $69 million on fire, well, now you know.
Come to think of it, that's the perfect subtitle for this season gone wrong: Bonfire of the Extravagancies.
What happened? The pitching staff collapsed, no doubt. That was the biggest problem. Too many starters were injured. Too many relievers were inconsistent. That's the house spin, the company line, and there's some truth to it.
But you can't blame one problem when the most expensive team in history finds itself barely ahead of an expansion team within a week of the All-Star break.
There were other problems, too. Poor hitting in the clutch. Too many players who were beyond the peaks of their careers. (Some well beyond.) An overall effort that wasn't always exemplary. A lack of fire, as well as a lack of clubhouse camaraderie.
And let's face it, allowing closer Randy Myers to leave was a
Despite all that, there was still reason to hope for things to get better as recently as last week. Mike Mussina's two-hitter against the Mets gave the Orioles 12 wins in 21 games. They were within sight of the Red Sox, the wild-card leaders.
A week later, anyone still holding out hope just isn't paying attention. This team has lost six in a row. This team is going nowhere.
Swept in Montreal. Say no more. In French or English.
The season was over long before Sidney Ponson walked Expos pitcher Dustin Hermanson with the bases loaded during a 9-4 loss Friday night, even though Hermanson was hitless for the season. But that moment summed it all up.
It ain't happening in '98. Not in Baltimore.
The right thing to do, quite clearly, is sell off at least a few veterans at the end of their contracts for prospects or younger major-leaguers, preferably pitchers. No deal should be made without making the club younger, faster and hungrier.
Who should go? It depends on which veterans the front office thinks it can re-sign and what offers are made. Gillick knows how to do it. Angelos should let him, unlike two years ago, when he blocked trades for Bobby Bonilla and David Wells.
JTC It's noble that Angelos wants to protect the fans by never giving up on any season, but a longer view is needed now. A sensible, patient view.
To keep trying to win this season is pointless. The Yankees are 25 games ahead in the loss column. It's over, for crying out loud. Way, way over.
And not to use the current disaster for future gain is just foolish. A fine opportunity wasted.
We have said it before, and we'll say it again: The fans won't revolt if veterans are traded for prospects, signaling an end to the team's '98 playoff chances. A majority of the fans probably would cheer, as a matter of fact. They're sicker than anyone of watching this team flounder.
Local fans have always chafed at the concept of buying a winner as opposed to growing one, and although no one minded cheering for last year's store-bought winner, this year's team pretty much sums up all that is bad about checkbook baseball. There's no chemistry. No abiding loyalty. Just laundry.
No one will shed a tear if the '98 Orioles are broken up.
It's the right thing to do, the only thing to do at this point.
Start spreading the news.
Pub Date: 6/29/98