As far as Albert Belle's new teammates are concerned, he doesn't have to be the most vociferous player in the Orioles' clubhouse this season. Forget the chatter. Just let the numbers do the talking.
Isn't that how it usually works with Belle, anyway? Wasn't that enough to get him the richest deal in club history?
"I don't know a whole lot about him," said catcher Lenny Webster, "but I think the main thing is, the Orioles' organization is just looking for Albert Belle to bring his game to Baltimore. That's all you can expect of the guy. Of course, if he does that, he's an electrifying player. He can help you win a championship."
The first step toward that goal occurred yesterday when Belle was introduced at a noon news conference at Camden Yards. He'll be the club's left fielder and heavy hitter. And he won't be tied down by his previous offenses.
"You don't place judgment on what's happened in the past," Webster said. "You just hope that things go well in Baltimore."
They've often gone wrong for Belle since breaking into the majors with the Cleveland Indians in 1989. Webster knows about the fines and suspensions, the ugly run-ins with fans and media types. Like other Orioles, though, he won't pass judgment on Belle because of previous indiscretions.
"A lot of emphasis has been put on Albert Belle's troubled times, but as far as I know he's a good guy. And the numbers that he puts up speak for themselves. I think that's all we need to worry about in Baltimore, whatever he does on the baseball field," Webster said.
"You bring the guy in with a clean slate and you let him go out and play the game and see what happens."
Shortstop Mike Bordick has a pretty good idea.
"In Camden Yards? Are you kidding me? It's scary, huh?" he said.
"I think it's going to be great. Obviously his numbers speak for themselves. And everybody I talk to about Albert Belle say he's a great teammate. He works hard, he's focused on winning, he wants to go out there and do his job every day. That's exciting, especially if he can put up numbers like he has been."
The number he held up yesterday at Camden Yards was 88, stitched on the back of a uniform jersey with his name. He always has worn No. 8, but someone named Ripken is using it here.
In a statement released by the Orioles yesterday, Cal Ripken said of Belle: "He is one of the game's best hitters. To add someone of his quality to the middle of our lineup is great. Albert is one of the game's most intense competitors and he comes to play every day."
Bench coach Eddie Murray was a teammate of Belle's in Cleveland for 2 1/2 seasons. Belle said yesterday that the Orioles were his favorite team growing up because of Murray, and he talked to the future Hall of Famer about playing in Baltimore before signing.
"I'm glad to have him on our team," Murray said in a statement. "He is someone who comes to work every day. I had the opportunity to hit behind him in Cleveland and I can't wait to see what he can do in our ballpark. He's also a much better defensive player than what people give him credit for. He has made great strides in that area."
Murray, reliever Jesse Orosco and Harold Baines form a small circle of Orioles who have played on the same team as Belle -- Orosco with Cleveland in 1991 and Baines with the Chicago White Sox for part of the 1997 season.
"Personally, I don't know him at all," said catcher Chris Hoiles. "I only know what everybody else hears. But from a baseball standpoint, he's been putting up big numbers for years now. The baseball side is really what I look at, and he's a very good player."
What do you think?
The changes to the Orioles' roster this off-season already have been dramatic, capped by yesterday's arrivals of Albert Belle and Charles Johnson and departures of Rafael Palmeiro and Armando Benitez. We encourage you to write to The Sun and tell us your opinion of the Orioles' moves. We will run the best letters on Sunday.
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Pub Date: 12/02/98