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Win streak in 2000 helped O's lose out


No matter what becomes of the Orioles' 2005 draft class, and first-rounder Brandon Snyder, new scouting director Joe Jordan can take comfort: Nothing will ever touch the disappointment and bad karma the Orioles felt in 2001's early first round.

That pain was indelible even before they reached to make Chris Smith, a left-hander from NAIA Cumberland (Tenn.) University, the seventh overall pick. Smith, regarded by many as an outfield prospect, couldn't shake shoulder injuries and pitched just 24 times in the minors before being released last week.

To be fair to then-scouting director Tony DeMacio, that draft was ridiculously top-heavy. The first five selections have played in the majors this year; only one of the next five (Houston's Chris Burke) has.

It's that No. 5 pick, though, that always will haunt the club. Some background: On Sept. 17, 2000, the Orioles were the third-worst team in the American League, trailing Texas and Kansas City by 2 1/2 games. With two weeks left in the season, the Orioles caught fire. They won eight of their final 13, including a three-game sweep of the hated Yankees to close out 2000. Then-manager Mike Hargrove called the late run an important building block for 2001.

Meanwhile, the Rangers fell apart. They lost 10 of 12 and ended the season with a 71-91 record -- three games worse than the Orioles. That gave the Rangers the fifth pick in the 2001 draft, pushing the O's to seventh (AL teams and NL teams alternate choices).

With their pick, the Rangers selected Mount St. Joseph graduate and now budding superstar first baseman Mark Teixeira. With a little luck, Teixeira could have been the first local Orioles star since Cal Ripken and would have joined Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora to make up the best offensive infield on the planet.

That is, of course, if the Orioles would have agreed to a $9.5 million deal with Teixeira and his agent, Scott Boras, like the Rangers did. They never got the chance due to a hot streak in a frigid season -- something DeMacio teased Hargrove about.

Now, Teixeira, 25, is closing in on his first All-Star Game, and Hargrove, DeMacio and Smith are no longer with the Orioles.

Grover II

Hargrove, now the manager of the Seattle Mariners, received an emotional phone call Wednesday evening from his 23-year-old son. The Mariners selected Andy Hargrove, a first baseman from Kent State University, in the 47th round of the draft. In the 31st round in 2000, the Orioles selected the younger Hargrove out of high school, but he chose to go to junior college instead. This was his last chance to be drafted and with mediocre stats this season (.271 average, three homers, 24 RBIs) his dad wasn't sure it would happen.

"It's not necessarily the career path I'd have chosen for him," Hargrove said. "But he's loved the game his whole life ... I'm excited, probably more than he is, because he's going to get a chance."

Quick hits

Entering Friday, the Mariners had won four straight series and six of eight. ... A recent Toronto-Minnesota game featured seven former first-round picks by the Blue Jays, including six of their own and the Twins' Shannon Stewart.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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