Higher math

The Baltimore Sun

Major League Baseball didn't do the Orioles any favor by postponing the 15-day suspension of outfielder-designated hitter Jay Gibbons, because the 10-day reprieve only complicates the club's uncertain roster situation during the final weekend of spring training.

Whether the suspension is eventually revoked entirely has become irrelevant, because the Orioles have to decide before Opening Day to keep Gibbons or give that spot on the 25-man roster to utility player Scott Moore.

That might be simple enough - based on their spring performances - if there wasn't an added layer of labor/management politics to muddy up the issue.

MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association are in negotiations to toughen up baseball's drug policy for the third time in the past three years, which probably will result in a blanket amnesty for the players named in the Mitchell Report. In that event, Gibbons and Kansas City Royals outfielder Jose Guillen - both suspended in December for performance-enhancement violations - almost certainly would have their suspensions lifted.

That shouldn't affect the decision on one of the final roster spots, but owner Peter Angelos might be hesitant to release Gibbons while the sensitive MLB negotiations are in progress. He might be reluctant anyway, considering Gibbons is guaranteed $11.9 million over the next two seasons. The Orioles outrighted Tike Redman to Norfolk yesterday, which could create another rationale for keeping Gibbons, since there are only four other outfielders remaining on the projected Opening Day roster.

Not to belabor the point after examining this issue in more detail a couple of days ago, but Gibbons could turn out to be the litmus test for Angelos' commitment to Andy MacPhail's rebuilding program.

Where the wild things are

Daniel Cabrera walked five batters yesterday and entered the weekend leading the major leagues in walks this spring with 17 in 22 1/3 innings, but he's not the only projected member of the Orioles rotation who has had trouble finding the preseason strike zone.

Adam Loewen ranks fourth on the walks list, with 15 in just 12 1/3 innings, a far higher ratio per inning than Cabrera's. Loewen also has more than doubled Cabrera's 3.22 spring ERA.

In other words, buckle your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Erasing Barry

When the San Francisco Giants open the new season at AT&T; Park, there will be little evidence that Barry Bonds broke baseball's all-time home run record in a Giants uniform last year.

Most of the tributes to Bonds on the outfield fence and stadium facades have been removed now that he is (a) no longer a member of the organization, and (b) facing federal perjury charges.

That probably seems a bit cold, given all that Bonds has accomplished as a member of the organization, but you have to think the franchise has grown weary of its connection to baseball's steroid scandal.

I think we can identify with that.

Canseco's extreme makeover

Jose Canseco's new book --- Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars and the Battle to Save Baseball - rekindled the argument over his rightful place in the history of illegal performance enhancement.

Some have gone so far as to rehabilitate Canseco as a whistleblower who helped the game face its steroid shame.

That's ridiculous. Canseco cannot be considered a true whistleblower because he was one of the early facilitators of baseball's steroid problem. The classic corporate whistleblower comes forward under threat of great professional harm to uncover misconduct in an organization. Canseco originally came forward to make money on a book and now is out with another.

It is fair to say that much of what he wrote in his first book - Juiced - has turned out to be true, so he has a lot more credibility than he did before the 2005 congressional hearings, but he's still more of a circus act than a credible commentator on the state of the sport.

Chalk talk

There have been a few surprises in the men's NCAA tournament, but nothing that figures to derail an eventual final game showdown between North Carolina and UCLA.

Don't know about you, but I can't believe Kevin Millar really thought Southern California had a chance to reach the Final Four.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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