Grass greener?

The Baltimore Sun

My friends, today's homily is one of those life-lesson tales about frying pans and fires.

In this case, the frying pan is Orioles baseball, admittedly a decade-long purgatory where the hopes and dreams of Baltimore fans have been stomped on and ground into the pavement like a spent cigarette butt usually by the All-Star break.

The fire, however, is Seattle - a veritable baseball Hades this year - where the Mariners have lost about two-thirds of their games, are hopelessly buried in last place in the American League West and are on pace to reach triple digits in defeats.

It is also where two guys, who were very much in the picture here last season, are finding out that there are, after all, worse places to spend a summer.

Former Orioles ace pitcher Erik Bedard and former manager Sam Perlozzo, now in the employ of the Mariners, took turns being showered with boos at Safeco Field earlier this week in back-to-back losses to the division-leading Los Angeles Angels.

First, Bedard, for whom Seattle paid the price of promising young center fielder Adam Jones, George Sherrill, now an effective closer for the O's, and three other players in an offseason trade.

Bedard has struggled both physically and on the mound.

In addition to spending much of April on the disabled list with an inflamed hip, he is limping along with a 4-4 record and a 4.47 ERA. At times, he looks like the Cy Young-caliber pitcher that Orioles fans recall, such as when he beat the Boston Red Sox, 1-0, on May 28 with eight strikeouts and just two hits over seven innings.

But then he has nights like Tuesday when, in front of the home crowd, he made it just 3 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (four earned), in a 5-4 loss to the Angels. That's when the Seattle fans serenaded him to the dugout, according to reports from the Pacific Northwest.

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi told a Seattle newspaper that he wasn't disappointed in Bedard yet but ... "He cannot seem to get his feet on the ground in Seattle. He cannot get his arms around it yet. You see a brilliant outing, and then you see an awful outing. Right now, I wish his wheels didn't come off so easily."

Now, on to Perlozzo, who is a coach in Seattle under manager John McLaren. On Wednesday, he reportedly was on the receiving end of a group verbal lashing administered by team president Chuck Armstrong to the coaching staff.

That night, with Seattle trailing Los Angeles, 5-4, in the sixth and two out, Perlozzo found himself in the thick of the action as third base coach. Seattle's Yuniesky Betancourt was on first and running with the pitch when Ichiro Suzuki singled to left.

Let's stop the action right here. The next batter was Jose Lopez, currently the Mariners' hottest hitter, who at that moment was 3-for-3 on the night and had hit three homers in three games.

OK, back to Betancourt steaming toward third, the throw coming to the infield and Perlozzo coaching third ... waving ... Betancourt ... home. Suffice it to say, the race to the plate between the ball and Betancourt was sort of like Big Brown and the rest of the field at the Preakness. Betancourt was the rest of the field.

After Betancourt was tagged out to end the inning, he and Perlozzo got the same send-off from the Seattle fans as Bedard the previous night. That game also ended 5-4.

And so as the Orioles make incremental progress in their rebuilding and occasionally slip back into making their fans wonder (in the words of Dorothy Parker), "What fresh hell is this" - remember, as Bedard and Perlozzo are finding out, there are deeper, more desperate rings to the baseball inferno.

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