The player who has been at the top of many Orioles fans' wish lists, Mark Teixeira, changed uniforms for the second time in just about a year yesterday after the Atlanta Braves traded him to the Los Angeles Angels.
The first baseman, a Baltimore-area favorite son who was acquired by the Braves from the Texas Rangers a year ago as the player to put them over the top, was made available after Atlanta failed to take full advantage of his services in the 2007 stretch run and through two-thirds of a season this year.
That's not a reflection of Teixeira's output. Granted, his numbers were Hall of Fame-like last year compared with merely All-Star caliber this year. The 157-game total in Atlanta has been .295 with 36 home runs and 134 RBIs. In addition, you could make the case that Teixeira, batting behind the now-injured Chipper Jones, also helped Jones get off to a scorching start this year when Chipper flirted with .400.
But despite all that, the Braves gassed last season as the Philadelphia Phillies overtook the New York Mets in the National League East, and this year, Atlanta appears winded again as it sits stuck in fourth place. At the end of the season, Teixeira becomes a free agent, so the Braves had to take what they could get, which amounted to first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steve Marek.
You will notice the last-place Orioles were not in that mix. But if you are in the Bring Mark Home crowd (and there's actually a Web site of that name with a petition folks can sign), take heart.
The Angels, Teixeira's third team in six seasons, apparently will get only a short-term lease. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound slugger appears to have tired of being shuttled around the majors as a short-term fix, hence his comment on the current trade rumors: "I realize that things are going to happen in this game that are out of your control. And over the next two months, a lot of things are going to happen that are going to be out of my control. But once I get to free agency, that's when I get to start making the calls."
A decade of losing and a general malaise have worked against the Orioles as a destination franchise for attractive free agents. But for the Mount St. Joseph graduate, Baltimore is home, and perhaps this is exactly the place he would like to finally sink his baseball roots.
However, it's difficult to figure where the Orioles fit in the Teixeira picture. He will command a vaultful of cash, and his agent is the master safecracker, Scott Boras. And, if anything, the past six to eight weeks have shown the Orioles' more pressing need for the long run is pitching rather than a power hitter. But if there was one position player who would resonate with Baltimore fans, there's absolutely no question it's the big kid from Severna Park.