Connolly: Teixeira can go home again, but that's not to Baltimore

When it was announced that the Atlanta Braves acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira for a rookie and four prospects, some frustrated Orioles fans spewed venom on Internet message boards and sports talk shows.

They should be disappointed.

Not because the Orioles didn't land the savior from Severna Park, however, but because of where he ended up.

The simple truth is they couldn't offer a fraction of the package that Atlanta did because the top level of the Orioles' farm system is still mostly barren.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels wasn't interested in a trade with the Orioles if left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard wasn't involved. The Orioles, understandably, wouldn't include their ace, who is controlled through 2009 -- a year longer than Teixeira. That's where the talks began and ended.

Daniel Cabrera, a 26-year-old who can't consistently harness his talent, and a cadre of other marginal prospects such as Garrett Olson and Jim Hoey, don't get you in the conversation for a stud like Teixeira. Especially not when Atlanta is giving up catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 22, and four of their other top 18 farmhands, including No. 2 prospect, 18-year-old infielder Elvis Andrus, and No. 3, left-hander Matt Harrison, 21.

Baseball America rated the Braves' system 16th this season, just one spot ahead of the Orioles. But in the previous five years, the Braves never dropped below seventh and the Orioles rose above 19th just once.

Regardless, Orioles fans have a right to be angry -- or frightened, anyway. Because Teixeira will play his next year plus in the absolute worst place for those dreaming of Big Tex in Camden Yards.

It would have been slightly painful to see the native Marylander with American League East rivals, the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, this year and next. But having Teixeira with a tomahawk across his chest should pierce the heart of Orioles fans; Atlanta is the one spot that could rival Baltimore if Teixeira's feeling homesick and charitable.

The common belief is that Teixeira, who is represented by Scott Boras, will declare for free agency after the 2008 season and will go to the highest bidder. He did, after all, turn down an eight-year, $140 million extension with the Rangers last month. And Boras' guys test the waters almost without fail. Ultimately, however, Teixeira is the boss and can make the call to forgo the stress of free agency if he wants.

The hope around here was that the Orioles could get him early, remind him how great it is to play in his hometown for his childhood team and convince him to stay before he hits the open market.

Not only is that hope lost, but Atlanta is the only place that holds a similar allure.

"When I heard the Braves were the leading contender [to trade for him], I was so excited," Teixeira told Atlanta reporters Tuesday. "I spent some great years here in Atlanta."

It's his college town. It's where he met his wife, who grew up in northern Georgia. And he's made no secret that he loves the area.

"He has always told me that when his baseball career is over, he's going to live in Atlanta," Danny Hall, Georgia Tech's baseball coach, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "So I guess it's just happening a little sooner than he thought it would."

Want more heartbreak, Baltimore?

Well, in American Legion ball Teixeira wore No. 10 in honor of Chipper Jones.

Guess who has the locker next door in Atlanta?

Here's the final dagger, held securely in the hands of another local guy: John Schuerholz, the Braves' general manager and a Baltimore native, has done this kind of thing before.

Most recently, in December 2004, Schuerholz traded three prospects to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Tim Hudson, who would have been a free agent after the 2005 season. Hudson, a Georgia native who grew up as a Braves fan in Alabama, eschewed free agency and signed a four-year extension in March 2005.

Schuerholz is a calculated risk-taker. He knows how much his staff's professionalism and manager Bobby Cox's steady hand impress players. He wouldn't have made this move without thinking he had some chance of keeping Teixeira.

Depending on how he handles some other expiring deals -- the four most expensive Braves contracts could come off the board by the end of 2008 -- Schuerholz could have the money to make Teixeira a legitimate offer.

And, honestly, Atlanta's shot to keep him away from free agency is better than that of Baltimore's for one simple reason: The Braves win. They won 14 straight division titles before finishing third last year. Now, they're back in the hunt again.

The Orioles haven't been good since Teixeira was a junior at Mount St. Joseph. The Rangers have never finished higher than third in the five years he was in Texas.

"This is what every player plays for -- to be with a team that has a chance to win a World Series," Teixeira said.

He could get that same feeling in New York, Boston or Los Angeles. He could have the personal connection in Baltimore.

In Atlanta, though, he could have both.

That's what should bother Orioles fans. Not that their beloved team didn't acquire Teixeira a year before free agency, but that the Braves, of all teams, did.

A scout's take // Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees' 21-year-old right-hander



He's got some power stuff. His fastball is at 96 to 99 [mph]. He's a Chris Ray type with a real power slider and a good curve.



The one thing I wonder about is that on 1-2 and 0-2 counts, he likes to come with his fastball. And I don't know why, because he has that good slider. Evidently, he has more confidence in that fastball.


He is going to be a good one. He'll be up soon (he's currently at Triple-A). He could do whatever they want. He could start, and he has closer's stuff right now. Mariano [Rivera] can't last forever.


"A scout's take" features one major league scout's opinion on a particular player each week. A revolving roundtable of scouts is used. Because of potential tampering, the scouts are anonymous.

Poll results:

Last week we asked which former Oriole would be the next to go into the Hall of Fame, and it was quite the race between second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Curt Schilling. You feel Alomar will beat Schilling there.

The results:

  • Roberto Alomar, 29.2 percent (1,374 votes)
  • Curt Schilling, 27.5 percent (1,294 votes)
  • Mike Mussina, 17.2 percent (807 votes)
  • Lee Smith, 14.2 percent (667 votes)
  • Sammy Sosa, 6.6 percent (312 votes)
  • Rafael Palmeiro, 5.3 percent (249 votes)

This week's poll is listed on the bottom right.


Hack of the week:

Last week's question: Will former Oriole Mike Mussina be a Hall of Famer?

Yes, I believe Mussina will get in. He won't get to 300 wins, but should reach 250, and that could be the new 300. --


Eric Garfield, Ocean City

Take your hacks:

Each week we will ask an open-ended baseball question. Reply with your thoughts to sports@baltsun.com. We'll print one response each week. Keep your answer to 25 words and make sure you include your name, city and phone number for verification purposes. Please put "Take Your Hacks" in the subject line.

This week's question: Would you have traded Erik Bedard to get Mark Teixeira? Why or why not?

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