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Talkin' baseball: Big Hurt, Tejada, and Mr. Albert Belle

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Pgu78wno_mediumSo the Blue Jays straight up told Frank Thomas, "Go to bed, old man!"

Gutsy, I suppose. If you missed the story, Thomas got sat down the other day and refused to shake hands with teammates after they won, then got all, "Let's let the people decide about Frank Thomas!" by going to the press all angry about it.

Unfortunately for Frank, the only people that really matter in whether or not he keeps a job for the moment decided that he doesn't really need to have the one they can supply. So he's out there and available for whatever AL team might want to grab themselves a DH who's a constant injury risk, 39 years old, has more than once exhibited some attitude problems, and, to be totally fair, can still knock the crap out of the ball.

It's not like Frank didn't hit .277/.377/.480 with 26 homers last season. Park-adjusted OPS+ was 125. He VORPed 31.5. Not bad for a 39-year old man who can't actually legitimately run.

J.P. Ricciardi called it "a mutual agreement." You have to wonder if a little part of agreeing to it wasn't Frank Thomas knowing he could get a job somewhere, and it not being in Toronto. I'm not slamming Toronto, but a 40-year old man might not want to really spend most of his year there at this stage of his baseball career.

Dudes that played with him in Chicago think he'll find work. They're right; he will. Let's look at the possibilities.

Yankees: Hey, this could be fun. He did play Tom Selleck's replacement for the Yankees in Mr. Baseball. The only problem is the Yankees need that DH spot for Damon, Matsui, or whichever of the regulars is hurt but not so bad that they hit the DL, so Girardi decides that hitting and running isn't taxing or risking injury or anything. Probably doesn't fit.

Twins: Well...they've hit eight home runs this year, five by Morneau and three by Jason Kubel. Yeah, they could use him.

Mariners: I know the weirdos out there in dead singer/guitarist land just love Jose Vidro, but maybe they could find some room for The Big Hurt. There are exactly two guys in their starting lineup (Betancourt and Lopez) that are under 29 years old, so it's not like Frank is getting in the way of a youth movement. They're trying to Win Now with Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Brad Wilkerson, and that bullpen of theirs. Gambling on Frank isn't going to hurt them.

Angels: They're also in Win Now mode, but that'd be a LOT of money to be wasting on Gary Matthews just to have him sitting on the bench. Don't think they can do it.

Beats me where Frank'll wind up, but I'd bet on Seattle or Minnesota if I were a bettin' man. I'm not.

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Dan Connolly (On Baseball!) wrote an article over at the Sun that says Miguel Tejada should be remembered in Baltimore more fondly than he is and/or will be.

After being confronted - some might say ambushed - by an ESPN reporter holding a birth certificate, Miguel Tejada admitted to the Houston Astros that he was two years older than he had previously claimed, meaning he turns 34 next month, not 32.

For the life of me, I don't understand why I'm supposed to feel BAD for Tejada in this case. The "some might say ambushed" part irks me. He was confronted with something he'd been lying about for 15 years, and he knew he was lying. And he continued to lie before he knew the facts were being presented. He lied! He was a liar! For 15 years! It's not the most awful thing ever, mind you. I'm certainly not saying that. But he lied!

And ESPN didn't do it "for ratings." Trust me -- no one at ESPN is banking this quarter's success on a Miguel Tejada age story. They did it because sports journalism is their job. Why can't there be "investigative journalism" involved in sports? They found something that was certainly worth looking into and talking about, and they brought it up to Miguel Tejada to his face in front of God and everybody. Tejada reacted poorly. Tejada then "admitted" to the Houston Astros that his age was wrong.

It also will be another example used by Tejada bashers on why he shouldn't be remembered fondly around here.

That's understandable, but it's a shame because Tejada was one of the most talented and gracious players to wear an Orioles uniform in the past 20 years. In four seasons here, he made the All-Star team three times, was the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player once, won an RBI crown, two Silver Sluggers, two Most Valuable Oriole Awards and set the club's single-season hits record.

The losing ate at him, and though he won't admit it, there's no question his energy, hustle and focus slipped in his last two seasons here.

That's what many fans will remember.

Let me tell you how I'll remember Tejada. I am going to remember him for exactly what he was: a very talented player, did a lot of great things on the field, and complained, then backtracked every time someone thought, "Well, that's a shitty way to go about your business, isn't it?"

Frank Thomas just got FIRED by the Toronto Blue Jays for stuff that is somewhat similar to a lot of things Tejada did: going to the press with grievances before talking to anyone on the staff is just not the best way to handle something, I think we can all agree on that.

And when something came back to him, Tejada was always misunderstood, didn't say what they said he said, blah blah blah.

He was a very emotional guy. I don't hold that against him. But when you're perceived -- wrongly so, and it wasn't his fault -- as the savior of a franchise and then they keep losing, it's going to be hard to get away with complaining. It's hard to get away with complaining if you're a winner. Of course, those guys don't complain as much.

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One e-mailer wrote last week that he thought Tejada was "just like Albert Belle. He was supposed to walk on water while he was in Baltimore and fell flat on his face."

There's no question Tejada has made poor decisions and gotten some terrible advice, but he's no Belle, one of the surliest men to ever walk on a diamond and one whom many of his teammates avoided.

I have had it with the Albert Belle stuff. On what planet did ALBERT BELLE fall flat on his face? He fell flat on a degenerative hip condition, yes. He killed the ball for the Orioles, the same as he did for everyone else. Miguel Tejada played very well for the Orioles, the same as he did for the A's, the same as he's doing for the Astros.

This idiotic idea that Albert Belle could've done something to prevent a degenerative hip condition boggles my mind. But people remember what they want to remember, and I think this is where Connolly and I would actually agree, although he doesn't do Albert Belle the favor of debunking the ridiculous idea that he was a failure in Baltimore.

People want to remember Belle as a bum who crapped out on his team when it was his body that crapped out on him. Do you remember watching Albert Belle play baseball? 110% -- all the time. ALL THE TIME. He never took a day off unless he had to, he was a tireless worker, and he came to play. But he never much cared for sportswriters, so that's a big strike against him.

Tejada over the last two years, as Connolly notes, played lazy a lot of the time. I'm not ga-ga for hustle, but Tejada was very noticeably dogging it on many occasions. This is something everyone could see.

Yeah, Albert Belle was and probably still is a moody asshole. But if someone remembers him ever letting his teams down with a failure to play hard, then they're fooling themselves. It's probably not the greatest compliment in the world to most people, but Belle was a modern day Ty Cobb, a great player complicated by a frequently unpleasant (in some cases, that's kind) demeanor, which was probably what made him the player he was in the first place. Some guys play angry.

Tejada was not Albert Belle. Albert Belle wasn't even "Albert Belle."

And on the second point, what is the terrible advice Tejada got? "Tell them you're 17, Miguel, not 19"? Frankly, I'd say it was pretty good advice. Look at him, he's a 34-year old millionaire who will make millions more. If he told them he was 19, does he get signed? Maybe not. I've said it before, this is a case where I don't think Tejada is right OR wrong. It's a case that very much is what it is, and that's all it can be.

We're off today. I just wanted to talk about some baseball.