By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
BALTIMORE, June 26 -- On Dec. 18, 2003, Miguel Tejada donned a Baltimore Orioles hat and jersey, stood at a podium and promised that his new team would no longer be a losing franchise.
Three years later, the Orioles are seven games below .500, on pace to miss the postseason for the ninth straight season, and apparently some in the Orioles organization are ready to deal their starting shortstop before the July 31 trade deadline.
A player of Tejada's caliber is rarely dealt at midseason, though one high-ranking team source said Baltimore has already received several inquiries about the 2005 all-star, who is hitting .312 with 16 home runs. The club, according to another Orioles source, would ask for a major league pitcher as part of any package for Tejada.
"If the return is right -- two to three pieces that could be core [major league] players quickly, I think they would have to consider it," said an executive for one American League team. "The reality, however, is that deals like that are not often out there and they would need to be sure they were right on the guys they bet on."
Tejada was not available for comment on Monday and his representative did not return a phone call.
Those who have spoken to Tejada recently about the subject said he is happy and does not want to be traded. But Orioles executives and Manager Sam Perlozzo have met several times, though not in the past month, to discuss how to deal with Tejada's tardiness in arriving for games.
"I can't sit here and say we haven't talked about it," Orioles Vice President Jim Duquette said. "It's a topic we've talked about with Sam."
In a game earlier this season in New York, Tejada arrived less than one hour prior to the scheduled start time. Most Orioles are in the clubhouse three hours before game time. One player, speaking off the record, said that Tejada is still popular among his teammates but that his tardiness is an issue.
One team source said Baltimore has tried to fine Tejada, but those fines have been ignored. The source said it was possible team officials had not pushed Tejada to pay the fines or disciplined Tejada publicly because they did not want to risk alienating him or hurting his trade value.
"I can't remember the last time I heard anything about it at all," Orioles Executive Vice President Mike Flanagan said. "Sometimes this business of being late is a matter of interpretation."
Flanagan said Duquette spoke with Tejada on Sunday and "felt really good" about the conversation. But Tejada arrived at 12:10 p.m. for Sunday's 1:35 game against the Washington Nationals.
Several team sources said they have noticed Tejada sulking some of late, coinciding with the investigation into an affidavit from former Oriole Jason Grimsley, which appears to link several of his ex-teammates to at least the use of amphetamines and perhaps other substances. (The names in the affidavit have been redacted.) Since it became public on June 7, Tejada is hitting just .236 (17 for 72).
Less than a year ago, former teammate Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive last season for steroids, told the House Government Reform Committee in its ensuing perjury investigation that Tejada had given him shots of vitamin B-12 in the locker room. For a time, Tejada went into a slump and his demeanor was noticeably different. He demanded a trade during the offseason but later rescinded his request and has not renewed his request.
"If this is the route they go, they shouldn't have re-signed [Melvin] Mora to that extension," another AL team executive said. "Not to say they shouldn't [trade Tejada] but they better be sure they get enough talent back in return. Based on the Mora signing, they should expect to compete in the next year or two."
"Anybody that considers trading one of its best players wouldn't do it without helping the ballclub," Perlozzo said. "Unless someone overwhelms us, I would hope Miggy stays put."