It has taken just two losing seasons for Miguel Tejada, signed before the 2004 season to a six-year, $72 million contract with the expectation that the all-star shortstop would become the cornerstone of the Baltimore Orioles franchise, to become frustrated with the organization and ask for a trade.
In a phone interview in the Dominican Republic with the Associated Press, Tejada said he would like to move on.
"I've been with the Orioles for two years and things haven't gone in the direction that we were expecting, so I think the best thing will be a change of scenery," Tejada said. "I've done many things with this team and I haven't seen results, and the other teams are getting stronger while the Orioles have not made any signings to strengthen the club."
What has already been a tumultuous year for Baltimore has now gotten worse.
"I actually had a phone call in to him this week," Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He's not returned the call. Maybe this is why. I think probably the level-headed thing is to find out what's going on and then comment after that."
Teammates were shocked that Tejada, highly regarded in the clubhouse for his competitive fire and his affability, would express such feelings through the media.
"Oh my goodness," Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, vacationing in Puerto Rico, said. "That's a big thing. It's a big loss for the team if Tejada leaves. I never would have expected him to make such comments."
Orioles officials, who were traveling home after spending a week in Dallas for the winter meetings, were not immediately available for comment. Tejada's representatives did not return several phone calls.
Rumors had circulated this week at the winter meetings that Tejada had been unhappy. But Orioles Executive Vice President Mike Flanagan denied those rumors and said he had talked to the shortstop on Tuesday.
"He's on board with what we're doing," Flanagan said then.
When asked if it was unusual that he had spoken to Tejada, Flanagan said, "We try to touch base with all of our players."
Mora said he had not spoken to Tejada this offseason but had planned to do so next week when the shortstop made a trip to Venezuela to participate in a charity home run derby.
"It's something difficult," Mora said. "I don't even know what to say. I think he's happy with the team but it's not easy to play for a losing team."
Tejada was signed prior to the 2004 season and he responded with two stellar seasons, which included a fifth-place finish in the Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2004. Tejada, the MVP in the American League in 2002 with the Oakland A's, was the home run derby champion in 2004 and was the All Star game MVP in 2005.
But toward the end of the year Tejada appeared worn down and unhappy by an Orioles season mired in controversy. Tejada's season was interrupted when his name surfaced as part of Rafael Palmeiro's congressional investigation into the first baseman's positive steroid test. In a report released by the House Government Reform Committee, two teammates testified that they had injected Tejada at least 40 times each with a B-12 vitamin shot. Perhaps that has also partly motivated Tejada to seek a trade.
"If this is true, it puts a damper on the offseason," Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons said. "That doesn't sound like Tejada. He's a very positive guy. We can't have him unhappy."
It would seem unlikely that the Orioles would immediately grant Tejada's wish without trying to convince him to stay. And if they did look to trade Tejada it would seem unlikely they could find equal value or many teams who could afford to take on the $60 million the shortstop is owed through the next four seasons. But he is widely regarded as one of the best players in baseball.
"We need him happy," Gibbons said. "He's the team leader. I'm hoping he was frustrated or it was taken out of context."