Dante Alighieri wrote of an afterlife consisting of three worlds, three choices, three completely different outcomes. The Comedy that it has been, for the last fifteen years, to be an Orioles fan, among the champions of the East, has been less than comical, however comparative to Dante’s work in that it harbors three completely different stages of fandom. A year out of the players strike, 1995, Cal Ripken breaks Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak, and enough has already been said to symbolize where this season fits into the equation. Two years out the players strike, 1996, Brady Anderson shows off his “Situation” on the cover of S.I. and 50 HRs later, the O’s fight their way into the Championship Series. In 1997, still under the helm of Davey Johnson, introduced an entirely new level of ownership stupidity on Peter Angelos’ part, who later fires Johnson for his refusal to deal with Roberto Alomar as a prima donna. That year however, yielded yet another Championship Series arrival for the O’s, and with a lineup of Ripken, Alomar, Palmiero, Mussina, Erickson, and newly acquired Jimmy Key, it was truly a Paradise.
The following 10 years would lead to nine 4th place finishes in the A.L. East, and to keep with the comparison, lead the O’s straight, into what Dante calls, the Inferno. Now there was nothing sacred about the Albert Belle acquisition, and there was nothing sacred about sheltering some of the biggest names to come out of the steroid era, but the comparison between these circles of the Inferno cannot stop simply at sacrilegious dealings of a broken organization. Now the centralized idea behind this post, revolves around the current acquisition of former, soon to return, Oriole, Miguel Tejada. Be on the lookout for how he fits into this Inferno, and how he contributed to the Purgatory to follow. The First Circle of Hell, is Limbo, the hope for something greater. No organization, up for argument, holds more superstars expecting greatness over the last ten years, only to leave disappointed, than the Baltimore Orioles. There is no greater example of this than Miguel Tejada himself, who played at less and less of a compete level, as his expectations slowly dwindled. Tejada would later leave for Houston after telling the O’s management he would spend the rest of his career with Baltimore. Miggy is truly a virtuous pagan of his generation. The Second Circle is Lust, obviously personified by Roberto Alomar who in 1996 knowingly refused to inform his girlfriend at the time that he had HIV, and on the field tried giving it to major league umpire John Hirschbeck. Alomar left the O’s in peril as there woes began in the 98′ season. The Third Circle is Gluttony represented by the Orioles in the form of short lived first baseman/DH Walter Young who inexplicably appeared in 14 games in 2005 weighing in at a Major League Baseball record 322 lbs, and than, for no reason at all, vanished (designated for assignment). The Fourth Circle is Greed represented by the 2001 All Star game where Cal Ripken Jr. steals the SS position from A-Rod, and if that wasn’t bad enough, steals Chan Ho Park’s meatball. It has been said that A-Rod began taking muscle enhancers because his pride was so hurt, and Chan Ho Park took up Jiu Jitsu. The Fifth Circle is Wrath and Sloth, both perfectly personified by Jay Gibbons and his uncanny ability to break the Camden Yards Warehouse windows in practice, yet unconsciously sleep walk his way into steroid allegations and a mop hair cut. The Sixth Circle is Heresy, and how could that not be represented by Jerry Hairston Jr., if not for how close his name is to the word Heresy, but for his current home as a New York Yankee. (See also: Mike Mussina) The Seventh Circle is Violence, whose gates used to be guarded by the Minotaur, until he was caught by Albert Belle trying to take a picture of him at practice, and Belle pile drove him by the horns into home plate at Camden Yards. The Eighth Circle is Fraud, and though I could name drop a full roster of juicers (Palmiero, Roberts, Sosa, Segui, etc.), I will stick with one name, and for a non-steroid related incident. In 2008 it was made public that not only did Miguel Tejada lie about his age by two years, but wasn’t a Tejada at all. He was in fact, a Tejeda. Miguel Tejeda, the nameless, ageless, outspoken, traitor the Baltimore organization.
The Ninth and Final Circle leads us slowly but surely out of the Inferno and into the Purgatory, which is the indifferent acceptance that is the Baltimore Orioles. In the recent one year, 6 million dollar commitment to Miguel Tejeda, the Orioles have made a commitment to this indifference, and they have committed an act of baseball Treason. The tenacious Tejeda gave up his right to play for the Orioles, though who would want it, when he pulled a Damon and went back on his word, and pulled a Ramirez and slacked off to get traded. The Orioles however, unlike the Red Sox will not finish in either of the top two seeds in the A.L. East. They will finish, 4th in the A.L., in a payment of homage to the Purgatory they are and will remain in, until the moves they make are relevant to future endeavors, and not to the trials and tribulations of so many memories of their embarrassing past. Perhaps Adam Jones and Nick Markakis can ride the O’s chariot back to Paradise, but it appears that journey won’t be happening for quite some time.
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