Expos at Orioles - March 23, 2004 (1:00 PM)
Mets at Expos - March 23, 2004 (7:00 PM)
Ft. Lauderdale is similar to Dodgertown in that it is an old park with a long history. The Orioles, however have been a part of that legacy for only nine seasons. Before that, the Yankees were here for many years. The Lizard even spotted an old Yankees sign still hanging outside the park.
The Expos, “the farm team for the rest of the majors” as the Lizard
called them, were in town to face a new-look Baltimore team. The Birds have added slugging shortstop Miguel Tejada and former Braves catcher Javy Lopez in hopes of boosting their lineup and contending in the AL East. They’ll have their work cut out for them if they are to get anywhere near the Red Sox and the Yankees. Tejada has been inconsistent of late and Lopez is coming off a career year where he more than tripled his career homer average.
Of course, the acquisition we were most interested in tracking was former Ranger Rafael Palmeiro, who is beginning his second tour of duty with the Orioles. The Lizard and I set down with Palmeiro in the Oriole dugout after a 3-0 loss and asked the first baseman what he most looked forward to in returning to the team.
“I look forward to playing at Camden Yards every day,” he said. “I’m also exciting about playing in front of those fans. They have great fans in Baltimore.”
Apparently he has also come to the point in spring interviews where he is giving only stock answers. I also asked what he would miss about playing in Arlington.
“The fans,” he said bluntly, “and the ballpark.”
Despite these rather short responses, Palmeiro was very courteous and it was exciting to have such a unique opportunity. He also offered some responses to the “Foul Territory” segment we have been working on, though he looked at us the whole time with this “I have 500 homers, why are you asking me this stuff?” look in his eyes.
What is in your CD player right now?
“Nothing. It’s empty. I found a good radio station here in Ft. Lauderdale that plays top 40 and I’ve been listening to that.”
Who will play Rafael Palmeiro in the movie about your life? “Hmmmm… Me. I’ll play myself in the movie.”
What is your favorite movie?
“I don’t know, I guess ‘Gladiator.’”
Since he wasn't really into the offbeat questions we decided to skip the question we crafted specifically for him. Too bad, it was an excellent one:
“Mr. Palmeiro, any chance you might be traded from the Viagra team over to Levitra or Cealis?”
After that, it was back to serious baseball discussion. The Lizard and I talked about our feeling that the Orioles have spent all this money over the winter “just because the have it.” Tejada may develop some consistency and be all right, which I expect, but Lopez cannot possibly produce the way he did last year.
But the biggest concern I can see is with Raffy. Palmeiro’s batting
average has been in decline over the past few seasons (he’s hit .300 only once since 1995 and flirted with .250 last year), but his home run totals have been remarkably consistent (38 is the fewest he’s hit in nine seasons). One day, the power will leave him – I think he'll just go from being able to hit homers to flying out a lot and he'll be done. But pay no attention to what happens now, and ignore the so-called experts. This is a Hall of Famer, no question, so enjoy the twilight years of his stellar career, regardless of what they may bring.
It started to rain as we left for Melbourne and the Expos training camp at Space Coast Stadium. A split squad was hosting the Mets there for a 7:05 start. We arrived right on time and saw Mike Piazza and Mike Cameron beat former Ranger Carl Everett and the hometown team 9-5. Piazza looked especially strong, thumping two longballs out to left-center.
The Mets were wearing those hideous orange jerseys and their black caps, and we agreed they all looked like Jack-o-lanterns in that color scheme. Well, since we were in the Expos’ park, I guess that would be their “colour” scheme.
After the game, Darin found Todd Zeile and scored an autograph for a friend. As Rangers fans, we don't like Zeile, but at least he had the decency to quite using that pink bat.
By the time the game was over and we were back in Kissimee, it was after 11:00 and we were all fading fast. Suddenly, our spirits were brightened and our energy lifted when we say a red sign up ahead with those most important of spring training trip words: Steak ‘n Shake. Nothing like double steak burgers and large shakes at midnight after sitting in the sun all day.
The best line of the night belonged to “Big Jim” Powell. We were in the middle of some classic Texas country music on the ride back to the condo, when he reflected on the lyrics and said, “I tell you what, that David Allen Coe sure has a way with words.”