Being Thrift with mounting debt and wringing the Belle with an insurance policy

August 16, 2017 | Nestor Aparicio

the 2002 season as the team was continuing to bleed money and lose fans and sponsors.

Signing free agents was also becoming a bit lopsided. Camden Yards had a short porch. One reason the Orioles dealt with Erickson’s shenanigans and moodiness was that he was a ground ball pitcher. He threw a nasty sinker. Fly balls were a major problem in Baltimore for any pitcher. On thick, hot nights in the Patapsco River basin, the humidity allowed routine pop ups to sway down into left centerfield feet and past the 364-foot sign for home runs.

The Orioles were going to be perennially hard pressed to attract any of the best free agent pitchers, especially those who feared summer night fly balls, inflated ERAs, decreased value for their next deal and the eternally powerful AL East, where you’d be facing the best bats in the business. If you were a free agent pitcher you were better served in the National League throwing in a cavern than attempting to come to Camden Yards and pitch in a band box.

Unable to lure free agents to the Orioles – Thrift came back from the December 2001 winter meetings telling the media and team’s fan base that he had “Confederate money” – learning that agents and players wouldn’t sign with Angelos and Thrift under any financial terms because they simply didn’t want to play for the Birds. So, instead, Thrift set out to improve the team by trading for established talent.

Thrift engaged the Phillies in deep trade talks for star third baseman Scott Rolen, who was entering his option year, by offering Jeff Conine, Sidney Ponson and a few young pitchers in the hopes of luring a legitimate All Star player to Camden Yards.

The Phillies were never satisfied with the trade bait and the Orioles weren’t likely to offer Rolen more than Philadelphia’s generous 10-year, $140 million offer that was turned down by the third baseman.

Instead, the Orioles dropped the team payroll to $60 million for the 2002 season and still wound up losing money and a lot of baseball games.

The team’s first Opening Day without Cal Ripken in two decades went well for Scott Erickson and the Birds as they beat Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees 10-3 behind a grand slam from