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

August 16, 2017 | Nestor Aparicio

Tony Batista and a big day from David Segui. The Orioles got off to a 4-11 start in 2002 but stumbled back to .500 by mid May and some of Thrift’s thrifty players performed capably including Mexican League project Rodrigo Lopez (who actually pitched for a team whose nickname was “the tomato growers”), Travis Driskill, Jorge Julio (acquired from the Mets) and emerging reliever B.J. Ryan, who came in a rare winning Syd Thrift deal from the Reds. Journeyman outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. was also enjoying a breakout season after coming over from the New York Mets.

On May 22, outfielder Marty Cordova – another mediocre player that Thrift signed to a multi-year deal because he was willing to play for the Orioles – suffered one of the freak injuries in the history of baseball. Cordova fell asleep in a tanning bed and burned his face so badly that he needed medical attention and a few days off. Not that the Orioles needed any more stories written or told about their internal buffoonery but most veterans in the baseball industry agreed this was a first of its kind – a player unable to perform due to a sunburn.

In June, Thrift drafted Canadian left-handed pitcher Adam Loewen and put him on a fast track to the big leagues in the Orioles system.

The team stayed near .500 all through the middle of summer, hovering a few games below mediocrity but still well-entrenched in fourth place in a typically strong AL East where the Boston Red Sox were finally in a position to truly challenge the Yankees with talent, payroll and offseason acquisitions.

In July 2002, Angelos said, “Syd is here to stay,” but then followed his comments by saying he would wait to officially address Thrift’s situation until after the season. Truthfully, the Orioles owner was far more engrossed in Major League Baseball’s negotiation with the MLB Players Association as a lead negotiator invited by