Albert Belle; now an Oriole but still a turkey in Chicago

By The Columbia Chronicle

Albert Belle finally made up his mind — he examined his priorities and made a decision. He proved that not only is he a selfish jerk but he is a hypocrite as well.

The outfielder left the White Sox last week to join the Balimore Orioles by agreeing to a five-year, $65 million deal with the Birds.

This comes just a couple months after Belle said, “I’ve said all along I am happy in Chicago and I would like to stay in Chicago.”

Albert said that he was happy with the direction the Sox were headed, happy with the players, happy with manager Jerry Manuel. As sincere as Belle sounded, the almighty dollar meant more to him than happiness.

Belle had a clause in his contract that said if he wasn’t one of the three highest-paid players in baseball after his second year of the deal, he could have the option to receive a salary increase from the Sox or file for free agency.

Since Belle’s $11 million salary was not enough, at least for him, he opted to find offers elsewhere and after several contacts with other teams decided on the Orioles. Money obviously meant more to Belle than loyalty.

The White Sox are now cleared of this nuisance, this individual who would not cooperate with the media and whose off the field actions proved how poor his attitude toward life really is.

Belle has been suspended for destroying part of a bathroom, hitting a taunting fan in the chest with a baseball, and using a corked bat. He hit Brewer infielder Fernando Vina with his forearm and chased down kids with his sports utility vehicle on Halloween a few years ago after the kids egged his home.

Despite Belle’s miserable disposition, he has been extremely productive with the bat. Last year, Belle hit 49 homers, a White Sox single season record. He also set single season records in doubles, total bases, and extra-base hits.

Belle’s numbers may have been outstanding, but they are also quite misleading. During the White Sox’s miserable first half of last year, Belle produced only 17 homers by July and carried a mediocre batting average. When the Sox needed someone to give them a jump start, Belle didn’t come through and they became a second division club. It is true that the club’s sub-par start isn’t all Belle’s fault; lousy pitching and defense was a big reason that the team wasn’t winning. But when you are the highest paid player on the team and the team’s supposed best player, you take a good amount of the responsibility because you failed to lead your club.

Albert Belle is not only a miserable person, he is a chronic liar as well. When he signed with the Orioles he told the press that he would talk to them often and communicate with the fans. If I remember correctly, he made those same promises when he signed here before the ‘97 season. Then, two games into the home schedule, Belle became an outcast to the media and only spoke at his leisure. Now, communication with the fans — that never happened.

Belle often ignored cheering fans in the left field bleachers and never signed any autographs before or after games. I believe the only “communication” he has ever had with a fan was when he whipped that ball at a taunting fan in Cleveland. What a guy.

Believe it or not, I feel sorry for Albert Belle. Here is a man with such amazing athletic ability, being paid unreal amounts of money to play a game that most of us would play for free, and he’s miserable. He carries a degree with honors from Louisiana State University and, if you’ve ever heard him speak (the few times he does), he’s an articulate, bright human being. If

Belle had any personality at all, he would be a national hero. He would be in the Mark McGwire – Ken Griffey Jr. – Sammy Sosa category. But despite all that life has given to Albert Belle he continues to be an ungrateful, sullen individual.

I really think Belle needs some psychological help; that’s why I feel for him. Many people won’t share my notion that Belle should be pitied due to his inflated income and dream job, but there are few people who are as miserable as Belle despite their individual situation. Belle might learn a lot if he actually did communicate with the common person, instead of closing himself off from the real world. Maybe he needs a visit from Jacob Marley this Christmas; maybe he needs the help of spirits to change his ways.

In all probability, Belle will continue his habits and just infuriate people in Baltimore. I wish him the best, but I’m glad he’s no longer here. Belle’s numbers will be missed, but don’t look down on his replacement. Jeff Abbott, who will now be the club’s regular left fielder, will develop into a very good player. He has a very smooth, polished swing and he produced good numbers in limited plate appearances last year.

Belle may have been exciting at times, but he didn’t deliver all that was promised or what Sox fans hoped for. The two-year lease was insufficient and now the Sox will go in another direction.