The Albert Belle acquisition is one that, as an Orioles lifer, has both kept me up at night on ocassion and brought joy to me when it was still on the books. It's a pretty polarizing chapter in Orioles history. On top of that, I know I wasn't supposed to "like" Belle, especially since, quite frankly, the guy was kind of an asshole. He wasn't as approachable as my favorite players, like Eric Davis and, years later, Adam Jones. Albert Belle was pretty much the Brock Lesnar of MLB in the 1990s and early 2000s. He was there so he wouldn't get fined...without the benevolence and altruism behind, say, Marshawn Lynch.
But, it was that "fuck you" demeanor that made me gravitate towards Belle and brings me to where I am today. He represented what was "bad" about baseball, but also what was "real" about sports. These people are, well, people. They shouldn't always be "happy" and full of soundbites and the like. But, enough doting on the somewhat abrasive, "real ones" type of athletes of yesterday and today. We won't see another Marshawn Lynch, another Albert Belle, or another Brock Lesnar. So, let's get into it.
...was the Albert Belle signing really THAT bad? I know, I know. You're looking at me like "ninja, what?! He was bootyjuice. Fuck outta here, Speed." But, let's look at it. When the Orioles signed Belle, they were in need of power. Belle provided, when he was healthy, that power. Belle was, after Cal Ripken retired, the active leader for consecutive games. He was reliable, even when he was..."unique" when it came to other facets of life. All in all, no one probably would've predicted Belle's hips would fuck around and turn into jelly, especially in the way they did. We could've predicted that he'd lose some of his pop and the like. We could've predicted that he was, as he was getting older, going to be more likely to be injury-prone. But...osteoarthritis? It was an unfortunate circumstance more than his own doing.
Some pundits who said they could've predicted this would happen in this exact manner, they're probably lying and/or looking at it in hindsight with disdain towards Belle (for one of a variety of reasons). When Belle was signed, it was a deal that made sense for the Orioles. Did it completely work out? Oh, fuck no. The Orioles had to keep him on their payroll, technically, until 2003 to recoup on their weird-ass insurance policy contract. But, in those two-ish years that Belle was with the Orioles, he wasn't as putrid as hindsight would suggest. He wasn't perfect...but he averaged 30 home runs over his two active seasons with the O's.
I feel that, and justly so, a lot of the disdain with the Belle signing comes from the fact he was healthy for two years of the five he signed for. That's a fair assertion. My God, is it fair. Considering that you COULD argue that the Belle signing hindered the Orioles' ability to retain Mike Mussina, I do see the validity in the Belle deal being horrible.
But, all in all, there have been worse Orioles deals. For instance, signing Miguel Tejada for the third time (yes, I'm biased against Miggy. Sue me), Sidney Ponson 2.0, not keeping folks like Jose Bautista (but, like Belle, that was one of the ones you couldn't predict all that well), signing Kevin Gregg or...well, a lot of the deals McPhail made (he made some great deals, some which set up Dan Duquette to be great. But others? Ehhhhh). Let's not be blind to the shit just because Belle is a "name."
So, was it REALLY that bad for the Orioles to sign Albert Belle? Quite frankly, yes and no. And that's the bottom line, because SOTB!!! said so. Now somebody, pass me a Speedweiser (not booze BTW) to smash open on someone's face.