Not since Woodward and Bernstein broke Watergate has a Washington Post front-page story sent such shockwaves through decent society. Jeffrey Maier a future Baltimore Oriole?

What’s next, J.J. Redick a future Maryland Terrapin?

Coach K a future Tar Heel?

Ray Lewis a future Pittsburgh Steeler?

Fort Hill football coach a future Allegany principal? OK ... scratch that one.

Jeffrey Maier, the little rat who swiped Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series out of the glove of Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco, suited up in the orange and black plumage of the Land of Pleasant Living’s hometown team would go over in Charm City like ... a fertilizer specimen in a punch bowl. But then what does that mean? Jon Miller, after all ... Oh, never mind.

According to a story by Dave Sheinin in Friday’s Post, Maier, 10 years later the all-time hits leader at Division III Wesleyan (Conn.) University, who may or may not be drafted in this week’s Major League Baseball amateur draft, called Orioles owner Peter Angelos to let it be known he would not be opposed to being drafted by the Orioles.

How pinstriped of him.

But as though this were a surprise, Angelos was happy to take the call, telling the Post, “I wouldn’t be at all opposed to (drafting Maier). In fact, I’d say it’s a very interesting development. You can say the Orioles are very seriously considering him. I know this much: I was at the game, and he certainly did seem to be a heck of an outfielder. Sure, we’d take him. In fact, I like the idea more and more, the more I think about it.”

1.) It is, in Angelos’ words, a very interesting development?

Why? The kid is a Division III baseball player who scouts say has no size, speed, hands or power. What’s so interesting about that? And why is it a development? The St. Louis Cardinals calling to say Albert Pujols is available for Luis Matos and Bruce Chen is a development.

2.) Based on what Angelos saw at the 1996 playoff game in question, he believes Maier to be “a heck of an outfielder?”

This might explain the lack of outfielders to come through the Orioles farm system because Maier dropped the ball in question.

Not everybody associated with the 1996 Orioles is amused by the possibility of Maier being drafted by the Orioles, nor have they gotten over being robbed of the game at Yankee Stadium. Former manager Davey Johnson (speaking of brainiac baseball decisions), still blames the play for his departure from the club in 1997, telling the Post, “It was a real big game, and we were going to win it. It changed a lot of things. It got me fired — not immediately, but it got me fired. I didn’t win (it all). I won a little, but not enough.”

Johnson still claims he was fired. The Orioles say he resigned. Whatever happened, happened on the day Johnson was named Manager of the Year after guiding the Orioles to the ’97 American League East crown and another appearance in the American League Championship Series.

The Oriole Way.

Pitcher Scott Erickson, who started that fateful game for the Orioles, and who is now making a comeback bid with the Yankees, isn’t in much of a forgiving mood either, telling the Post he hopes Maier makes it to the big leagues, “just so I can drill him — I’d like to get one shot at him.”

As I so often do when I am in a barking mood, I ran all of this past my friend Bill, who is also an Orioles fan.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” Bill said, obviously forgetting that before he and his wife had kids and all was right with the world, he would have been the first in line at the Voodoo Dollar Store for his Jeffrey Maier doll. “(Umpire) Rich Garcia is the one who blew it. If you’re going to blame anybody, blame him.”

I hate it when Bill tries to be fair and I hate it when he’s partially right, which is what he is in this instance. Garcia is to blame. As we recalled here a few weeks ago, Garcia was in perfect position to make the right call, but in feeling his own fertilizer run up his back that day in right field at Yankee Stadium, he weenied out and gave Derek Jeter the game-tying home run. That I will grant my friend Bill. Bring me the head of Richie Garcia!

“You can’t blame Jeffrey Maier,” Bill said.

That one I will never grant anybody.

“Bill,” I said, “what would Hubert (Bill’s dad) have done to you if you ran down to the rail and interfered with a ball still in play? Even, let’s say, if the ball were foul?”

Bill took about one second to respond, “He would have skinned me alive.”

It’s true. Bill would have been walking around town with nothing but toenails because his dad taught Bill and his brothers and sister right from wrong, and aside from a few bleeps on the radar Bill experienced with the nuns at St. Mary’s and with Mr. Frank at Washington Junior High School, those lessons were learned.

(Mr. Frank, by the way, was to the vice principal what the Mercedes Benz is to the automobile: the deal.)

What Bill has really lost sight of in his blissful life of marriage and fatherhood is what it means to carry around the inferiority complex of the Baltimore sports fan. Happiness apparently has ruined my friend Bill, but it hasn’t touched me.

I’m comfortable in my skin of misery when it comes to anything that has harmed my beloved Baltimore. In fact, I was likely at my most miserable in 1996 and 1997, the last time the Orioles were contenders (or even had a winning record). I knew it was too good to be true and I knew Davey Johnson would be run out of town at any moment because he was getting too much of the credit for the Orioles’ success.

Jeffrey Maier, however, came out of the blue and blindsided me. Nobody could have expected that and no good and decent Orioles fan should have to expect the indignity of seeing that punk in an Orioles uniform.

Which means by the end of the week, the all-time hits leader at Wesleyan University will likely be packed and headed for Bluefield, W.Va., for his first workout with the rest of the new Orioles draftees.

Mike Burke can be reached at mburke@times-news.com.

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