As surprises go, the announcement that Orioles manager Frank Robinson will return with his entire coaching staff ranked right up there with death and taxes.
There was never any doubt that Robinson would postpone his move to the front office for at least one more year, and two weeks ago he said of his coaches, "If I'm back, they're back."
So at least this much is known about 1991: Johnny Oates (first base), Cal Ripken Sr. (third), Tom McCraw (hitting), Al Jackson (pitching), Elrod Hendricks (bullpen) and Curt Motton (outfield) will again be in Orioles uniforms.
The only way that will change is if one of them is offered a managing position, but that is not likely. Oates is widely regarded as managerial material. However, few changes are expected this winter.
Robinson, 55, said last year that he wanted to continue in his present position "until the job was done." Yesterday he restated his desire to manage the first year at the Orioles' new downtown stadium in 1992.
"It's something I'd like to do, sure," Robinson said. "I'd like to be part of this ballclub. I'd like to be manager when the new stadium opens. How long after that, I don't know."
Robinson has a rollover contract that must be renewed each year at both his option and the club's. He is guaranteed a front-office job when he decides to step down as manager. Oates is viewed as his likely successor.