Robinson's job isn't an issue, Hemond says

May 10, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

SEATTLE -- Roland Hemond is too far away to hear them, but he knows the voices are out there. And he knows what they're saying.

Take a team with high expectations and mix in a poor start and the result is as predictable as tomorrow's date -- the manager's job is in jeopardy.

"It's something I've gone through many times in my career," said Hemond. "Back in the early 1980s [with the Chicago White Sox] people were after me to get rid of Tony La Russa -- and here it is 10 years later and he's still managing in the big leagues and doing a great job."

The Orioles' general manager doesn't believe in votes of confidence, and he has been known to pull the rug out in a hurry. Remember Cal Ripken Sr.'s exit six games into the 1988 season?

But, even though he wouldn't directly address the topic, Hemond doesn't blame Robinson for the problems the Orioles have encountered in the first 25 games of the season. And he won't speculate on whether manager Frank Robinson's job could be on the line if the team doesn't drastically improve the fourth-worst record in baseball.

"I don't want to think along those lines," said Hemond. "I still think we'll get going.

"Our people are doing a good job -- they're just victimized by what has happened. Look at San Francisco. The Giants have been riding high, but now all of a sudden they're down. But that doesn't mean that Roger Craig all of a sudden hasn't managed well.

"We went into this season with some well-laid plans," said Hemond. "We went out and got Glenn Davis. Ben McDonald was going to start three of the first eight games.

"It's not the manager's fault that those things didn't work out," said Hemond. "Slumps and injuries are a part of the game, and you have to be able to wait them out."

Robinson has kept a low profile the last couple of days. After Wednesday's 9-3 loss in Oakland, he was asked what's wrong with the team.

"We aren't hitting and we aren't pitching," Robinson said. "Other than that, everything's fine."

When questioned about his job security last week, Robinson said: "It's something that's out of my hands, out of my control. If I worry about it, it will take away from what I should be concentrating on -- helping the ballclub get straightened out, get going."

4 And Hemond insists it will get straightened out.

"A week ago Mike Devereaux wasn't hitting anything; now he's on a tear," Hemond said. "Pretty soon there will be somebody else. That's the way those things usually happen. Right now Chris Hoiles is hitting the ball well, but he's hitting in bad luck.

"The other day in Oakland, Hoiles hit a ball that Dave Henderson had a lot of trouble with -- and ended up making a diving catch. And they make a great play on Bob Melvin.

"I had runs marked down on my score sheet on both of those balls," said Hemond. "That's the difference in going good or going bad. When you're going good, they don't make those plays. I know it often sounds like you're over-rationalizing, but there's nothing wrong that a good streak won't cure.

"Look at Seattle," he said of the Orioles' opponent this weekend. "They started out by losing six in a row, then they won eight in a row. Now they're on another [five-game winning] streak and they're only three games out of first place.

"If we can be fortunate enough to put together an eight-game winning streak, we'll be right back in it," said Hemond. "That's the way you have to look at it."

However, talking about a streak and putting one together are quite different, something that Hemond has also learned during his career. In the last few games, the Orioles have shown signs of emerging from their season-long hitting slump, even though there has not been an abundance of runs.

But the Orioles have been at or near the bottom of the league in both hitting and pitching during the first month of the season.

For one reason or another they have yet to play a game with a full complement of the best 25 players at their disposal. The pitching is nowhere near where it was expected to be -- and probably won't be until Bob Milacki is able to work his way into the No. 3 spot in the rotation as planned.

In addition, because of a collection of woeful batting averages, Robinson has been fidgeting with what had been considered a set lineup. The only continuity has been the club's inconsistency.

The picture is hardly a work of art. In fact, at the moment it looks more like a puzzle with several key pieces missing.

This is a particularly crucial part of the schedule for the Orioles. They have a stretch from mid-May to mid-June where they will play 22 of 35 games at home. But in order for those games to matter, the Orioles have to make immediate inroads on the .500 mark.

If they don't, the question of Robinson's job security is certain to get priority billing.

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