Stable clubs don't blame manager when players don't produce


May 12, 1991|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Baltimore Orioles struggle and the switchboard lights up at WBAL. This is the natural order of things in a baseball town.

The cry goes up to fire the manager, but only because there is no other easy answer. Baseball, after all, is a game of mood swings, and the natives are restless.

Fire the manager? For what?

If Frank Robinson could make Dave Johnson's fastball move a little better and didn't, then fire the manager. If he could make Glenn Davis' shoulder a little stronger and didn't, then fire the manager. If he could make Randy Milligan raise his average 100 points and didn't, by all means, fire the manager.

But the problem with firing the manager is this: After you do, you still have the same team.

The reason that managers get fired is because general managers need to look as if they are doing something in a crisis. Roland Hemond always looks as if he's doing something, so firing the manager won't be necessary.

The thing that separates stable organizations from unstable ones is the ability to withstand a knee-jerk public reaction. The Orioles appear to have that kind of stability, though only time will tell.

"You just have to disregard all that talk," Hemond said. "They were after Jim Lefebvre's hide here in Seattle, and now look at them [the Mariners]. It's so uncalled for that you don't pay any attention to it."

Robinson was the Manager of the Year in 1989. He is the same manager now. The difference is in the expectations. From a personnel standpoint, the 1991 Orioles are a better team than the 1989 edition, but they have yet to develop the kind of positive chemistry that made that club so vibrant.

Is that the manager's fault? Possibly, but that positive chemistry develops over time and it feeds on itself. It's a chicken and egg thing.

The best thing for Orioles management to do now is weather the storm. The club will bounce back if it is, indeed, a legitimate division contender. If it isn't, then firing the manager would not accomplish anything. It seldom does.


The Detroit Tigers and their team of million-dollar rejects are near the top of the American League East standings, thanks to a couple of strange performances that prompted manager Sparky Anderson to label them "the goofiest team" he ever has seen.

Detroit beat the Texas Rangers on Sunday, even though Tigers hitters struck out 10 times while Tigers pitchers gave up 16 hits and didn't strike out anybody. The Tigers came back two days later to rally from a four-run deficit and defeat the Kansas City Royals, even though the heart of their lineup -- Lou Whitaker, Cecil Fielder, Rob Deer, Mickey Tettleton and Pete Incaviglia -- were a combined 0-for-15. To pick up the slack, the eighth and ninth hitters in the order combined with leadoff man Tony Phillips for seven hits.

Even Anderson knows it's early, so he hasn't compared the club to the '27 Yankees yet. (Give him time.)

But optimism is not in short supply in the Tigers clubhouse.

"I honestly see the possibility of a pennant for a number of reasons," reliever Mike Henneman said. "The offense. I think the starting pitching is good enough to get us into the innings where the bullpen can hold the lead.

"But the biggest thing is what happens inside this room [the Tigers clubhouse]. We've got a group of guys who like to have fun, joke around and kid each other. We truly believe this team can do something other than just show up at the park, be in a

ballgame and be competitive. I'll use the word gamers."

Shortstop Alan Trammell said the addition of Deer, Incaviglia and Tettleton -- three players who had fallen out of favor with other teams -- has had a tremendous impact, perhaps enough to carry the Tigers to a major divisional upset.

"I just have a good feeling about the way they go about it," Trammell said. "Somebody didn't want them. They've come here for a new life."


Texas Rangers pitching coach Tom House used to leave baseball traditionalists shaking their heads in disbelief over some of his unorthodox training methods, but 44-year-old phenom Nolan Ryan has helped him bridge his credibility gap.

"Without a doubt, it's because of him," House said. "Despite al the support I've had from [general manager Tom] Grieve and [manager Bobby] Valentine, it probably would have been a losing proposition for me without Nolan.

"When he put on a Rangers uniform, he already utilized everything I was basically teaching," House said, "and what was left out he quickly added to his workout regimen. Can there be a more profound endorsement in the game of baseball today?"



The Oakland Athletics gave Rickey Henderson a brand new Porsche after he broke baseball's all-time stolen base record, but don't expect him to be overly grateful. Henderson, it seems, would rather have had a Mercedes-Benz, but he accepted the gift, anyway.

3' "It's a nice summer car," he said.


Boston Red Sox ace Roger Clemens is pitching so well, he even got some kind words from an umpire after he recorded his sixth victory on Wednesday.

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