Firing shocks players, but some accept blame

May 24, 1991|By Kent Baker

Frank Robinson took the fall yesterday, but Baltimore Orioles players acknowledge there is plenty of blame to spread around.

Pitcher Jeff Ballard, the player representative, who informed much of the team by telephone about Robinson's firing as manager, said: "Sure, I think everyone has to take his fair share [of the blame]. We're the ones losing games."

The firing shocked some.

I'm extremely surprised," said relief ace Gregg Olson. "We haven't been playing well, but I just didn't think it would ever result in something like this."

Outfielder Mike Devereaux and catcher Chris Hoiles -- like Olson faced with their first major-league managerial change -- also sounded surprised by the move. Devereaux learned of it from a mechanic who was repairing his car.

But pitcher Dave Johnson took a different tack.

"I just think after everything that has happened, people were expecting it," said Johnson. "The simple fact is, people were expecting so much of this team, and then everything went sour.

"The pitching has been bad, the hitting has been bad. I think when Glenn [Davis] got hurt, it took a real big notch out of the morale of this ballclub."

"The team was centered around Cal [Ripken] and Glenn," said Devereaux. "When one of the major players go down, it's hard to replace him."

"You try not to think about it, because one man doesn't make a team," said Hoiles. "But when you lose someone of his stature, you know there's a big piece missing."

No one could find a reasonable explanation for the swan dive of a team that is last in the American League East.

First baseman Davis' disabling neck injury was cited. So was the recent spate of groin pulls and hamstring problems that has afflicted key members of the roster.

"We've got so many people hurting, and it's only May," said Hoiles. "It's pretty tough for any manager to fill all these roles. There are four starters that have to be substituted for.

But the players seemed relieved that someone from inside the organization -- Johnny Oates, the team's first-base coach since 1989 -- will replace Robinson.

"There probably won't be much of an adjustment," said Ballard. "Johnny Oates will let us know right away how he intends to handle things. He's been around for a few years, we know him and we got an idea of his philosophies when he took over for Frank for three days [last season]."

"I like this situation better than getting somebody new," said Johnson. "From all indications, I know Frank pulled for me, so this kind of hurts a little bit.

"But this way is better than getting someone who haven't seen us perform for the club."

"It won't be a major adjustment," said Devereaux. "John is very well respected throughout this organization. We know him very well."

Only Bob Milacki and Craig Worthington (Rochester, 1988) have played for Oates.

The players agreed that Robinson could not have done much more with the resources he had available, but that perhaps a change will be for the best.

"I don't think one thing can be pointed to," said Olson. "Glenn, the other injuries, the pitching, the hitting. The total package brought us to where we are. This is a new day now; let's turn over."

"What could he do?" asked Johnson. "There are only so many things a manager can affect. The whole key is we have to get healthy. I feel bad for Frank, but, on the other hand, we have to go on."

"You like to hope this will help the team relax," said Ballard. "It might take something like this to help us turn things around. Still, it has to come from the players."

"I guess they [the front office] felt we needed a shake-up, a change of scenery," said catcher Bob Melvin. "I guess they did what they thought was necessary. But it's still the same players -- for now. Who knows? Maybe they're thinking trades, too."

Medical update

Here's a list of the injuries that have contributed to the Orioles' slow start:

Ben McDonald: opened season on DL with sore elbow, missed two starts; now has tight elbow, available to pitch.

Glenn Davis: nerve injury in neck, out indefinitely.

Dave Johnson: sore groin muscle, 15-day DL.

Craig Worthington: strained hamstring, 15-day DL.

Mike Devereaux: slightly strained groin muscle, could return tonight.

Dwight Evans: slightly strained groin muscle, day-to-day.

Joe Orsulak: jammed wrist, available to play.

Mike Flanagan: tender elbow, available to pitch.

Mark Williamson: sore groin muscle, available to pitch.

Sam Horn: sore hamstring, available to play.

Bill Ripken: sore hamstring, scratched Wednesday night, day-to-day.

Brady Anderson: sore knee, available to play.

Randy Milligan: sprained ankle, has played on it since spring training.

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