The tale is as old as baseball itself.
The manager fills out the lineup card and sends the players onto the field. The players play the game, make the pitches, get the outs, score the runs, but the manager is the guy whose job is on the line.
The latest chapter in this never-ending story played out yesterday when the Orioles reassigned Frank Robinson out of the dugout and into the front office.
And his players and coaches agreed there was little Robinson could do to change the script.
"Frank couldn't play for us, just like John Wathan couldn't play for Kansas City," said pitcher Dave Johnson.
"When things are going the way they've been going, things like this always happen," said pitcher Jeff Ballard. "It's a cut-throat business in that way, and there's been an intense amount of pressure on all of us."
"Sometimes, a change can infuse new life," said batting coach Tom McCraw, who had been criticized for the team's offensive performance. "I feel from the offensive end that we had worked hard. But we haven't hit the way I think we're capable of hitting."
A change had been rumored for the last week, but the timing of the firing of Robinson -- who joined Kansas City's Wathan, Don Zimmer of the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia's Nick Leyva on the managerial sidelines this season -- still took some players by surprise.
"The only thing it brings right now is a change," said catcher Bob Melvin.
"It's just a different person doing things," Johnson said. "Sometimes, that just kicks the players in the butt. A new guy may come in and make some changes. It could have been the same changes that Frank made, but with a different person making them."
Robinson, the major leagues' first black manager, was ousted from his third post. He managed three seasons in Cleveland (1975-77) and four in San Francisco (1981-84).
He had acquired a reputation, particularly with the Giants, as being uncommunicative and demanding with players whose talent levels did not approach his own Hall of Fame status.
"I think that's always been the knock on Frank from his days in Cleveland and with the Giants," Ballard said. "But he's probably mellowed. Frank had learned a lot more about managing since then. He'd changed a lot. It would have been nice to see Frank have as good a career as a manager as he did as a player."
"He was trying to get things going," Melvin said. "It's tough to know what your role is when things were going the way they
were. He always said his door was open and it always was for me."
"I can't say how he treated other players," Johnson said. "All I know is that Frank's always been up front with me. Any problems I had with Frank were few and far between. He's been honest with me.
"I've had players come up to me, not knowing that I'd talked to Frank, and said 'If you ever have any problems, go talk to Frank.' That's been my experience."
Some of the current Orioles played for Oates when he was manager at Triple A Rochester in 1988. Ballard, who pitched for ** him there, gave him a ringing endorsement, calling him "unique" and saying Oates has "an intense desire to win."
"Johnny's very up front about what your role is with the club," Ballard said. "He lets everyone know what they'll be doing and he prepares each player for each game. He's a little more outwardly emotional than Frank. Frank's not outwardly emotional. He takes the approach that you've got a job to do, so go out and do it."
"Everybody likes Oatesie, and if management thinks that this will get something going, we'll see," Melvin said. "Hopefully it will get us going."
"Johnny Oates has been around for a long time," Johnson said. "He's managed on the minor-league level. Sometimes, there are more player changes on that level and that can make it tougher to manage. We know that Johnny Oates is a winner."