The dismissal of Frank Robinson probably won't go down as one of the Baltimore Orioles' finer moments, but give the club credit for not making the worst of a bad situation by hopping right back on the managerial merry-go-round.
This was not the time to recycle a Don Zimmer or a Dick Williams, if such a time ever exists.
The Orioles managed to retain some organizational continuity with the appointment of John Oates, who proved himself a capable manager in the minor leagues and also has paid his dues as a major-league coach. He was an excellent choice, though there may not be a man alive who could be expected to win consistently under the conditions that exist in the Orioles clubhouse.
Robinson was the first to point out that Oates cannot be expected to work miracles. But Oates can be expected to work well within the organizational framework that is in place, which will promote stability.
The Orioles need to avoid the appearance that they are starting over. They have been rebuilding since the mid-1980s, so a fresh start is the last thing they need. Oates helped develop this club when he was managing the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings in 1988. Now, it's up to him to re-instill confidence in what remains of the Orioles youth movement.
It will not be easy. He said so himself. But he is the man for the job. The question is whether he will get enough time -- and enough front-office support -- to prove it.
It Can be Done Dept.: The Seattle Mariners are proving that it is possible to stay in contention despite a rash of injuries and a penchant for non-productivity. They are right in the thick of the AL West race, though key pitchers Scott Bankhead, Erik Hanson and Mike Schooler have been on the disabled list and three players with 100 or more at-bats are hitting .205 or below.
How have they done it? By getting an occasional contribution from each player on the roster. Eleven different players have had game-winning hits, four relievers have at least one victory and four have recorded saves.
The Houston Astros are tentatively scheduled to make a record game road trip next year while the Astrodome plays host to the Republican National Convention. The trip, which will start July 26 and end Aug. 23, will take them to Atlanta (three games), Cincinnati (four), Los Angeles (three), San Diego (three), San Francisco (three), Chicago (four), St. Louis (three) and Philadelphia (three).
The club had hoped to play some home games at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, but the Major League Players Association nixed that. Instead, the Astros will travel 9,231 miles in 28 days while the Republicans rubber-stamp George Bush as their 1992 presidential candidate.
"If you're trying to field a contending team, playing a 26-game trip is tough," Astros player representative Jim Deshaies said. "I've seen teams fall apart on a two-week trip. Who knows what will happen when you go out for 26 games? But it's certainly better than playing the games at a neutral site."
Who knows, indeed. The longest road trip on record was a 23-game swing made by the 1916 New York Giants. They won the first 17 games of that trip.
A tale of two pitchers: It appears that Fernandomania still is alive Southern California. When Fernando Valenzuela pitched in a minor-league game for the California Angels' Class A club in Palm Springs last week, it was standing-room-only at tiny Angels Stadium.
The game drew 5,188, many of whom had to sit in a marked-off area in the outfield. It also drew 135 members of the media. By comparison, the game the night before drew 604 fans and three reporters.
Valenzuela isn't the only big-name pitcher working his way back in the minor leagues. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser has made three minor-league appearances (16 innings, one run) and is expected back in the major-league rotation this week.
The Dodgers just have to decide whom to replace in the rotation. It figures to be highly paid newcomer Kevin Gross, whose 5.93 ERA is the second highest in the league (behind Deshaies') among pitchers who have made at least six starts.
Everyone has heard the official explanations, but here's a top 10 list of other reasons Robinson was fired as Orioles manager:
No. 10: Should have communicated better with players. Apparently, many thought he wanted them to give up five runs in the first inning.
No. 9: Did not play Joe Orsulak enough to suit local media.
No. 8: Needed more time to devote to stadium construction an scouting.
No. 7: Had developed annoying habit of telling the truth.
No. 6: Somebody had to take the blame, and he just happene to be at the stadium Thursday.
No. 5: Team's poor performance during royal visit may have cos Eli Jacobs knighthood.
No. 4: Made just too damn much money.
No. 3: Failed to brief players on proper groin care.
No. 2: Couldn't hit for them. Couldn't pitch for them.
No. 1: His inability to diagnose rare nerve disorder forced club t spend thousands on doctors for Glenn Davis.