If the best way to judge a manager is to see how he handles adversity, John Oates can only hope the gods of baseball have seen enough.
"I hope the results of the first four games are not indicative of the rest of my career," Oates said after the Orioles' 3-2 loss to Cleveland last night. "If they are, then it will be my short career."
Oates has been managing the Orioles for four games. The fact they've all been losses, the last three by one run, has made it a frustrating experience.
"I can't even put a scale on it [the frustration]," said Oates, who hasn't eaten anything but snacks since he got the job five days vTC ago. "I look at the walls and wonder what I could do different.
"I don't doubt myself. I think I can run a game and I feel like I can communicate with players, but the fact that we've had three straight one-run losses . . . it is frustrating."
Oates says he has seen some encouraging signs, primarily from the starting pitchers, in his four games. He says when the hitting starts "it will keep coming."
But he also knows the Orioles haven't come close to getting the job done this year, and that some adjustments are necessary. He is on record as favoring an 11th pitcher, and will have a new face by tonight if at all possible.
Still, the four successive losses are haunting him. "I have no desire to eat," he said. "All I can think about is baseball.
"Before you guys came in here I was starting to make out a lineup for tomorrow. I'm anxious to go right back out there.
"Like I said, I can't put a scale on it, but it is frustrating. If this had happened after [managing] a couple of months I don't think it would affect me like this because I tend to stay on an even keel.
"I feel confident with the way I've run the games, but I've never experienced this feeling of what can I do to make it different," said Oates. "Imagine what this would be like if I was coaching in the NFL -- this [feeling] would last four weeks."
For Oates, the top priority is the same as it was for his predecessor, Frank Robinson. "When Frank was here, the main thing was to get the starting pitching straightened out," said Oates. "That's still the No. 1 priority and we've seen some things in the last few days that are encouraging. But the bottom line is winning, and we haven't done that."
With Mark Williamson having pitched four very effective innings last night, Oates indicated he would push for another pitcher immediately. "I'd like to have another righthander here tomorrow," he said last night.
"This team [Cleveland] is predominantly righthanded, then we go to Boston, so a righthander would probably help us the most right now," said Oates, who indicated Todd Frohwirth or Francisco dela Rosa would be best suited for the Orioles' immediate need.
On a long-range scale, Oates addressed some subtle changes that already are in the works. "Basically, I want to get to a set lineup," he said. "When we get everybody healthy I want to get the everyday players out there every day.
"Worthy [third baseman Craig Worthington] will be back in about a week and Leo Gomez is swinging the bat good again at Rochester -- that's a decision we're going to have to face. Brady [Anderson] has been playing fairly regularly the last couple of weeks and I think a decision there has to be made soon.
"My personal opinion is that there's no need to send David Segui back to Triple A," said Oates. "That doesn't mean he won't go back -- but I don't think that's necessary now. I don't see any
reason why he can't stay right here. He's gone back and forth enough."
Oates feels like he can get Segui enough at-bats as an outfielder, first baseman and designated hitter to qualify as a regular. With Mike Devereaux a fixture in centerfield, Joe Orsulak returned to regular status and Dwight Evans splitting time between rightfield and designated hitter, that would appear to put the squeeze on Sam Horn.
"We'll just have to see how it goes," said Oates. "Sam has put some numbers on the board in relatively few at-bats. But we're not hitting many two or three-run homers, so we may have to go in a different direction and try more guys who put the ball in play."
For now, Oates would just like to find any kind of formula for victory. "They [the players] all know I haven't won one as a manager," he said. "They probably want it as much as I do.
"All we need are a few hits at the right time, and they haven't come yet. But they will -- and when it starts, it's going to keep on coming."
Spoken like a frustrated optimist.