Having had four days to swallow the hurt and assess his options, Frank Robinson is expected to tell the Orioles today that he will accept a position in the front office.
Following a lengthy meeting with club president Larry Lucchino and general manager Roland Hemond, Robinson met informally with the media yesterday afternoon. After making a brief statement, the former manager participated in a one- hour question-and-answer session with members of the media.
He expressed regret only that he was unable to turn over a better, and healthier, team to his successor -- and that he was unable to continue as manager through next season, the first in the new park. Despite the fact there were some obvious differences of opinion in recent weeks, Robinson did not act or sound like someone who was preparing to leave the organization.
He emphasized that his relationship with Hemond has not changed and that he would not have a problem working in a front office that presided over his dismissal as manager. He denied suggestions that he had become aloof, reiterated his belief that the Orioles, as currently constituted, are much better than their record shows, that the youth movement had not been abandoned and that he agreed with personnel changes that had given the club a new look this year.
Robinson's return to the front office (he was there briefly in 1988) has been considered automatic because of his unique "rollover" contract. But he indicated he wanted some of the language in the contract changed. "Things change," he said. "I wouldn't expect to hold them to things they agreed to 3 1/2 years ago, and I don't want to be held to the entire language of the contract."
After meeting with Lucchino and Hemond, however, Robinson seemed to be optimistic. "It was a good discussion," he said. "They had some good ideas on their side and said some encouraging things. And I mentioned some ideas I had. I liked a lot of things that were said, as opposed to the other day [Thursday, when he was relieved of managerial duties]."
But Robinson stopped short of saying he would accept the position. "I'm going to crawl back in my hole and watch TV," he said. "I'll have nothing to say until tomorrow [today]. I've got to find my family. I hope she [wife Barbara] is working."
Actually, the security of Robinson's contract works against his bargaining position. The agreement calls for his return to the front office at the discretion of either himself or the club, and outlines some, but not all, specific duties.
If he should decline the front-office position without some kind of buyout arrangement, the club would undoubtedly be relieved of some of its financial responsibility. At this stage of his career, Robinson, 55, seems intent on concentrating on the front office, with the possibility of eventually becoming a general manager.
"I do not have any plans to manage again," Robinson said in response to one question yesterday.
He admitted it was difficult for him to move out of the manager's office, but he still thought the Orioles were on course. "When I become attached, when I get my teeth into something, I hate to let go," he said.
He reaffirmed his desire was to manage the Orioles through the first season in the new stadium and then step aside. Now that the decision has been made for him, Robinson has to decide about his future.
The Orioles' front office already is crowded with general manager Roland Hemond and Doug Melvin, the director of player personnel, but Robinson said that didn't bother him. "I would have no qualms about going back up there," he said. "I've had a good relationship with everybody up there and we've worked closely on a lot of things.
"But if I take the position, it will be very clear what Frank Robinson wants to do -- be in a position, either here or somewhere else, to get the knowledge and the experience to fill a general manager's job."
That desire along with the satisfaction of seeing the Orioles make a complete transition, plus his obvious interest in the new stadium, figure to be enough to persuade Robinson to remain.