Roland Hemond is an excellent baseball man and an even better human being. That doesn't mean he should remain Orioles general manager for two more years.
The problem here is not with Hemond, spotty trade record anall. The problem is with the clogging of a front office that includes not one, but two GMs-in-waiting.
By giving Hemond, 61, a two-year extension through 1993, thOrioles are taking the unnecessary risk of losing Doug Melvin, one of the game's rising young executives.
Melvin, 38, has made no secret of his goal to become a GM, anchances are he'll receive an offer from another club -- expansion or otherwise -- before Hemond's contract expires.
That would leave Frank Robinson as the logical successor tHemond. Robinson, 55, might make an excellent GM by '93, but Melvin has been the club's farm director and more the past 3 1/2 years.
For a team that harps constantly about its future, this is aawfullystrange move. And if Melvin takes another job and becomes a huge success, it will be downright indefensible.
If stability is the Orioles' concern, they could have kickeHemond upstairs after this season and assigned him many of the same duties, particularly with regard to trades.
That way, they could have given Melvin -- or even Robinson -- thjob he wanted. The odd man out then could have sought work elsewhere, or continued as the No. 1 assistant.
Instead, the Orioles chose to stay the course that currently hathem in last place. The front office isn't solely to blame -- nearly every expert picked this team to contend. But why not look ahead?
Club president Larry Lucchino believes he answered thquestion, reasoning that Hemond can now plan for next year without concern for his job. Only the issue isn't that simple.
Hemond was Executive of the Year in 1989, and his acquisitioof Glenn Davis last winter again put the team in position to contend. But his record, to be sure, isn't blemish-free.
The problem is, an objective analysis of his tenure is virtuallimpossible. Hemond shouldn't be the scapegoat for trades motivated by financial concerns (Phil Bradley, Mickey Tettleton and, to an extent, Eddie Murray). Even on less weighty matters, he isn't the only one making decisions.
In any case, no one expects him to lead the Orioles into the 21scentury. Yet Lucchino doesn't see the matter as pressing. Maybe he's right -- Melvin has never interviewed for a vacant GM's position -- but he's clearly rolling the dice.
Montreal's David Dombrowski became a GM at 32, Minnesota'Andy MacPhail at 33, Oakland's Sandy Alderson at 35. No one knows if Melvin, two years shy of 40, is in their class. But surely other clubs can deduce he might be anxious to leave.
Lucchino acknowledged Melvin was a "very attractive guy, ndoubt. He's widely respected in baseball, not just by the Orioles." Melvin also said all the right things, but for all anyone knows, he spent the afternoon updating his resume.
"I feel confident about my future," he said. "These kinds of thingsort of take care of themselves. As long as I'm actively involved in the total baseball picture here, I feel good. I am actively involved at this time. But I do want to be a general manager.
"I don't think you can ever set a timetable. It's something thajust happens. It could happen next year.It could happen three years from now. It's hard to say when. You learn to live with the unpredictability of baseball after a while."
Oddly enough, the one who seemed the most unaffected waRobinson, who joined Melvin as an assistant GM on Monday. "What I came in here to do was learn this part of the baseball business," he said. "I don't think I'm going to learn it in two weeks or three weeks or six months.
"I'm looking at my long-range future. I didn't come in thinking I'be the general manager here or anywhere else next year. This gives me a chance to continue my education under the same person, gives me a chance to grow."
Melvin, in contrast, doesn't need more seasoning. The Oriolebrag about giving young players opportunities. But in the front office they've awarded a contract extension to an aging veteran, when they've got a hot prospect on the way.
Doug Melvin won't be traded.
He'll just leave.