Orioles should keep Oates' fire burning with new contract

Bill Tanton ...C

August 13, 1991|By Bill Tanton

John Oates showed us something last night.

The temper tantrum he threw in the fourth inning -- the one that got him thrown out of the game -- was a major-league tantrum, the first we have seen from the rookie Orioles manager.

Oates threw his cap. He pounded his fists. He screamed. After he was ejected, he came back out on the field, still capless, to argue some more.

His performance would have been a credit even to a Hall of Fame tantrum thrower like Earl Weaver.

My feeling is that the gentlemanly Oates has been a little too docile for a manager who had lost nine of his previous 10 games.

I think club president Larry Lucchino and GM Roland Hemond should call Oates in today and reward him with a new contract.

For the good of the club, to make it clear who is in charge and is going to be again next year, that should have been done before this. So do it now. The man arrived last night.

* Quint Kessenich, the former All-America goalie who is one of the staffers at coach Tony Seaman's lacrosse camp at Johns Hopkins this week, was wearing a T-shirt yesterday with a date emblazoned across the chest:

"June 9, 1985."

The significance of the date?

"It's the last time the Orioles won a home game," he snapped.

That's how bad the Orioles' home record had become. It's so bad lacrosse players are making fun of it. One of these nights Carson or Letterman will get into it.

Kessenich's T-shirt, by the way, is a souvenir from a party he attended on that date six years ago when he was finishing his junior year of high school at Lynbrook, Long Island.

Before last night, the Orioles had lost 10 of their last 11 home games. They were 1-7 on this home stand.

In fact, they are still on a pace to lose 56 home games, which would set an American League record. The AL record of 55 was set by Toronto in 1977 and Kansas City in 1964.

Even in 1988, the year the Orioles lost a club-record 107 games, they lost only 46 at home. Now they're in a position to beat that by 10.

Even on the road the Orioles are not winning this year. They're 26-30 for a percentage of .464. At home, they're playing .327 ball -- 137 points lower.

Oates is asked every day why the club is so horrendous at home, and every day he answers: "I have no idea." Neither has anyone else.

As a rule, sports teams play worse on the road. The reasons are obvious -- less familiarity with the stadium or arena, living in hotels, no fan support, etc. There are also reasons not so obvious.

Frank Cashen, the general manager of the New York Mets, was explaining recently why Eastern ballclubs do so poorly on the West Coast, especially on their second trip to the coast each summer.

"Players take their wives and children on that trip," Cashen said. "They go to Disneyland and see all the sights. That can take the players' minds off baseball."

Then why take the wives and kids along?

"We don't," he said. "The players fly their own families out there and pay their way. Our manager [Bud Harrelson] took his wife and four kids on our last trip to the Coast."

The Mets were 2-7 on that trip.

* Lacrosse camps have become enormously popular with youngsters and good income producers for the coaches.

Seaman's camp at Hopkins this week is host to 230 kids through high school age. They are here from California, Florida, Colorado, Texas and Arizona, living in the Hopkins dormitories. Fifteen of them have come from Japan.

The most lucrative camp in the country is conducted by coach Tom Hayes at Rutgers. He puts 900 kids through it each summer and is said to earn $70,000. That's 70 big ones for himself after he has paid Rutgers for the campers' living expenses.

Why do so many parents pay to send their youngsters to these camps? One incentive is exposure, not only to the college coach and the school holding the camp, but to those who visit and staff them. For instance, a visitor to Seaman's camp this week was coach Dave Klarmann, whose North Carolina team won the NCAA championship this year. The few hundred dollars spent for a camp now is a great investment if it pays off in a college scholarship down the road.

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