Pondering his fate

September 20, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

CLEVELAND — John Oates admits he would be 'the most disappointed person in the world' if the Orioles do not ask him back as manager next season.

CLEVELAND -- Dealing with one-run losses and the frustration of not winning as often as he expected are the two scars that stand out to John Oates after 109 games as manager of the Orioles.

He believes with some slight tinkering those scars can be treated and realizes their elimination is the key to his future success. And, make no mistake about it, Oates expects the same thing everybody else does -- that his immediate future involves managing the Orioles again in 1992.

"I don't take anything for granted, but yes, I expect to be back," Oates said during a candid self-appraisal/evaluation on the off-day before the weekend series here against the Indians. "I really feel positive that the club will offer me the chance to come back and I have confidence in myself.

"If I'm not asked back, I would be the most disappointed person in the world. I'd be devastated."

He says it doesn't bother him that the Orioles apparently have chosen to wait until the end of the season to announce their decision. "I'm not losing any sleep over it," he said. "I think [team president] Larry Lucchino and [general manager] Roland Hemond are doing what is best for me and the Baltimore Orioles.

"They've been in this situation before and I trust their professional judgment. If it was something I was really worried about, I'd go and ask them."

Neither Lucchino nor Hemond make any attempt to hide the fact they think Oates has done a good job.

"He's done a fine job," Lucchino said. "He's a great believer in preparation and communication. He handles players well -- let's them know their roles."

Hemond gives Oates equally high grades. "John is not a selfish person," said Hemond. "He approaches his job to give it his best every day and at the end of the day he's satisfied knowing he did his best. You have to be able to satisfy yourself, that's the most important thing, and when you do, good things usually happen."

The main reason for the delay in announcing plans for next year is to make it easier on Oates as he decides whether to keep the coaching staff intact. "We don't want to do anything to take the focus away from what we're trying to do -- which is win as many games as possible," said Lucchino.

That much said, Oates admitted the job has held its share of surprises. "The biggest difference [between managing in the major leagues and the minor leagues] is the amount of time required off the field," he said. "It seems like it's a 24-hour job. There are so many more things to be taken care of -- meetings with the front office, the media, appearances, ticket requests -- just about every hour is devoted to baseball.

"When I'm at the park I'm in my own surroundings, and I love it. I love what I'm doing. Managing is a challenge. It's a lot of fun, and I hope I can last a long time. But I don't know if I could go [at the pace] 10 years the way I have the last four months. I keep telling myself the newness has a lot to do with it."

The newness, however, has nothing to do with dealing with losses -- especially one-run losses. "The frustrating part is that I can't say right now this is a team capable of winning 95 games," said Oates, "but I know we have the talent to win more than we have.

"The one-run losses? Sure, they eat at me because if we get beat 14-4 I might make 20 moves and they won't mean a thing. If we get beat 3-2, I'm going to think about what I could have done differently to help get another run, or prevent a run, that would at least let us play another inning."

With a 15-30 record, the Orioles have more one-run losses and the worst percentage in the American League. Only Montreal (27-35) has lost more by the slimmest of margins, but the Expos' winning percentage in those games is better.

"I had this dream that if I ever got a job like this it would be a situation where I'd walk in and we'd win about 20 of the first 23," said Oates.

"It's disappointing that we haven't won more. But the most exciting thing to me is that we're a better team now than we were last week and next week we'll be a better team than we are today.

"I told Roland [yesterday] that we're not that far away. I like the offensive club we're putting on the field. We're going to score some runs. And I think it's easier to take away one, rather than add one, to turn around those one-run losses.

"I remember a feisty little guy who managed here [Earl Weaver] saying that the team that wins the most one-run games is the team that will win the championship," said Oates. "And I believe that.

"The best team in baseball is going to lose 50 games and the worst team is going to win 50 games regardless of what happens. The rest are those one- and two-run games [of which the Orioles have played 67 thus far, winning 26] -- that's what we have to turn around.

"If we can maybe tinker around a little bit with our pitching staff, I think it can make a difference in those games."

After the equivalent of two-thirds of a season, Oates was asked to evaluate the rookie season of John Oates, the manager.

"He's made some mistakes," said Oates after carefully considering the question. "He's learned from them. He's going to get better.

"And, with the opportunity, he's going to be a pretty good major-league manager who's going to make some more mistakes and learn from them.

"I don't think I've done anything to excite the baseball world. But I don't think I've done anything to justify not getting another chance -- at least for one more year."

John Oates will get another chance, and this time he'll be better prepared. For one thing, he won't walk in thinking a 20-3 start is a given. He knows better now. He learned it the hard way.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.