Orioles, Oates sign new deal Jackson dismissed

Motton offered reassignment

October 08, 1991|By Kent Baker

Home plate was moved to Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the touching final-day ceremonies Sunday at Memorial Stadium.

Yesterday, Baltimore Orioles manager John Oates also hitched a ride on the downtown caravan.

The Orioles gave Oates the opportunity to start a winning tradition in their new home, signing him to a two-year contract that extends through 1993. No terms were disclosed, but he is believed to have signed for approximately $125,000 for next season.

"They [the front office] had given some indication about a month ago that they were happy with what I was doing and that I'd be back," said Oates, who guided the team to a 54-71 record, including 35 one-run losses, after replacing Frank Robinson on May 23.

"The two years was something that is good for me, that will give me peace of mind and provide some continuity for the players and fans. I was looking for some credibility. You can do some goofy things as a manager after you've been around five or six years and nobody questions you."

But it was a bittersweet day for Oates, who will join in a major organizational meeting that starts this morning.

General manager Roland Hemond also announced that pitching coach Al Jackson and first-base coach Curt Motton were dismissed, although Motton will be offered a different job in the organization.

"I was let go a couple times as a coach, and neither time was the manager available," said Oates, referring to how difficult it is to say goodbye. He talked to both Jackson and Motton after the celebration Sunday.

Jackson took the fall for a pitching staff that was last in the American League with a 4.59 ERA, despite Oates' feeling that "it wasn't all Al's fault. What we didn't do was a team effort.

"But we thought we needed someone different to work with them, to help them improve and grow. We had not done that the last couple of years, in my estimation."

Jackson, reached at his home near New York City, said: "It was bound to happen and wasn't any big surprise. I kind of felt this was coming after Frank was fired."

Robinson brought in Jackson and hitting coach Tom McCraw because of their teaching skills after the Orioles had committed to a youth movement four seasons ago.

McCraw said he was surprised that he, too, was not fired. "I really thought both of us would go, so I have mixed emotions. I didn't expect this," he said.

"Jack and I are like brothers, but we're also professionals. I know he's a good teacher, and he'll be talking with a lot of people about a new job."

Oates said McCraw "earned the chance to come back" because of the progress made by hitters Sam Horn, Mike Devereaux, Leo Gomez, Chito Martinez and Randy Milligan. "He had those guys working hard."

The Boston Red Sox dismissed Jackson as pitching coach after 1979, although the team won 96 games that year.

"I've been there before," Jackson said. "Johnny can bring his own people in if he desires. He has every right to do that. I had a good run there. I just wish I could have done something different, but I don't think I could have. Everything just snowballed."

Jackson's starting staff was in disarray from Opening Day. Ben McDonald was hurt, Bob Milacki was in Class AA Hagerstown and Dave Johnson, Jeff Ballard and Jeff Robinson were ineffective.

"I just wish I could have kept [Jose] Mesa going," said Jackson, referring to the team's most effective pitcher in April and May. "That is probably my biggest regret. I feel like I lost him after the first couple months."

Motton said: "I knew changes would be made and this was a possibility. They offered me some things that would keep me in the organization. But I haven't decided."

In addition to McCraw, longtime Orioles coaches Cal Ripken Sr. and Elrod Hendricks were retained. Oates said he wants to add three coaches and has begun the interview process.

"I've talked to Greg Biagini [manager of the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings] and Dick Bosman [Rochester pitching coach]," he said. "I've got a bunch of other people in mind to talk to."

One of his quests is for a coach who can improve the team's base-running. The Orioles were last in the league in stolen bases with 50.

"We need to experiment a great deal with our base-running before next season," said Oates. "We've got some speed we didn't utilize. In addition, we want to take advantage of our average-speed guys. We want to add a coach whose expertise is in this area."

One of the possibilities is Davey Lopes, a coach the Texas Rangers did not rehire for next year.

Oates, on other subjects:

* A possible trade for, or signing of, a free-agent veteran starting pitcher: "I don't want to put the front office in a hot spot or us in a bad trade position. We'll assess our strengths and weaknesses and go after the best available player to fit our needs."

* A leadoff man: "I can live with Mike Devereaux. But Brady Anderson was as confident as he's ever been the last month. If we could just get him up to a .350 on-base percentage . . . "

* The future: "I'm very excited about where the Baltimore Orioles are going. Look over the roster and see all the rookies who performed well. These kids grew up fast. I see a lot to look forward to next year."

* Hitting: "We may go back a little bit. We have to work on fundamentals and situational hitting. We lost a lot of one-run games and left a lot of people on base."

* Glenn Davis and Dwight Evans: "I'd like to have both men back. If their agents want to be reasonable in their demands, I'd be glad to write their names in the lineup any day."

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