MINNEAPOLIS -- Two months ago Tom McCraw seemed on the verge of getting fired as Orioles hitting coach. Today he will be named to the same position with the New York Mets.
McCraw last night confirmed that he will be joining new manager Jeff Torborg's staff in New York. His departure comes exactly two weeks after the Orioles retained him for 1992.
The club already was planning to hire three new coaches, but general manager Roland Hemond said last night the number might now increase to four.
Vacancies exist for pitching, hitting and first-base coaches, and manager John Oates has repeatedly stated his desire to add a baserunning instructor as well.
Elrod Hendricks (bullpen) and Cal Ripken Sr. (third base) are the only remaining coaches. Hemond said the staff probably will not be completed until after the World Series.
"We're still in the process," Hemond said. "It doesn't change, other than the fact we don't have Tom McCraw. We have to re-analyze the situation. We have alternate plans."
Rochester manager Greg Biagini and pitching coach Dick Bosman now seem certain of joining the staff. Recently fired Texas coach Davey Lopes also is a leading candidate.
McCraw, 50, was the Mets' roving minor-league batting instructor from 1986-88. In addition, he worked one season under Torborg in Cleveland in 1979.
"I've worked with Jeff, I know Jeff, I have a lot of respect for Jeff," McCraw said from Baltimore last night. "That's a plus.
"I know the Mets' players too. I probably had 75-80 percent of them at one time or another. That's comfortable. It's a first-class organization. They want to win."
The departure of McCraw means the club now has lost one black manager and three black coaches since dismissing Robinson as manager on May 23.
Robinson became assistant general manager, but pitching coach Al Jackson was fired and first-base coach Curt Motton was reassigned the day after the season ended.
Hemond said the club started interviewing minority candidates for its coaching positions even before learning it was losing McCraw.
"It's not a case of adjusting to it because of Tom," Hemond said. "Some [minority candidates] were already consideration."
Hemond said he granted New York permission to talk with McCraw last week, returning the courtesy extended by the Mets when the Orioles sought to hire McCraw in November 1988.
McCraw met with Torborg in New York last Thursday. "It was not a hard call," McCraw said. "I was surprised by the opportunity. But we just talked, and things progressed."
Besides the opportunity to reunite with Torborg and hitters like Gregg Jefferies, the Mets offered "a lot" more money, McCraw said. He declined to reveal his salary under either contract.
Two weeks ago, McCraw said he was "surprised" to be rehired by the Orioles, especially after his good friend Jackson was dismissed. Both, of course, had close ties to Robinson.
But the Orioles finished third in the majors with 170 homers, and McCraw aided the progress of young hitters such as Leo Gomez and Chris Hoiles, as well as veterans Randy Milligan, Mike Devereaux and Sam Horn.
"He did an outstanding job for us," Oates said. "That's the reason I'd like to have him back. But if he feels something is better for him, we'll just wish him well and go in a different direction."
In other news, lefthanded pitcher Jeff Ballard has officially filed 00
for free agency.