O's come away refreshed from marathon chat

April 28, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- In the aftermath of Monday night's two-hour team meeting, the Orioles continued to sort through the questions that have dogged them since Opening Day.

The club entered last night's game farther out of first place -- 7 1/2 games -- than it was at any point during the 1992 season, though it appears to be a deeper, more talented team than it was a year ago.

"I can't put my finger on it," first baseman Glenn Davis said. "There is a variety of things that have happened. We just haven't been playing good baseball and there isn't one thing you can put your finger on. It encompasses the whole game."

Nevertheless, each player apparently tried to capsulize the situation during the marathon meeting. Manager Johnny Oates, who had stomped through the clubhouse 13 days earlier in Texas, spoke softly and let the players do some of the talking this time. He also met privately with some of them.

Oates declined to say anything about what went on at the meeting, but several players indicated it was a productive session in which everyone had a chance to express himself.

"I think it was a very positive meeting," center fielder Mike Devereaux said. "I think everybody was happy about it. It was very calm. There was no screaming. It was just something that we needed. We know what the problem is, it's a matter of getting to the solutions."

The areas of concern have not changed. The Orioles continue to make mental errors, as they did at a couple of junctures during the course of the 7-0 loss that prompted the meeting. They also have made some costly physical mistakes, including the first-inning error by Harold Reynolds that contributed to another frustrating start for left-hander Fernando Valenzuela.

"I'm not sure what we have to do," left fielder Brady Anderson said. "I'd be making stuff up if I told you something. It's just frustrating because we're not playing well and things are not going well. We were expected to do well, but no matter how good you're supposed to be, you still have to go out and do it."

Perhaps the most perplexing thing to the players is the fact that the club is not substantially different from the one that played so well throughout the 1992 season. The Orioles made some changes, adding Reynolds and Harold Baines to the starting lineup, but did not lose any players who were big statistical con

tributors to last year's club.

They did lose some personalities -- a laid-back Randy Milligan, a fiery Bill Ripken and hard-nosed Joe Orsulak -- but there was general agreement that the 1993 Orioles took a step forward during last winter. Now, there is room to wonder, though it is far too early to make a proper evaluation.

"I don't think that we have much better talent than anybody else," Anderson said, "but we do have a club that can compete for a pennant if we play right . . . and you're seeing what will happen if we don't."

Nothing is as it seems this season. The Orioles were expected to contend and they are at the bottom of the heap in the American League East. The Detroit Tigers and California Angels were picked to finish last in their respective divisions, but both are playing far above expectations.

"Look at the Tigers," Davis said. "In spring training, they couldn't do anything right. They were complaining about needing this and needing that or they were going to get annihilated. Look at them now."

Of course, the Tigers and the Angels are not playing under the weight of great expectations. The Orioles were all fired up to make a run at the division title and now they must ponder the possibility that they are not as good as advertised.

"When you start losing, and it looks like nothing is going to go right, you start to pull apart," Davis said. "That's just normal. People start going in different directions. I think we need to pull together a little more."

There were probably 25 different opinions expressed during the course of the meeting, but the one expressed by catcher Chris Hoiles probably was shared by all.

"We don't want to let things slip too far," Hoiles said. "We don't want to bury ourselves in April to the point where we can't get out of the hole."

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