If Melvin is next in O's GM line, where's Robinson?

KEN ROSENTHAL

October 28, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Peter Angelos wants to make Frank Robinson happy, but it might be more difficult than he imagines. The way the Orioles' new owner is talking, Doug Melvin is the general manager-in-waiting.

Translation: Robinson has no future.

This mess isn't of Angelos' creation, but something is wrong if he can't satisfy Robinson, a Hall of Famer, Orioles legend and qualified minority candidate in a sport that just got around to naming its first black general manager.

Let's see, a black manager just won his second straight World Series, and another was just named National League Manager of the Year. The sport is surviving with four black managers. It could handle two black GMs.

The problem is, Angelos blew that chance by giving GM Roland Hemond a two-year contract. As much as Angelos wants to find a meaningful job for Robinson, how can it happen if he's committing to Melvin?

"I saw him that one [World Series] game where he [Robinson] was interviewed [on TV]," Angelos said yesterday. "He insisted very adamantly that he wanted to be a general manager. I'm not saying he doesn't qualify for that as far as the Orioles are concerned.

"But, from a distance, the way the succession is set up, it appears Doug Melvin is in line, assuming you don't go outside of the organization. When you get up close, you realize you can't prevent Frank from succeeding to any role in the organization.

"Where does that put Frank? Doug's only 40 years old. It's sort of an awkward situation we've inherited. Frank feels that's his ultimate goal. I don't have any method or means of making a distinction in Melvin vs. Robinson. I really don't know."

Yet, if it "appears" to Angelos that Melvin is next in line, he already has an opinion -- if for no other reason than Melvin ascended to his assistant GM's position, while Robinson received the job as part of a contractual obligation after he was fired as manager.

Indeed, Angelos' intention to create the position of farm director appears one more indication of his plans for Melvin. The minor-league system is Melvin's domain. He can work more closely with Hemond if another executive assumes his responsibilities.

Of course, Angelos has yet even to meet with Robinson. He seemed equally uncertain about the futures of Hemond and manager Johnny Oates before speaking with them, and wound up giving both two-year deals.

"Hell, no, I don't want to lose him -- this guy's a legend," Angelos said of Robinson. "There has to be a position in this organization for Frank Robinson. What it is, I'm not clear."

Robinson, 58, declined to comment yesterday, saying he must first hear from Angelos before assessing his status. It is believed he wants a more sharply defined role that would enhance his chances of becoming a GM -- if not with the Orioles, then some other club.

But how long can he wait? And where else can he go? The questions are more relevant now that Hemond is secure as GM. A better solution might have been to promote Hemond to a cushy executive position -- clearing the job for Robinson, at the risk of losing Melvin.

Would Melvin have left? Club sources insist yes, but Angelos could have given him a substantial raise and the assurance that he was still the future GM. Only four GMs in baseball are younger than Melvin. There don't appear to be any GM openings. Melvin could have waited.

The odd part is, Angelos might face the same scenario again if Larry Lucchino resigns rather than sink lower on the management depth chart. Hemond then could head the baseball operation, but if Angelos sees Melvin as the next GM, what difference would it make for Robinson?

In concept, there's nothing wrong with two assistant GMs. But yesterday, Angelos said: "I don't think it's viable -- not when you have the clear-cut desire of both to succeed to the one position. It puts us in a position to choose between the two -- elevate one, disappoint the other."

Angelos didn't rule out Robinson's remaining assistant GM, but Melvin would better fit that description after the club hires a farm director. What does that leave for Robinson, special assistant to the president? That was his title under Edward Bennett Williams. It got him nowhere.

"When you talk about Frank Robinson, you shouldn't just be handing out a title that has no real meaning," Angelos said. "This is not the kind of guy you make a figurehead. There's too much substance there for it to be wasted."

Fair enough.

Don't waste it.

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