Angelos says if O's start slowly, Oates won't be out quickly

March 27, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Orioles principal owner Peter Angelos said all the right things yesterday to promote the image of a supportive, involved, yet non-interfering boss.

In summary, Angelos said: Manager Johnny Oates' job security does not hinge on a quick start; he and co-investors will not usurp general manager Roland Hemond's authority on player personnel matters; he realizes he is a baseball fan first, a baseball man second.

On the same day Oates let it be known he will not be managing scared, Angelos made it clear he does not wish to be painted as the George Steinbrenner of Baltimore.

Angelos made the effort to quiet those concerns, talking to reporters after listening to a portion of Oates' morning speech in front of approximately 25 people, many of them investors in the Orioles.

April floundering shouldn't trigger May firings, Angelos reassured.

"With Oates?" Angelos responded. "Absolutely not. Oates is here and he'll be here for a long time. . . . This is a good, strong field manager and I'm glad to have him here."

Naturally, Angelos left himself an out.

"Should there be some lack of success initially or at some other point in time, you certainly can't predict decisions which would somehow be calculated to unseat the manager," Angelos said.

Translation: If Oates doesn't change his approach, doesn't turninto another person, another manager overnight, he should have reason to feel secure.

Oates enters the season armed with a two-year contract and a team that includes four veteran free agents on whom the Orioles spent more than $40 million.

Informed of Angelos' supportive statement and of the subsequent qualifier, Oates responded in relaxed fashion.

"That's what he should say,"Oates said. "He can't make any promises he can't keep a month down the road. All I can do is manage to win games. If you go out there managing to keep your job instead of making decisions you normally would make, you are going to get fired. The surest way to get fired is to go out there managing not to get fired."

Oates said he does not expect that to be his fate.

"What Mr. Angelos has told me by giving me that contract is that he wants me to manage for two years," Oates said. "I'm sure he didn't hireme for two years so he can fire me in a month. In a way I feel embarrassed even talking about it. This is Mr. Angelos' team and it's his prerogative to make the decisions he thinks are best for the Baltimore Orioles."

Oates said he will not tighten up if his team breaks from the blocks as it did last season, when the Orioles started 5-13.

"There is no one in baseball pulling more for the Orioles to get off to a good start than me," Oates said.

"But if we start 5-13 again and some people have my head in a noose, I can't worry about that. I'm going to give my best whether it's the first day, the 10th day, or the 162nd day. I'm going to give my best because that's all I can give.

"I've seen managers worried about keeping their jobs and they get tight. There are no guarantees in this game and I know that. Fearing losing my job has nothing to do with how I manage. When I first took the job I might have managed a little tight because I wanted the people who recommended me for the job and gave me the opportunity to look good. Not now."

Oates expressed pleasure with how the meeting with the investors went.

"I looked forward to the opportunity," Oates said. "That way they don't have to hear who I am from somebody else. The feedback I've gotten has been very flattering. I think it was great for me.

"How else are you going to get an opportunity to talk to all those people at once? Do you think if I had a party at my house and invited them they would all show up? Only one person could get them all in one place at one time."


"He called the party and allowed me to talk," Oates said. "They have been very good to me, very approachable. I didn't get the impression there are any stiff-collared mongrels there. They are very successful business people excited about a new endeavor. We're all learning together."

Angelos, who moved into his office at Camden Yards over the winter, addressed several other issues during his first day at spring training.

How closely had he been following the team before arriving?

"Very intensely," Angelos said. "For the last six weeks, I've been at the park every day. Roland Hemond, stalwart that he is, great baseball man that he is, calls me every other day or so and let's me know what's going on."

It is not, Angelos said, the other way around.

"When the season opens, obviously the function of the team and the direction of the team will be in the hands of the baseball professionals," Angelos said. "Roland Hemond, Johnny Oates, Frank Robinson, Doug Melvin."

Given a chance to second-guess Hemond for the signing of injured left-hander Sid Fernandez to a three-year, $9 million contract, Angelos declined.

"The latest I've heard is the problem he had is rapidly disappearing and he will be in action much sooner than expected," Angelos said.

Angelos reiterated his role will be one of a parent dispensing an allowance, not forcing his kid to spend it a certain way, but having to be reassured the money is not being frittered away on a tricycle with three busted wheels.

"I will be consulted as I always am, but essentially it's a question that deals with financial considerations," Angelos said. "I won't be consulted on whether I think this player or that player is the best in the league at his position."

Angelos explained his role as overseer.

Oates articulated his role as that of a manager focused on doing his job, not on keeping it.

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