Angelos expects results, but who can blame him?

March 31, 1994|By Bill Tanton

Let's get right to this business of whether Peter Angelos is going to fire Johnny Oates if the Orioles don't get off to a good start.

Use your common sense. If the Orioles start off 3-8, Angelos is not going to fire his manager.

Not even George Steinbrenner would do that. Not even Jerry Jones.

Oates was named Sporting News 1993 American League Manager of the Year, picked by his peers. Oates knows how to manage.

It doesn't mean a thing when the first-year owner of the Orioles says, as he did last weekend in Florida, that Oates is OK unless. . . .

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

Hey, every manager in the game knows he'll be gone if the club fails.

A onetime Orioles skipper, Hank Bauer, even simplified that basic truth.

"Managers are hired to be fired," Bauer used to say. During the All-Star break in 1968 he was proven right. He was replaced by Earl Weaver.

But with Johnny Oates, who is entering his third full season as Orioles manager, it's not exactly that simple. With Oates, there's an added pressure.

During the off-season, one of Angelos' ownership partners talked to me about that. (That's one of the problems with having 20 partners; the main owner -- Angelos -- has to worry about a platoon of people going around telling everybody his business.)

"Peter has really gone out and spent the money for these new players," the partner said in astonishment.

No argument. Angelos and Co. brought in four veteran free agents at a cost of more than $40 million. That's about $40 million more than the previous owner had spent.

"Peter doesn't mind spending the money," the partner said, "but I'll tell you this -- when he lays out that kind of money, he wants results."

Of course he does. He's entitled.

Another problem with having so many partners is that they feel free to express their feelings about personnel, including the manager.

Again, they're entitled. They've paid for the privilege.

If Oates leads the Orioles to their first pennant in a decade, there will be no decision to make. He'll be back in '95 for the final year of his present contract.

If Oates' club goes down to the wire and loses by a game or two, no problem.

But if it does measurably less than that, there will be a problem. Oates knows that. He's no neophyte.

And the opinions of the owners will be divided. At least one of them -- the partner who says Angelos will demand results -- is not sold on Oates now.

"What do you think of Oates?" he asked.

"Good manager," I said.

"If I were calling the shots," he said, acknowledging, of course, that it is Angelos who does, "I'd have gone out and tried to get Tony La Russa from the Athletics.

"I didn't like the way the Orioles dropped out of the race late in the season. They've done that the last two years. I know they had injuries, but the club looked dead. That's why I'd like to have seen La Russa come here. I think he'd kick some butt."

Last year the Orioles were one game out of first on Sept. 12. From there, they went 3-10. And there were times when they did look dead.

But last year the Orioles had plenty of excuses. Their best pitcher, Mike Mussina, missed six weeks with shoulder and back injuries. Closer Gregg Olson hurt his arm and faced one batter after Aug. 8.

And the owners hadn't gone out and spent $40 million on new talent.

I don't expect the Orioles to win the AL East this year. The pitching is too suspect.

Mussina is wondering aloud if he will ever again be the pitcher he used to be -- and this from a 25-year-old!

Sid Fernandez, with a history of injuries, looks like a bad deal.

And now Ben McDonald, the most dependable arm in the Orioles' rotation the past two years, says his elbow is hurting a bit.

You have to like Toronto's chances of three-peating. The Blue Jays are the first team to win two world championships in a row since the Yankees in '77-78. If they win this year, they'll be the first to win three straight since the '72-74 Oakland A's.

Toronto, clearly, has quite a club.

When Toronto has a weakness, it does something about it. It goes out and gets somebody to fill the void. With deep pockets to work with, GM Pat Gillick is the best in the business at that.

The Yankees may beat out the Orioles for second place. Boston will finish behind the Orioles. Pitching will keep Detroit in the cellar.

But the Orioles' everyday lineup is much improved. The club definitely should get more than the 85 wins that tied it for third with Detroit last year.

Angelos will demand that. Remember, he wants results.

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