MILWAUKEE -- Just in case the calendar that runs the world doesn't apply to baseball, just in case it actually is late September and not early August, major-league teams are scouting harder than ever.
Most of all, they are scouting themselves.
The Orioles are no different. The self-evaluation process going on now could result in a number of changes, barring a late-season rally that includes a spot in the playoffs, if indeed there are playoffs in 1994.
Underachieving leads to uncertainty, which leads to speculation.
The chore comes in knowing what speculation to embrace, what to discard.
Believe: Orioles manager Johnny Oates likely would have been fired by now if not for the Aug. 12 strike jeopardizing the entire season.
If the Orioles continue to stumble sluggishly to the strike date and a settlement arrives soon enough for them to have a realistic shot at rallying to a playoff spot, the front office will turn to an interim manager to lead them.
Dont' believe: Assistant general manager Frank Robinson would be that interim manager. The Orioles have bigger plans than that for Robinson. He will continue to wear a tie to work.
Believe: If the Orioles replace Oates with an interim manager, it will be Davey Lopes, who could generate the kind of spirit that has been lacking on this club.
Don't believe: An interim manager such as Lopes would have no chance at earning the job full-time if the club finished impressively enough. If the Orioles showed the kind of fire under Lopes they did not under Oates, he would have a chance of removing interim from his title.
Believe: Orioles general manager Roland Hemond will be "promoted" to vice chairman at season's end.
Don't believe: Orioles owner Peter Angelos already has made the decision to hire Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz.
Believe: Robinson has emerged as the leading candidate to take over as the GM. At this point, those in the know believe Robinson has a better than 50-50 chance of becoming the team's general manager over the winter.
Don't believe: Assistant general manager Doug Melvin will be fired. Angelos is known to prefer Robinson to Melvin as the GM, but would like Melvin to remain in charge of the minor leagues.
Believe: Almost anything when it comes to possible successors to Oates, if he is fired. The bigger the name, the better. Tony La Russa will be coveted by every team looking for a manager this winter with the Orioles and Chicago White Sox leading the charge, but Oakland still has the inside track on retaining him.
If he becomes available, Tommy Lasorda, not yet extended beyond this season by the Dodgers, also fits the profile. Other desirables -- Tom Kelly of the Minnesota Twins, Buck Showalter of the New York Yankees, and Jim Leyland of the Pittsburgh Pirates -- won't be available.
When all the big-name managerial possibilities have been exhausted, think ex-Orioles. Former Orioles manager Rick Dempsey is managing the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque.
Another long shot -- the 1,000-to-1 horse in the derby -- hasn't even officially retired: Rick Sutcliffe. Oates' tenure as manager of the Orioles never ran more smoothly than when Sutcliffe was at his side. No one is more popular with the Orioles' pitching staff than Sutcliffe.
Remember, the industry in question here is baseball, and Angelos has shown a penchant for parting from the normal way of doing business. He doesn't mind shocking the baseball world from time to time.
Anything is possible.