For Oates, even right moves can go all wrong


August 10, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

In an Orioles promotional spot that runs constantly during every telecast, manager Johnny Oates' line is: "I want to make all the right moves."

It's a simple statement that fits nicely into the positive jingle. The problem is that the right moves don't always produce the desired results.

The first game of the three-game series against the New York Yankees on Monday night emphasized the point dramatically. It also again exposed the Orioles' most sensitive area -- the bullpen.

For the 10th time this year, the Orioles lost a game after holding a lead as late as the eighth inning. That is evidence that suggests there haven't been enough right moves.

However, the 6-5 loss in 11 innings was merely the most recent example. And even if closer Lee Smith had been available (he wasn't because of effects of the flu), the moves Oates made could've been questioned only by the rankest of second-guessers.

You don't expect experienced relief pitchers to load the bases with a walk or move a runner into scoring position by hitting a batter -- especially when it sets up the tying run in one instance and the winning run in the next.

It could be argued that the Yankees used a collection of cheap hits to win the game. Don Mattingly's one-out single off Jim Poole in the ninth was little more than a misplaced double-play ball, and Randy Velarde's game-winner off Mark Eichhorn was a chinker that happened to find an open space.

But that doesn't explain, or excuse, the fact that the Orioles were two outs away from a win in the 10th inning with nobody on base. Or that, after two batters had been retired in the 11th, a walk and a hit batsman preceded Velarde's game-winning single.

If you spit into the wind, you're usually going to get wet. The Orioles got splashed both innings, and what would've been a big win became just another excruciating loss.

Those kind of losses tend to reflect unfavorably on the manager. But the bottom line in that job is to get the right people into the right situations, ones in which they're expected to excel.

Having done that, the manager's fate is in the hands of the players. If they perform, as they did last night, he's done what was expected. If they don't, he's made the wrong decisions.

Oates made all the right moves Monday night. But that wasn't good enough, which is as good a way as any to explain how the Orioles have played this year.

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