If Oates' 91 wins aren't enough, what is?

INSIDE PITCH

August 11, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

With due respect for everyone's right to freedom of expression, something's amiss right here in Charm City. It deserves an explanation that includes at least a hint of logic.

If how the Orioles have played thus far is enough to warrant the manager being fired before the season is completed (if it's completed), then the next guy had better take a long look at the job's requirements -- and run, not walk, in the opposite direction.

Was this team so good coming out of spring training that it was expected to win 95-100 games? If so, then passage to Fantasy Island is obviously overbooked.

The Toronto Blue Jays (96 and 95 wins en route to successive World Series championships in 1992-93) are the only American League East team to reach that level in the past six years.

During that span just four AL East teams have won as many as 90 games. The Orioles have not won that many since 1983, their last World Series championship season.

The Orioles are on a pace to win 91 games -- and Johnny Oates' job is said to be in jeopardy because the Yankees are on a pace to win 101. Those projections likely will become academic when the strike takes place at midnight, but they provide an accurate indication of how the teams have played the first 112 games.

Obviously Oates hasn't made all the right moves; no manager ever does. But he has remained generally consistent and for the most part avoided knee-jerk reactions that often are a sign of panic.

Oates has committed two major sins this year, both of which he appears to have atoned for. One was wearing the insecurity that is rampant throughout the organization on his sleeve. The other, cultivated as much through ignorance of the proceedings as anything else, was an almost combative attitude with the media.

The insecurity issue may have had an effect on his overall performance, but only Oates knows for sure. The media clash affected only those who are as sensitive, or insensitive, as any player, coach or manager.

There is a great irony to a situation that has become almost ludicrous. When Oates replaced Frank Robinson in 1991, the last thing anybody would've cited as a possible problem was his personality, but that has been questioned more than his judgment.

In the past two months, Oates has made great strides in that area. Despite the cloud hanging over him, he appears more relaxed -- and confident -- than at any time during the season, perhaps his career.

During a quick rise through the minor leagues, and after taking over the Orioles, Oates was considered one of baseball's brightest young managers. He hasn't gotten dumber in the past three years.

But, like anybody else who has tried this line of work, it took Oates awhile to get smarter in his job -- longer than it does most of the experts.

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