La Russa tops Orioles' wish list Dempsey says he is interested

September 27, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

The names already had begun to surface. Last week's revelation that the Orioles had asked the Oakland Athletics for permission to talk contract with Tony La Russa left little doubt that there would be a new man in the manager's office next season.

That became official yesterday, so the managerial search can now proceed in broad daylight.

The A's politely refused to allow Orioles general manager Roland Hemond to make an overture to La Russa, but he remains at the top of the Orioles' wish list and will not need permission to talk to interested clubs after his contract expires Oct. 7. He may be the most respected manager in the game, and he might have been offered the job by Orioles owner Peter Angelos a year ago if he had been available.

Would he accept? That's another story. La Russa will have the pick of a number of managerial openings if he does not sign a contract extension with the A's. He could go to the Boston Red Sox, or he could go back to the Chicago White Sox if they don't come to terms with Gene LaMont.

If La Russa is the prime candidate, then nothing figures to happen for at least a couple of weeks. It is unclear whether he is truly interested in the job, and it will be awhile before anyone is likely to find out. He will be in England on vacation through the first week of October, leaving plenty of time for speculation to develop about other candidates.

Sources indicated yesterday that former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey will get a serious look, as will Cincinnati Reds manager Davey Johnson, Orioles coach Davey Lopes and Cleveland Indians pitching coach Phil Regan.

Dempsey would be a very popular choice among long-time Orioles fans, and -- despite his sometimes goofy on-field persona -- has become a legitimate candidate for consideration. He has spent the past two years getting experience at the minor league and winter league level, and said yesterday that he would be honored to get an interview.

"I haven't heard anything from the Orioles," he said, "but it certainly would be like a dream come true. I don't know what they're thinking. I really don't know what to expect, but I was hoping someday to come back to the Orioles in some capacity."

He wouldn't exactly be a rookie after the intense managerial schedule he has kept since leaving the Orioles in 1992. He managed in the Puerto Rican Winter League and at the Class-A '' level with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization before leading the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes to the Pacific Coast League championship this year.

"I definitely needed to be in the minor leagues," Dempsey said. "I needed to go back and learn how to deal with young players. I was fortunate to get that kind of experience, and winning with Albuquerque this year was just unbelieveable."

The Orioles would have to get permission from the Dodgers to approach Dempsey, but it seems unlikely that they would to anything to stand in his way.

Johnson once was a popular player in Baltimore and also would figure to be a popular choice to become the next manager. He is in the same situation as La Russa, in that his contract is coming to an end, but there is little likelihood that he'll re-up with Cincinnati.

Reds owner Marge Schott is down on him and there are PTC whispers that she has promised his job to former Reds third baseman Ray Knight. Johnson is known to be tired of putting up with Schott's eccentric behavior, perhaps to the point that Angelos' hands-on approach will not seem particularly unusual.

Lopes is the leading in-house candidate. He was considered a strong contender for the San Francisco Giants vacancy two years ago and the Houston Astros job last winter. He does not have a great deal of managerial experience (he worked in the Arizona Fall League last year), but built a reputation as a fiery leader during his playing career and has a very good rapport with the players in the Orioles' clubhouse.

The Orioles also are looking at Regan, though his name has not been prominent in the managerial rumor mill the past few years. He is under contract to the Indians and would seem more suited to his current role as a pitching coach, but has impressed Orioles officials enough to warrant a look.

The name that has not come up in serious consideration is Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland, who would be right near the top of the Orioles list if there was any chance of getting him out of a contract that extends through 1996.

Orioles officials are being very careful to perform this search by the book, so it could take some time. Angelos isn't saying just how long it will take, but it seems likely the Orioles won't proceed until they have a chance to talk to La Russa early next month.

"That's hard to say," Angelos said. "We'll do it as expeditiously as possible. I can't estimate, but it shouldn't be an inordinate amount of time."

HANDICAPPING THE FIELD

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