Oates-Regan is a bizarre story indeed

October 18, 1994|By BILL TANATON

There are some strange things going on in the Orioles' office, among them the selection this week of Phil Regan as manager.

Not that there's anything so terrible about Phil Regan. From all accounts he's a fine guy. Pitching coach in Cleveland this year, he's steeped in baseball.

What gives pause is the way Regan was selected, and the fact that he was chosen over candidates with better credentials. It makes you wonder if the organization knows what it's doing.

Look at the selection process.

Nine applicants were run past a four-man search committee consisting of general manager Roland Hemond, assistant GM Frank Robinson, financial guy Joe Foss, and lawyer Russell Smouse.

That may be the way a corporation hires a CEO. It's not the way a major-league ballclub hires a manager.

I'm told Joe Foss knows nothing about baseball -- and Smouse knows less. Yet those two asked all the questions in the interviews.

Hemond and Frank Robinson have been in baseball all their lives. They know everybody in the game. They could have hired a manager in their sleep. It's never going to be that simple, however, when Peter Angelos owns the club.

Pete is hands-on, plus. Nothing happens until it's OK'd by him.

The whole managerial scenario has been bizarre. Angelos fired John Oates, who was on his way to a 91-win year when the players' strike ended the season on Aug. 12.

OK, Oates hadn't won a pennant. Let's get somebody in here who has, right? Somebody like Oakland's Tony La Russa, who enjoys a reputation as the American League's best manager.

How do you think La Russa's record over the last three seasons compares with Oates'? Would you say La Russa's record is a lot better? A little better? The same?

Answer: Oates' record is better.

Over that period Oates' Orioles clubs went 237-199 (.544). La Russa's A's were 215-223 (.491).

Why was Oates fired?

Oates wasn't Pete Angelos' type of manager. John's a nice person but too gentlemanly and laid back. Pete likes 'em with more fire, like Earl Weaver or the late Billy Martin.

Well, the man Angelos hired, Phil Regan, is Johnny Oates all over again, gentlemanly and laid back -- only nine years older.

That's strange.

A lot of people were excited over the possibility that popular Rick Dempsey would return to manage the Orioles. Rick has the fire. He wanted the job.

The knock against Dempsey was that he has never managed in the major leagues. He has managed only in the minors two years.

So the Orioles hired Regan, who has no major-league managing experience either. He did manage in winter ball for a decade.

Then there was Davey Johnson, the ex-Oriole now managing Cincinnati.

Davey wanted this job, too. He had won a World Series and two division championships with the Mets. He was considered the front-runner here, but he had a problem.

Davey has what is euphemistically called a strong personality. A man who was a club official when Johnson played here in the '60s put it more succinctly.

"Davey was a pain," said the man. "He was always coming to the office, asking for something, asking us why we did things a certain way. I guess that's why he became a good manager. He was always questioning."

Said another higher-up from Johnson's Orioles days: "Davey Johnson and Angelos wouldn't last six months."

Why did Angelos settle on Regan over Johnson?

Perhaps Angelos realized his personality and Johnson's wouldn't mesh.

More likely, Angelos picked Regan because he knew he could control him. A 57-year-old man getting his first chance to manage in the majors wouldn't give the owner a hard time, even if he deserved it.

L Davey Johnson would. He would not be intimidated by Angelos.

Why did the Orioles rush to sign Regan, announcing it on a Sunday afternoon? That's strange, too.

Doug Melvin was assistant GM here until a week ago. It was Melvin who recommended Regan to Hemond. Melvin wanted to become a GM but he had to go to the Texas Rangers to achieve that.

So last weekend the Orioles were scurrying to sign Regan before Melvin did. They didn't want to lose out to a man they had allowed to walk away from Baltimore.

Regan made points here yesterday by hiring Mike Flanagan, who, in effect, will be pitching coach for a pitching coach, even though Flanagan has no coaching experience.

Don't worry. Between them, he and Regan will work it out.

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