Out in a rundown, Lopes eyes next base

October 19, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

He was good enough to be one of the top candidates in the Orioles' wide-ranging search for a new manager, but he was not good enough to remain on the coaching staff.

Davey Lopes was told Monday that he would not be part of the new staff that is being assembled by manager Phil Regan, which was more a function of baseball politics than a referendum on his performance during his two years in Baltimore.

"He did everything we asked him to do," said fired Orioles manager Johnny Oates, who brought in Lopes two years ago to improve the club's base-running technique. "I can't speak for the Orioles, but I would think it's just a matter of Phil wanting to have coaches he feels comfortable with."

The Orioles are expected to name the remainder of Regan's staff in the next day or two, and the only member of the previous crew that will remain is Elrod Hendricks, who has been a fixture in the Orioles' bullpen for the past 18 years.

Lopes has been around baseball too long to take it personally, but he had hoped that the Orioles would choose to include him in the new coaching hierarchy.

"That's the problem with coaching," Lopes said. "Every two or three years, you go through the same situation. It's the most vulnerable job in baseball. I don't think it's because I wasn't doing my job. That's just the way baseball is. A new manager comes in and he wants to hire his own staff. I understand that. I don't have a problem with that."

The only problem he has is figuring out what to do next. He is considered one of the brightest young managerial prospects in the game, but it doesn't appear that he'll be managing at the major-league level in 1995. That means that he needs to find another coaching job -- to stay in the loop -- or solicit an opportunity to gain some managerial experience in the minor leagues.

Lopes would appear to be a good fit for a coaching position in Texas, where he worked several seasons under former Rangers manager Bobby Valentine and still is well acquainted with the organization's personnel. The arrival of new general manager Doug Melvin could lead to opportunities for several other former Orioles, and Lopes would like to be one of them.

"I think Doug's well aware of what I'm capable of doing," Lopes said. "If I fit into their plans, that would be great. I would definitely take the opportunity to go back to Texas, but you just have to wait and see."

If Oates becomes the Rangers' manager, he is almost certain to take third base coach Jerry Narron along with him. He said yesterday that he also would give Lopes serious consideration.

"I would have no problem having Davey on my coaching staff should that situation present itself and we have a need, but I've got to get a job first," Oates said. "Davey did a good job for me."

He made enough of an impression to be one of the first candidates interviewed when the Orioles embarked on their managerial search. The Orioles screened a total of nine potential tTC managers before handing Regan a two-year contract with an option on the 1997 season.

It was the third time in two years that Lopes has been interviewed for a managerial position. He was a finalist for the opening in San Francisco in 1992, but lost out to close friend and former teammate Dusty Baker. He was interviewed last year by the Houston Astros for the job that eventually went to Terry Collins.

In each case, the job went to another candidate with no previous experience as a major-league manager, but experience may have been an issue anyway. Lopes has held only one managerial position. He led the Tucson Javelinas to a first-place finish in the Arizona Fall League last year.

"That's an excuse I've heard before, but I don't see that," Lopes said. "I think that's overrated. A lot of guys manage for the first time in the big leagues -- Phil Garner, Bobby Valentine, Hal McRae, Cito [Gaston], Dusty Baker. It didn't seem to hurt them."

Lopes never has been one to mince words. There was speculation that his straight talk and no-nonsense approach to baseball may have cost him the Houston job, but he chose his words carefully as he made a gracious exit from Baltimore.

"I'm not holding any grudges," he said. "I had a great time in Baltimore. I've met a lot of great people there and -- all in all -- I would have to say that coaching there was one of the highlights of my career. I have nothing but tremendous respect for the organization."

He apparently rated tremendous respect in the Orioles clubhouse, judging by the support that he has received from clubhouse leaders such as Rafael Palmeiro, who publicly endorsed him during the managerial search, and Brady Anderson, who called Lopes yesterday to express his disappointment that they would not be working together in 1995.

"Brady called me this morning and said he was upset about it," Lopes said. "You're going to miss those relationships. It's difficult to leave. Hopefully, something good will come along. Maybe someday, you might even get a chance to come back. Who knows?"

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