Managing carousel just goes 'round

October 20, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

What's the difference between getting fired and hired?

In baseball, one letter of the alphabet.

Johnny Oates got fired in Baltimore and was replaced by Phil Regan, who has never managed on this continent, but also was the first choice in Texas.

Kevin Kennedy got fired in Texas and beat out Oates for the Boston job, only to see Oates take his old job when no other candidates emerged in Texas.

Strike or no strike, some things never change.

Rome is burning, and baseball is playing musical chairs.

The new managers are irrelevant -- they're all going to get fired anyway.

The more significant issue is which players will be in uniform next season.

To paraphrase the Clinton campaign:

It's the strike, stupid!

Negotiations resumed yesterday with new mediator William J. Usery. The 90-minute session was so exhausting, talks probably won't resume until next week.

"There was no substance discussed today at all," union chief Donald Fehr said.

So, let's talk managers.

As always, it's not what you know, but who you know -- Oates worked under Texas GM Doug Melvin in Baltimore, Kennedy under Boston GM Dan Duquette in Montreal.

Oates clearly deserves a second chance, and Kennedy probably merits one, too. But the way Texas and Boston reacted, you'd think they were Connie Mack and John McGraw reincarnated.

Here's the problem with such rapid hirings: Both managers can pTC now proceed as if they did nothing wrong. They've just been given blanket endorsements of their previous tenures.

The Orioles, at least, are starting fresh. Of course, their hire was bizarre in its own right. They plan to contend next season -- but fully expect that their rookie manager might blow a few games.

By then, Peter "The Invisible Man" Angelos might be back with a vengeance, but give the owner his due: He stayed out of the interview process, and backed his search committee's decision.

Indeed, there's a method to this madness.

Regan is the first Orioles manager in more than 30 years without priorties to the club. Yet, the hiring of former Oriole Davey Johnson would have represented a greater break from tradition.

Johnson's clubs aren't known for their discipline, and they aren't known for their defense. Regan adheres to a pitching-and-defense philosophy. And the new coaching staff will help ease his adjustment.

Oates' coaches no longer fit with the Orioles -- they were Melvin's people, organizational men better suited for a younger club. A veteran team needs veteran coaches. So does a rookie manager.

Regan might be a delight.

He might be a disaster.

At least, he'll be different.

Kennedy was back in six days, a record for a 52-62 -- sorry, first-place -- manager. He ran such a smooth ship in Texas, Kenny Rogers called it "the worst clubhouse I've been in in the big leagues."

Ah, but this is a new start.

A Kennedy in Boston -- such magic.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen:

Boston knew Jack Kennedy -- and Kevin is no Jack Kennedy.

Oates, meanwhile, is no Lyndon Johnson.

Melvin believes Oates will learn from his Baltimore experience, and maybe that's true. But Oates will face different pressures in Texas.

Simply put, this is not his kind of club.

The Rangers might be the dumbest team in the majors. Oates will be named Manager of the Year if he can just teach his outfielders to hit the cutoff man.

Angelos was one burden.

Juan Gonzalez is quite another.

With the Orioles, Oates didn't care if his players were black, white or Hispanic, as long as they were vanilla. With the Rangers, the mix is spicier, and dicier.

Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez don't work hard, and don't play hard. The two best pitchers, Rogers and Kevin Brown, are free agents. On this club, Jose Canseco is practically Old Reliable.

Still, the AL West is awful. The media is preoccupied with the Cowboys. And the owner, George W. Bush, is running for governor of Texas.

All Oates must do is get the Rangers to .500.

They'll win the division by 30 games.

Johnny will be bigger than Jimmy and Jerry.

And Angelos will try to hire him back.

It could happen, if Melvin patches together a pitching staff and if he hires Rudy Jaramillo as hitting coach to help Oates communicate with the Latin players.

When last we left Oates, he wasn't communicating with anyone -- not in English, not in Spanish, not in sign language.

He was fired, now he's hired.

Who's next?

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