Hemond would need ground rules

BASEBALL

October 23, 1994|By TOM KEEGAN

Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson has made it clear he would like the first word of his title removed. General manager Roland Hemond, however, has not said how he would feel about gaining a promotion to vice chairman in charge of baseball operations.

The general feeling at the Warehouse is that Hemond would resist such a move, perhaps viewing it as a boot upstairs. If that's the case, perhaps Hemond should visit an optometrist. He might be afflicted with shortsightedness.

The promotion, in fact, would not be a demotion cloaked in semantics. Why not? Because Hemond would have a title equal to that of Joe Foss, the club's vice chairman of business and finance.

As the chain of command stands now, Hemond is a subordinate of Foss'. True, Foss' title seems to exclude him from baseball operations, but as Foss' leadership role on the managerial search committee showed, he now has become involved in the baseball end of the operation.

Nothing, not even coffee, is as addictive as making baseball decisions. Through the history of the game, few front-office officials have had the strength to resist at least trying to get involved in player personnel matters.

Foss' intentions might be innocent enough, but with his title giving him the power to oversee Hemond, it would take a lot of self-discipline for Foss to restrict his involvement to the business side of the business.

By making Hemond a vice chairman, the roles would be defined clearly. Hemond keeps owner Peter Angelos abreast of Robinson's baseball decisions, and Angelos passes on his consent or dissent. Foss keeps Angelos abreast of matters on the business side of things. Robinson goes to the GM meetings and is the point man on player acquisitions. Foss tightens the budget in an effort to keep ticket prices from increasing.

Angelos practices law, oversees the Orioles in case he has to nix a Gregg Olson-type signing, tries to usher an NFL team to Baltimore, and calls on his labor background to offer his advice on settling the baseball strike.

Teamwork, the word Angelos and new manager Phil Regan consider vital, is best executed when players have clearly defined roles. Darryl Strawberry started a drug-and-alcohol prevention program in the Bay area called the Strawberry Patch Youth Project. "He's got his life in great shape," Giants GM Bob Quinn said. The Giants offered Strawberry salary arbitration for 1995 to prevent him from filing for free agency.

Although Strawberry hit just .239 with four home runs and 17 RBIs, the Giants went 20-10 after signing him, and Barry Bonds and Matt Williams benefited from his arrival. With Strawberry batting fifth, Bonds hit .388 with 14 home runs and 28 RBIs and Williams hit .342-12-30.

Strawberry's return, coupled with the Giants' plans to give rookie J. R. Phillips a shot at first base, effectively ends the speculation that Kevin Mitchell will be pursued.

Strawberry said that he is eager to prove in 1995 that he is "clean and healthy and sober" and that he then wants to negotiate a long-term deal with the Giants.

Braves, Pendleton part

The Atlanta Braves let third baseman Terry Pendleton (questionable back) know they would not be bringing him back next season, setting up a competition between Jose Oliva and Chipper Jones.

Jones, 22, recovered rapidly from April surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament and is considered the favorite to win the position.

A shortstop for most of his career, Jones hit .353 in his last minor-league season and was going to be the Braves' left fielder before blowing out his left knee.

Oliva, 23, filled in for Pendleton for 19 games, hitting six home runs and driving in 11 runs. Whoever wins the job will become the Braves' first regular rookie third baseman since Bob Horner.

The mark Pendleton left on the Braves was enormous. He was their first MVP since Dale Murphy (1983), their first third baseman to win a Gold Glove since Clete Boyer (1969) and their first hitter since Ralph Garr (1974) to lead the league in hits.

Phillies cutting costs

The Philadelphia Phillies exercised the $1.2 million option for 1995 on outfielder Jim Eisenreich's contract, but they made the first of what should be a long list of payroll cuts by telling reliever Doug Jones ($3.25 million), outfielder Pete Incaviglia ($1.2 million) and left-hander Norm Charlton ($850,000) that their options would not be picked up. A day earlier, left-hander Danny Jackson ($2.3 million in 1994), first baseman Ricky Jordan ($1.1 million) and outfielder Billy Hatcher ($650,000) became free agents. Mix in Milt Thompson ($1.2 million), dealt to the Houston Astros the day before the trading deadline, and it adds up to $10.55 million in savings.

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