Strike has O's execs feeling out of work

March 06, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When others talked about being depressed, Orioles general manager Roland Hemond never really understood. He always thoroughly had enjoyed his life, his work in baseball.

That was before this off-season. Before the baseball strike.

Hemond would arrive at Camden Yards in January and sit at his desk making calls and yet, at the end of the day, feel as if he hadn't accomplished anything. Sometimes, he hadn't; the strike has locked everyone in baseball into a holding pattern.

A weariness weighed upon Hemond. This, he thought to himself, must be what depression is.

Hemond says his state of mind has improved dramatically since he arrived in Florida for spring training, aided by the therapy of watching Orioles minor-leaguers play baseball. Nevertheless, there are days when he gives himself a private pep talk about staying positive.

"It has been easier than it was in the month of January," Hemond said. "Here, at least, you've got the players on the field, the good weather, and you know that the work we're doing is helping the players who are here."

But Hemond, assistant GM Frank Robinson and manager Phil Regan cannot do the jobs for which they were hired until the strike is over and the major-leaguers arrive, and the wait can be taxing.

If Donald Fehr and Bud Selig had reached an agreement, Robinson's daily to-do list would be long. Check the box scores. Check the injury situation. Check the waiver wire. Check on the minors. "Daily challenges," he said.

Without major-leaguers in camp, Robinson arrives in the morning, and this is his to-do list: sit and watch the workouts.

"I kind of get down sometimes," Robinson said, "because there's nothing to do. I find I have to push myself more to find something to do. But you can't do that every day, because right now, everything is at a standstill.

"I like to be active. I like to be involved. I like the challenges. . . . Here, we're strictly preparing for the minor-league game. That makes it very difficult to go to the office every day and put in the hours."

Robinson looked out on the field at Al Lang Stadium, where Orioles minor-leaguers were playing their first bona fide intrasquad game.

"This helps a little bit," he said, "and in the other camps, they're having to deal with replacement players, and that has to be much more difficult.

"I know in their hearts that they're thinking they're preparing these players for nothing. I know their hearts are not in it. I don't care how they phrase it or what they say -- their hearts are not in it. And also, think of the tension in those camps."

The strike would be far less oppressive if it seemed finite, Robinson said.

"I don't think anybody knows where this thing is going," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the entire 1995 season is canceled. I hope they get it solved, but it would surprise me. If you can cancel the World Series, you can cancel the season."

Hemond monitors Regan's mood, understanding that the manager has good reason to be discouraged. At age 57, Regan is getting his first shot to manage big-leaguers, and the big-leaguers aren't here.

But Hemond and Robinson agree that from the first day of camp, Regan and his coaching staff remained very positive, working enthusiastically with the minor-leaguers. "I think he's doing extremely well," Robinson said.

They follow the labor negotiations through the newspapers and television but don't obsess, they say. Hemond and Robinson say their experiences have helped keep them from getting too high or too low.

Robinson said that even as a player he maintained an even-handed approach; bad news on the labor negotiations doesn't bother him, because he understands the situation can improve quickly. Hemond has been employed by teams that were on the edge of financial disaster -- the Boston Braves and the Chicago White Sox -- and that, he said, allows him some perspective.

Hemond has found, too, that baseball can be an antidote. On Saturday, Hemond changed into shorts, put on sunglasses and some sun block and drove across town to Al Lang Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians were playing an exhibition.

Hemond pulled a cap down low over his eyes, hoping to be as inconspicuous as possible, another fan enjoying a sunny afternoon in the anonymity of the bleachers.

And so he was.

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