Selling La Russa could buy O's Alomar, too

October 08, 1995|By Ken Rosenthal

Tony La Russa isn't just a manager, he's a selling point.

A selling point that could help the Orioles land Roberto Alomar.

Alomar already has said he would like to play with Cal Ripken. And one of his agents, Tony Cabral, said Friday that the free-agent second baseman also would like to play for La Russa.

Alomar could not be reached for comment, but he sent word through Cabral that he and La Russa have spoken in the past about the possibility of one day wearing the same uniform.

"He has definitely thought about playing for La Russa," Cabral said. "If the opportunity arose, that would just be one more plus for Baltimore."

One more plus, to go with Ripken, Camden Yards and the chance to play with a contender.

Oh yes, and Peter Angelos' millions.

No longer is such speculation idle talk. Angelos and La Russa met for the first time Friday, at a site believed to be in Chicago.

No details are known, but if La Russa comes to Baltimore, the rest is simple logic.

A star manager attracts star players.

Especially when that manager carries the mystique of La Russa.

We know which players the Orioles wouldn't get -- all the ones La Russa can't stand, namely Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson and Ruben "Village Idiot" Sierra.

No great losses, any of them.

La Russa would entice players who share his dedication to the game. His pitching coach, Dave Duncan, would be an equally powerful draw for pitchers trying to revive their careers.

Alomar?

If Angelos hasn't already, he should drop his name to La Russa. Indeed, this can work both ways. Just as La Russa would be a selling point for Alomar, Alomar would be a selling point for La Russa.

There's no guarantee the Orioles would get Alomar -- the Los Angeles Dodgers almost certainly will make a strong bid after their dismal postseason showing, and so will other clubs.

Still, the one thing you can never question about Angelos is his commitment to winning. His willingness to spend in this cost-cutting era makes him almost unique.

That's why small-market GMs, such as San Diego's Randy Smith and Montreal's Kevin Malone, appear so eager to work for him, despite his well-earned reputation for meddling.

In February, Malone accused Angelos of "grandstanding" with his refusal to use replacement players, calling him "out of line" and adding, "I think he's on his own agenda."

Eight months later, Malone is going to interview with Angelos.

See? There's hope for everyone in life.

In any case, the trick now is persuading La Russa to come to Baltimore. He easily could wind up in St. Louis, where he would be reunited with GM Walt Jocketty, a former A's executive.

The Cardinals don't have the Orioles' resources, but St. Louis is a great baseball town, and the chance to win a World Series in both leagues might appeal to La Russa's ego.

Only one manager has done it -- Sparky Anderson.

So, sell him on Ripken, sell him on Camden Yards, sell him on a $50 million payroll. Yes, the number might go that high next season, if the Orioles are serious about adding Alomar and a slugger like Ron Gant.

Get ready for the $20 million infield -- Rafael Palmeiro, Alomar, Ripken and Bobby Bonilla. Think Malone isn't excited by that prospect? He just quit Montreal because the Expos wouldn't increase their payroll to $18 million.

Angelos' infatuation with big names can be wearisome, but La Russa and Alomar are different, proven winners with an edge. They would transform the Orioles from a soft team into an absolute killer.

The Orioles would still need to add a slugging outfielder and rebuild virtually their entire pitching staff, but it will be a buyers' market, and players will view Baltimore like never before.

Amazing, isn't it? Five years ago, when the Orioles played at Memorial Stadium, they rarely had a chance to sign free agents. Camden Yards changed everything. Camden Yards produced the revenue. Camden Yards provided the allure.

La Russa is intrigued by the nightly sellouts, and so is Alomar. It would turn into a snowball effect. What player wouldn't want La Russa in his dugout? What pitcher wouldn't want Alomar and Ripken behind him?

Think about it -- the Orioles would be far stronger up the middle with Alomar and Ripken as their double-play combination, and Brady Anderson playing center field. Their offense would be significantly better, too.

La Russa would demand input on the club, but that, too, could work to the Orioles' advantage. The new GM could devote himself to restocking the farm system, and both Smith and Malone are experienced in that regard.

La Russa, Alomar, a savvy GM -- it all sounds too good to be true. But the Orioles desperately need to create a winning atmosphere. Now is the time. The game's best and brightest are available.

Start with La Russa.

G; La Russa, then Alomar, and everything else will follow.

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