O's GM search intensifies Malone says he, O's 'connect' in meeting

Smith is due in today

October 10, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Kevin Malone, former general manager of the Montreal Expos, became the first GM candidate to interview with the Orioles yesterday, and San Diego GM Randy Smith will become the second today.

Orioles officials, including owner Peter Angelos, met with Malone yesterday for about two hours. Afterward, Angelos would not comment on the interview; Malone was upbeat and encouraged.

"I felt very positive and very good," Malone said. "They gave me an opportunity to express myself and they wanted to get a feel what I was all about. I think they were impressed. I think we connected."

The Orioles are in the process of deciding whether to retain current general manager Roland Hemond. Malone, 38, became GM of the Expos last January, and was named the best general manager in the game earlier this year by Baseball Weekly magazine.

"I think they're going to give other people the opportunity [to interview], too," Malone added, "but I like my chances."

The first "other person" to be interviewed will be Smith, 32, who likely went into this week as the front-runner, in the event the Orioles decide to fire or reassign Hemond. Smith resigned as general manager of the Padres two weeks ago, and in the days since has been attempting to finalize the terms of his departure. A final settlement is expected today or tomorrow.

Smith, who interviews with the Expos for their GM job tomorrow, may have negotiated the right to hire Padres employees wherever he lands. That means he could bring along Steve Lubratich, who resigned as San Diego's assistant GM last week.

Orioles officials, including Angelos, met with Oakland manager Tony La Russa last week. Neither La Russa nor Angelos has said publicly how that meeting turned out, whether any offer was made, or whether an offer is forthcoming.

But the Orioles have not said for certain that current manager Phil Regan will return for 1996, the second year of his two-year contract (the Orioles also hold a 1997 option on Regan).

Within the realm of possibility is that the Orioles will complete a deal with La Russa, but then hold off until after the World Series to make an announcement. Major League Baseball issues a directive to teams every year to abstain from making any major transactions during the playoffs and World Series, so the postseason isn't overshadowed. Occasionally, teams will make announcements on the off days; for instance, the Los Angeles Dodgers extended the contract of manager Tommy Lasorda yesterday.

The decision by the Dodgers could have some bearing on the Orioles' chances for signing Lasorda. Baseball's rumor mill was thick with the alleged news, after Cincinnati's sweep in the divisional series, that Los Angeles owner Peter O'Malley was eyeing La Russa as a managerial candidate if Lasorda was fired.

As of today, however, the only team openly competing with the Orioles for La Russa's services is the St. Louis Cardinals. Walt Jocketty, general manager for the Cardinals, has told acquaintances that he believes he has a good chance of retaining La Russa -- but he is aware of La Russa's preference for the American League.

La Russa's 10-day contractual window to talk to other clubs is set to expire tomorrow, but yesterday, Oakland general manager Sandy Alderson expected La Russa to formally ask for an extension, so that he could continue to explore other options. Privately, Oakland officials do not expect La Russa to return.

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