Angelos' best move: letting Hemond, Regan stay put

October 15, 1995|By John Steadman

How much Peter Angelos has absorbed during his two formative years as an owner of the Baltimore Orioles will be reflected in his anticipated upcoming moves -- for better or worse. Remember, as a rookie owner he exposed a gross lack of baseball knowledge by admitting he never heard of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

If you were alive at the time DiMaggio was playing, it's difficult to comprehend not being aware of such a monumental achievement, but Angelos didn't become a baseball fan until he became an owner. Be that as it may, Angelos has his own agenda with the Orioles and, since he has close to $50 million personally committed, has a right to run the property any way he desires.

Actually, despite criticism, Angelos hasn't lost his halo. The fans are in support and generally like him. Agree with it or not, he's a folk hero. It was thought that Angelos would be an exceptional owner, if he stayed out of the way, kind of like the late Ewing Kauffman in Kansas City, who enjoyed the game for what it is and made remarkable contributions.

But Angelos is hands-on. Right now, the jury is out in assessing his regime. He still has a chance to make a mark or else could challenge Edward Bennett Williams as the worst owner the franchise ever had. It appears general manager Roland Hemond, unfortunately, is going to be placed on waivers. The best thing Angelos could do is keep the lineup intact, headed by Hemond and manager Phil Regan, but that's doubtful.

Perception definitely isn't reality, but the impression is the Orioles are being operated with little resemblance to a major-league entity. When it's being whispered wistfully that previous owner Eli Jacobs ought to come back, it transcribes into a significant message for Angelos.

Meanwhile, Hemond, an experienced general manager of extraordinary capabilities, comes to the office every day while Angelos is interviewing a possible successor, either on the telephone or in person. Angelos is supposed to like Hemond. However, common decency suggests that he doesn't deserve such treatment.

Angelos, if he doesn't know it, should realize Hemond offers blind loyalty, refusing to offer a word of criticism about him, either on or off the record, while conducting baseball business in a highly professional manner.

The same for field manager Regan, who was asked to meet with Angelos twice after the season ended for what was described as a summit session. If Angelos had a better grasp of what baseball is all about that wouldn't have been necessary. He would have learned during the course of the year the strengths and weaknesses of his manager without having to take him out for what may have been his last supper with the Orioles.

Sparky Anderson, who left the Detroit Tigers after doing a woeful job, was insisting during the last series in Baltimore that he heard on the best of authority that Regan was going to be retained by the Orioles.

If so, why is Tony La Russa even being considered? According to sources, he is asking for $1.5 million to manage the Orioles or the Yankees. Nine days ago, Angelos met him in Washington. La Russa managed the Oakland A's to a spectacular last-place finish. So what makes him such an incredible example of dugout leadership?

For the kind of money he makes, La Russa should be the walking-around composite of Ned Hanlon, Connie Mack, John McGraw, Casey Stengel and Walter Alston. If Angelos is going to persist in his pursuit of La Russa, then Hemond might be the ideal front-office liaison, since they worked together with the Chicago White Sox.

One knock against Hemond, among the press box gentry, is he's too secretive and doesn't trust sportswriters, some of Pete's favorite people, with what he considers confidential information about player trades and free-agent movements.

The reason for this is Hemond has been betrayed in the past, learned his lesson about confiding, and isn't about to conduct business in the newspapers or on radio/TV. In some journalistic quarters, this is a negative. To an organization, it's a resounding plus.

If Buck Showalter is terminated by the Yankees after doing a poor job of managing, an ideal replacement would be Dave Johnson, soon to depart the Cincinnati Reds. He was previously successful with the New York Mets. He handles personnel exceptionally well and is considered a "players' manager," which is another way of saying he's easy on them.

With Showalter, who seems paranoid, the Yankees didn't have much to show for an almost $50 million payroll. You can expect George Steinbrenner to sign another former Met, one Dwight Gooden, in a desperate effort to improve team pitching.

So Johnson, having handled Gooden and Darryl Strawberry with the Mets, before they drugged out of baseball, would be helpful to them in their comeback efforts.

As for Angelos, instead of searching for a new manager and general manager, while creating a circus atmosphere and hanging Hemond and Regan out to dry, he should work at trying to become the best owner he can be. The Orioles and Baltimore deserve competent direction. It's incumbent on Angelos to provide it.

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