Angelos wouldn't like the fit if shoe were on the other foot

October 19, 1995|By JOHN EISENBERG

What if the people had the power to choose the Orioles' owner? Wouldn't that be interesting?

With the team having flopped this year, we could empower a panel of knowledgeable fans and/or reporters to interview potential new owners from around the country. Maybe one would prove preferable to Peter Angelos.

The Rockies' Jerry McMorris seems like a good guy. We could bring him in for an interview. The guy in Houston sounds like he wants to win. We could check him out. Shoot, we could even bring in George Steinbrenner. Why settle for Steinbrenner Lite?

And hey, maybe Pam Shriver or Jim McKay or another local businessperson would want to give it a shot. We could talk to them, too.

We wouldn't have to jettison Angelos before we went through this, of course. We could just tell him that we were going to interview candidates for his job and that he would have to sell the club if we found another owner we liked.

He would have to sit there and dangle, not knowing about his future, while we brought in the candidates and conducted our search. And it would be a very public search, of course, with news conferences and TV interviews and assessments of the candidates. Everyone would know we were considering dumping Angelos.

It would probably take weeks, maybe even months, to get this done. Angelos wouldn't like living with the uncertainty and embarrassment -- no one would -- but that would be his problem, wouldn't it?

Sure, he would hate that people with no experience running a business would be in charge of determining his fate. But we could tell him we know enough about baseball to handle the job -- just like he thinks he does, even though he had no experience in baseball before buying the Orioles.

We would be tempted, no doubt, to try on another owner. Maybe we would even settle on one and tell Angelos to take a hike, or offer him another job in the organization, like team counsel.

Or maybe we would decide to keep him if we couldn't find anyone better, at least for now. In that case we would call a news conference and announce that, despite the way it looked during our extensive search for his replacement, we were "very happy" with his ownership.

Maybe, by the end of that process, Angelos would feel differently about the way he has treated Roland Hemond and Phil Regan since the end of the season. And Johnny Oates before that.

Maybe he would understand that it is wrong to humiliate people in public by lusting after their replacements while they are still employed.

It appeared Angelos almost comprehended this last year when he finally fired Oates after word leaked out that he wanted to interview Tony La Russa. Angelos seemed to understand that it would humiliate Oates to keep him around while searching for a replacement.

But it turns out Angelos didn't learn that lesson at all. He is letting Hemond and Regan dangle the same way this year.

Maybe he thinks he can do it because a change is indeed needed at both jobs, a position that has been lobbied in this column.

Maybe he thinks he can do it because he has spent a lot of money on free agents and is more committed to winning than his predecessor, Eli Jacobs, buying him (he thinks) the mandate of public favor.

Maybe he thinks he can do it because some other clubs are doing business the same way this year. Detroit is interviewing candidates for GM Joe Klein's job. St. Louis is interviewing candidates for manager Mike Jorgensen's job. The Yankees have asked to talk to La Russa without firing Buck Showalter.

But that doesn't make it right. Sure, sports is a lot more cutthroat now that big money is involved, but does that absolve indecent business practices? No.

The truth is that Angelos is embarrassing himself more than Hemond and Regan. This is no way to run a railroad, and everybody knows it. If you want to fire someone, fine, but you fire him and then hire a replacement, not the other way around.

Doing it this way shows no respect for the people in office, and regardless of what you think of Hemond and Regan, they're good, decent men who don't deserve such treatment. Besides, they're big boys who can take the bad news; baseball lifers, they understand that getting fired is part of the game.

Why is Angelos keeping them around while he interviews candidates to replace them? Because he is afraid of looking bad. He needs them as insurance in case the managers and general managers he covets wind up elsewhere. Hemond might get kicked upstairs into a figurehead position.

In other words, Angelos hasn't fired Hemond and Regan because he is scared.

If we could interview replacements for Angelos' job, maybe he would learn some manners and conduct his business with more respect for others. His lack of decency is appalling.

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