For Johnson, today should be the day Orioles ready to name him to manager's post

'This is his dream job'

Club hasn't picked general manager yet

October 30, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Davey Johnson was disappointed a year ago, when the Orioles passed him over and hired Phil Regan as manager. But better late than never: Today, Johnson will be named manager of the Orioles, with a three-year contract, according to club sources.

Johnson, 52, was in Baltimore with his wife last night, preparing for today's news conference, the sources said. Johnson led the Cincinnati Reds to the National League Central title this year and into the NL playoffs against the Atlanta Braves, but his tenure with the Reds ended because owner Marge Schott didn't like him.

Three days after the Reds were eliminated in the playoffs -- on Oct. 17 -- Johnson interviewed with the Orioles owner Peter Angelos, and basically won the job that day. Three days later, Regan was fired.

Jim Bowden, the general manager for the Reds, says Johnson is going to be a success with the Orioles.

"I'm very happy for Davey," Bowden said yesterday, "because this is the job he wanted, not only this year, but last year. It's where he grew up, and I think this is his dream job."

Johnson's roots with the Orioles are deep. A former second baseman, he learned to play in the majors alongside Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger and Boog Powell, playing with Orioles from 1965 to 1972.

"I think he'll do well," Bowden said. "No, I know he'll do well. He'll add 10 wins to the Orioles next year."

The Orioles went 71-73 this year under Regan, who will be paid his $350,000 salary for 1996.

"[Johnson] can run a game with anyone in baseball," Bowden said. "He's tremendous with young arms, and he can create an atmosphere that works well with today's players. He'll take those good young arms, like Jimmy Haynes, Rocky Coppinger and Armando Benitez, and develop them into good, if not great, major-league pitchers.

"Personally, I couldn't ask a manager to have a better relationship with a general manager. We were always on the same page. As long as he gets a good GM that will get him players, he'll win. It's a perfect fit there, with the three power guys in the middle of the lineup, [Bobby] Bonilla, [Cal] Ripken and [Rafael] Palmeiro."

Who will be the general manager is a decision that may not come for a few days. Former Montreal Expos general manager Kevin Malone remains the slight front-runner, but Angelos is interviewing a list of candidates. Boston Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Port interviewed last week, as did former New York Yankees general manager Gene Michael.

Former San Diego Padres GM Randy Smith previously interviewed, but he reportedly will take the Detroit Tigers general manager's job today. The Orioles have asked for and were denied permission to interview Cleveland Indians assistant GM Dan O'Dowd.

Joe Klein, fired as the GM of the Tigers Friday, interviewed with Angelos yesterday, after meeting with club counsel Russell Smouse Saturday.

Angelos said: "He was impressive. He has a long background in the game, lots of experience, and that knowledge came through very well. Plus he's a Baltimorean, and that's a factor."

Klein was born and raised in the Baltimore area. He and Angelos discussed his philosophy on player development, on scouting, his view of the Orioles and Klein's personal history yesterday.

"I think they went as well as they could," Klein said last night. "I do know this: The impression everyone has of Angelos is different than what he is. What he is is a person committed to winning. Baltimore is lucky to have him, the way things are in some other places.

"We talked about the club. . . . I gave him a scouting report on the team, as it were, what I thought the needs were, what possibly could be done with free agents and trade implications. He asked me about players in [the Orioles] system that could help the club."

Klein said if he were still GM in Detroit, he probably would have considered Johnson as a managerial candidate.

"But quite frankly," Klein said, "he's a better fit for Baltimore than Detroit, given his background. . . . He's good with young players."

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