Apparently, Gillick makes the Orioles' calls these days

November 22, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

Bobby Bonilla and Eddie Murray were two of Peter Angelos' favorites. But the Orioles made both free agents.

Chris Hoiles is another of the owner's pets. But the Orioles want to add another catcher.

Where is the mighty Angelos?

Apparently in his law office, listening to his baseball professionals.

It's a bigger upset than Holyfield over Tyson.

Once again, general manager Pat Gillick is running the Orioles. No one knows how long this blissful state of affairs will last. But for now, Angelos is staying in the background while Gillick reshapes the team.

"For the most part, I think he lets his baseball people do their jobs," Gillick said Wednesday. "It's just sometimes he has a really strong opinion on certain issues."

That became obvious last July, when Angelos blocked Gillick's efforts to trade Bonilla and David Wells, saying it would be unfair to the fans to quit on the season.

The Orioles rallied for their first postseason appearance in 13 years, then upset defending American League champion Cleveland before losing to the eventual world champion New York Yankees.

Their strong finish only figured to diminish Gillick's authority, but like the Yankees' Bob Watson -- another successful GM working for a meddlesome owner -- he appears to be back in control.

Angelos, of course, has every right to overrule his GM. But for what it's worth, he's more restrained than Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and more flexible, too.

How else do you explain the decision to part with Bonilla? It certainly sounded as if Angelos wanted him back. On Oct. 12, he even said he would offer Bonilla a no-trade, no-DH guarantee if the Orioles kept the right fielder.

"It's not my decision, but when that decision comes, I'm sure I will have something to say about it," Angelos said.

What happened?

"I told him the direction we should be going," Gillick said. "Yeah, I guess we did have to convince him."

It probably wasn't that difficult.

The Orioles have better ways to spend the $5.5 million Bonilla could have earned in salary arbitration. And Angelos couldn't have been thrilled with Bonilla's 1-for-20 performance in the American League Championship Series.

Maybe now he has a better grasp of Gillick's rationale for wanting to trade Bonilla and Wells. Or maybe he recognizes that he could lose Gillick if he continues vetoing his deals.

More likely, he simply agrees with Gillick's renewed commitment to pitching and defense, knowing the Orioles failed to reach the World Series with one-dimensional sluggers.

Angelos declined to comment.

"He's a smart guy," Gillick said. "He gets right to the issues. But if you've got enough support [for your argument], he understands that.

"The thing about Peter is, he wants to win. Sometimes when you want to win, it's very difficult to be patient. And he wants to bring a winning team here."

It almost happened last season, but as gratifying as it was for the Orioles to reach the ALCS, they might have had a better chance at building long-term success if they had traded Bonilla and Wells for young talent.

The good news is, they've stopped playing rotisserie ball, lusting after every available big name. Darryl Hamilton, Jaime Navarro, even Terry Steinbach --they would be pieces in a puzzle, not eye-popping acquisitions.

Finally, the Orioles are trying to build a team.

"There are some areas where we're not where we should be," Gillick said. "But looking back at where we were a year ago, I think certainly [Roberto] Alomar and [B.J.] Surhoff are guys that are pluses.

"We know a little more about [Arthur] Rhodes and [Armando] Benitez. We know [Alan] Mills is a little healthier. We've got [Randy] Myers on board. And [Rocky] Coppinger got his feet wet last year.

"The thing we've got to try to do as much as possible is to make the club a little more exciting. The offense was pretty one-dimensional. We've got to expand our offense so we can do more than just hit home runs."

Hamilton, a center fielder, presumably would add speed at the top of the order, though his on-base percentage last season was only .348.

Probably the only other position where the Orioles can alter their offense is shortstop, with Cal Ripken moving to third base.

The way things look, that possibility is diminishing.

Catcher?

On Aug. 22, Angelos said he was "offended" by the criticism of Hoiles, some of which came from Gillick and manager Davey Johnson.

Asked whether Hoiles is the full-time catcher if Murray returns as the DH, Angelos responded, "Damn right he is."

Well, Murray is a free agent.

And even if the Orioles re-sign him, Gillick said Hoiles "would be better playing 100 games rather than 140-150" behind the plate.

The addition of a Steinbach or Benito Santiago would further increase the likelihood of Hoiles serving more as a DH.

You wouldn't have guessed that could happen after Angelos rose to Hoiles' defense. But you wouldn't have guessed that Bonilla would depart, either.

Maybe the owner is just full of bluster.

Where is the mighty Angelos?

In the background.

Where he belongs.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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