Johnson: 'I'm not a quitter' Legal challenge awaits if no-pay ouster is tried, manager's agent says

Steering of fine at issue

'I've never been able to gain owner's respect'

October 30, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Davey Johnson reiterated yesterday that he has no intention of resigning despite what organization sources say is a concerted effort by majority owner Peter Angelos to pressure him from his job.

"I'm not a quitter. I'm a fighter," Johnson said.

To underscore the point, Johnson's attorney, Skip Dalton, said yesterday that any attempt by the club to oust his client without paying him for the final year on his contract would be met with a legal challenge. Meanwhile, a club source indicated that "everything is up for review" regarding the enforcement of Johnson's deal.

The matter could be headed for a rancorous showdown after Tuesday's discovery that Johnson had directed second baseman Roberto Alomar to earmark a $10,500 fine to a charity that includes Johnson's wife, Susan, among its fund-raisers. The embattled manager disputed conflict-of-interest charges, maintaining he was trying to "turn a negative situation into something positive."

"If Mr. Angelos chooses to fire Davey, then he will suffer the consequences. I don't think there is anything in his contract about giving money to charity," said Dalton, who hasn't corresponded with the owner since faxing a request last Thursday that he either grant Johnson an extension or buy him out of his remaining year.

Johnson said the Orioles encouraged his wife to become involved in Baltimore-area charities. Indeed, Susan Johnson became leader of the Orioles Wives, who conduct fund-raisers and benefits for local groups. Among her duties is serving as managing director of Carson Scholars Fund Inc.. The fund establishes scholarships as a means of encouraging talented children to remain in school.

Johnson added: "I'm being a bad guy for directing funds to charity? If it's a conflict of interest to try to help out some underprivileged kids with education. If that's a conflict of interest, I don't know. I mean, where do you want it to go? It can't go to anything that my wife is involved with, then fine."

Dalton said: "Unquestionably, this is a public relations move by Peter Angelos to use public sentiment to not treat Davey with the regard he's entitled. The Orioles were the ones who encouraged Susan Johnson to become involved in local charities. To raise this now is very suspicious."

Johnson described his wife as livid. Susan Johnson had no comment. Irritated by the involvement of his wife in the controversy, Johnson says Angelos is using the issue to cloak a smoldering agenda.

"First it was the size of the fine. Now it's where the fine went," Johnson said. "For some reason, I've never been able to gain this owner's respect."

Dalton said: "It makes him angry, and justifiably so. Susan Johnson doesn't work for the Baltimore Orioles. She's done exactly what she's been asked to do. This is an excellent charity. To now conjure this up as evil doings by Davey Johnson against club policy is a farce, an artifice and a public relations ploy. Here's a manager who has done more for the Orioles than anyone since Earl Weaver and for some reason Peter Angelos doesn't want him to return. He's got to have a reason. So make it this."

While Angelos remains outraged, the Major League Baseball Players Association has prepared a grievance against the club if the matter is not handled internally.

Sources say Angelos assured the union that the fine will not stand but that the union still plans to argue against both the size of the fine and Johnson's dictating its direction. Angelos was not available to comment.

Johnson, meanwhile, says he would welcome an opportunity to speak with Angelos but said he has no plans to apologize for his actions. "I'll go to a grievance hearing with anybody who wants, whether it's the Players Association, the league office or whatever. I have to apologize for getting money to charity?"

Typically, however, a manager does not determine who benefits from fines. Some clubs designate a charity. Others permit a players to select his own cause. Johnson says he never has allowed players to determine a recipient charity.

Speaking from his winter home in Winter Park, Fla., Johnson said he had a similar policy as manager of the New York Mets. Johnson cited a fine of Darryl Strawberry when he directed the outfielder to write a check to a Catholic youth charity.

The relationship between Angelos and Johnson has plummeted since the Orioles' elimination from the American League Championship Series. Johnson says he attempted to phone Angelos on Wednesday of last week, but that the owner did not have time to talk. The next day, Johnson had Dalton fax his request for an extension to Angelos' law office. Johnson said he was partly motivated out of concern for his coaches, several of whom are without a contract after tomorrow.

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