These two need divorce for O's sake

October 30, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal

The worst thing for Davey Johnson would be to manage the Orioles as a lame duck next season.

The worst thing for Peter Angelos would be to keep a manager he despises for another year.

After the tumultuous events of the past week, it's obvious that they've reached the stage of irreconcilable differences, and that Johnson must go.

He and Angelos are indeed acting like a couple on the verge of a divorce, fighting over alimony, fighting over nonsense, fighting for the sake of fighting.

They've thrown dishes at each other, aired their dirty laundry, embarrassed the entire Orioles family.

Now can they just sign the necessary papers and let everyone get on with the rest of their lives?

Johnson says he won't quit. Angelos says he won't fire him.

But do they plan to meet, resolve their differences and get back to the business of winning a World Series?

Of course not.

It's the irresistible force vs. the immovable object.

It's an owner who fires everyone vs. a manager who always gets fired.

It's a sad, strange turn of events for an organization that once stood for class and stability, but under Angelos stages "The War of the Roses" every October.

Angelos and Johnson need to make a clean break, and make it as soon as possible. The question now is not if the Orioles will be damaged, but how much.

The loss of Johnson would send the team into another uncertain period of transition, no matter which unfortunate soul Angelos trots out as his next manager.

General manager Pat Gillick is likely to honor the final year of his contract -- the Toronto Blue Jays can't try to lure him back until their new ownership is settled.

Still, how is Gillick going to persuade free agents to join a franchise in turmoil? And why would Randy Myers and Brady Anderson even want to stay now?

Johnson is a major reason Myers signed with the Orioles in the first place. The closer is unlikely to return with his manager's future in such jeopardy.

Anderson, too, developed a special trust with Johnson. He would take less money to stay in Baltimore, but now he has an excuse for accepting a better offer:

The Orioles are a mess.

The free-agent market opens in less than two weeks, and Gillick is going to have to sell Darryl Kile and Co. on an organization with A) a feuding hierarchy or B) an opening for its fourth manager in five years.

Lots of luck.

For once, Angelos might discover that money can't buy everything. He'll deserve most of the blame if this off-season proves ruinous. But as usual, Johnson is no innocent.

If there was any doubt he had a death wish, it's now official.

Johnson might be the first manager in major-league history to be fired for charity work, but he knew Angelos was out to get him, and still couldn't stay out of trouble.

He speculated that he would be fired if he didn't reach the World Series. He asked Angelos to extend his contract or buy out the final year. And he exercised a blatant conflict of interest with his fine of Roberto Alomar.

It might seem silly, this issue of Johnson directing Alomar to pay his $10,500 fine to a charity that employs the manager's wife as a fund-raiser.

But it sure doesn't look good, pressuring a player to donate money that is the club's -- not Johnson's -- to collect and control.

However questionable his conduct, the money went to a good cause -- the Carson Scholars Fund Inc., uses scholarships to encourage children to stay in school.

And rest assured, if Angelos hadn't unearthed this dirt on Johnson, he would have found something else.

Still, what was the manager thinking?

This is his Whitewater, and Susan is his Hillary Rodham Clinton. Or, to be more accurate, this is his fund-raising scandal, and Susan is his Albert Gore.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins Hospital should establish a Roberto Alomar Wing, as much money as the second baseman has given to related causes since the John Hirschbeck incident.

But back to Kramer vs. Kramer -- er, Angelos vs. Johnson.

Ideally, they'll sit down and negotiate a divorce settlement, then hold a massive charity event for the Carson fund to celebrate their new lives apart.

Don't count on it.

Angelos could wait until all the managerial openings are filled, then fire Johnson and refuse to pay his $750,000 salary for next season, citing the handling of the Alomar fine as a breach of contract.

Johnson might want to quit before that happens, but that would be a clear breach of contract, and Angelos could sue him and attempt to prevent him from working next season.

Unpleasant choices. Irreconcilable differences.

Bring on the lawyers.

Angelos and Johnson are like a mother and father screaming at each other in front of their children, disrupting a foundation they worked so hard to build, scarring their family in ways they don't even understand.

They need to get over it.

They need to get on with it.

The Orioles are suffering.

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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