Angelos demands Johnson apology Angry over fine, owner puts condition on manager's return

Johnson says talks ongoing

Assignment of fine called 'poor judgment'

November 01, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos is demanding that embattled manager Davey Johnson offer a formal apology for his handling of July's $10,500 fine of second baseman Roberto Alomar to have any chance of returning for another season, organizational sources said yesterday.

The condition arose out of a lengthy conversation between Angelos and Johnson on Thursday, the first contact between the two in more than a month. What sources described as an occasionally loud debate ended cordially with Angelos still undecided whether he would fire Johnson or allow him to return for the final year of his three-year, $2.25 million contract. Johnson and Angelos intended to speak again yesterday. However, as of early last night, no further talks had occurred.

"I'm just waiting to see what happens," Johnson said yesterday from his Florida home. "We talked. We both said our piece. And I thought it was a fairly constructive thing. But beyond that, I don't know."

Johnson and Angelos spoke -- sometimes heatedly -- for about 90 minutes on Thursday, discussing issues that have festered for most of a season. Central to the conversation was Johnson's decision to direct Alomar's $10,500 fine to a Baltimore charity that lists his wife, Susan, as a primary fund-raiser. Angelos considers the move a conflict of interest by the manager and was infuriated that neither he nor any front-office member was aware of the potential controversy.

A letter was sent to Alomar on July 11 directing him to make out a check for the fine to the Carson Scholars Fund Inc. The fund establishes scholarships as a means of encouraging children to remain in school.

The letter was written by general manager Pat Gillick, who apparently had no idea of Susan Johnson's involvement with the charity. Gillick has since described the assignment of the fine as "poor judgment" while also lobbying to keep Johnson as manager.

Johnson, meanwhile, has conceded to several associates that he may not be back but remains opposed to resigning.

Although Angelos has not told Johnson to apologize for the fine itself, he is adamant that Johnson recant how it was assigned.

Earlier this week, Johnson gave no apology, insisting his motives were sound and that his wife would receive no benefit from it. However, even those close to the manager now acknowledge that the move was imprudent, especially given Angelos' lingering problems with Johnson.

Johnson argues that he orchestrated similar arrangements as manager of the New York Mets. According to a club source familiar with the situation, Johnson would likely make a statement in conjunction with his return, spelling out his mistake. Johnson offered no comment on the condition last night, citing his ongoing talks with Angelos.

There are many who see such a move contrary to Johnson's nature. Only last month the manager insisted that he harbors no second thoughts about anything he has ever done while running team.

"He's not going to sell himself out. If he feels it's not the right thing to do, he won't do it. If he feels it's 100 percent the wrong thing, there's no way he would do it. I can't believe Davey would do that. He's too proud," said the associate.

Johnson told another associate yesterday that he and Angelos are going to attempt to work through their differences. Johnson, the source said, expressed a willingness to return without a contract extension.

Meanwhile, Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher and broadcaster Jim Palmer said last night that there is "absolutely nothing" to broadcast reports that claim Angelos had offered him the job.

"Davey's a very good friend. Peter's a good owner. And they need to solve their differences," Palmer said.

Palmer, who occasionally has served as a sounding board for Angelos, threw his support behind Johnson, an ex-teammate and current golfing buddy.

"Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree," Palmer said. "When you have somebody who has done the job the operative question is, 'Who are you going to get who's better?' Who are you going to get that's better than Davey Johnson? That's an important point of interest. I hope they work it out. It would be good for the city. It would be good for the team. It would be good for Peter."

Angelos offered no comment on the situation yesterday except to reiterate the process will take time.

It appears likely Alomar will not have to pay the fine. The Major League Baseball Players Association continues to prepare for a hearing on the matter but no date has been set, given Angelos' assurances that the matter would be handled in-house.

Alomar's agent, Jaime Torres, said Thursday that his client would have no comment.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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