No Angelos tip in O's 'jump ball' Owner keeps Johnson waiting on his '98 fate

November 02, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Keeping to a prediction that no judgment would likely be made this weekend regarding his manager, Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos deliberated another day over what he calls his "Davey problem."

Between family functions and a round of golf, Davey Johnson waited a second day for the phone call that never came. Following Thursday's sometimes rancorous 90-minute conversation with his manager, Angelos said he would get back to Johnson regarding their attempt to mend a frayed relationship.

However, nine days after Johnson prodded the issue by seeking either a contract extension or a contract buyout, he still has no idea about his status for 1998.

One club executive described the outcome yesterday as "a jump ball." Others speculated that Angelos may already know his intended path but is delaying a call to allow Johnson to twist.

"This is his issue and he's going to hold onto it for a while," said one club source.

"We're still waiting on Mr. Angelos," said Johnson's attorney, Skip Dalton. "He knows where he can find us."

Though issues such as clubhouse control were broached during Thursday's conversation, the centerpiece for Angelos' exasperation with Johnson remains his handling of last July's $10,500 fine of second baseman Roberto Alomar. Johnson designated that the fine be paid to a charity retaining his wife Susan as a primary fund-raiser. Angelos sees it as a clear conflict of interest. Johnson, though supportive of his decision earlier in the week, apparently is prepared to admit a lapse in judgment.

Angelos is seeking such a concession as a condition for Johnson to remain as Orioles manager.

"I think it's pretty much about the fine," said general manager Pat Gillick. "They touched on some other things, I think, but the fine that's the main thing."

Gillick said he spoke with Johnson yesterday, but only to confirm developments in the situation.

"Peter looks at things very thoroughly and analytically," said Gillick. "I don't know when [a decision] will come. I hope it's soon."

While Johnson dangles, many Orioles remain puzzled about how the issue has reached this stage. Though aware Johnson and Alomar shared differences last season, the players didn't see it as significant enough to possibly result in the firing of their manager.

"I think [Angelos and Johnson] should settle their differences and move on," said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. "We had a great season. We have a great team coming back. Davey deserves to be back. He's part of this. This team will be playing for the world championship next year."

At the same time, Gillick said improved communication could help alleviate what had become a tense situation by year's end.

"Talking never hurts. I think it's possible to co-exist," he said.

While Alomar has refused to address the situation, team members see his role as central to the controversy. The All-Star second baseman missed a July 10 exhibition in Rochester after attending the All-Star Game in Cleveland.

When Alomar failed to notify Johnson that he was trying to get home to Puerto Rico to be with family following the death of his grandmother, Johnson assessed the fine.

According to the Player Relations Committee, Alomar could have been docked an entire day's pay, roughly $30,000.

Johnson has said he believes the fine is a convenient issue for Angelos to seize upon. Likewise, many believe Alomar protested the fine to the owner because of a double standard he perceives between himself and fellow All-Stars Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson. "Robby considers himself a superstar and wants to be treated like a superstar," observed one teammate. "He doesn't feel he's treated like one."

Indeed, Alomar complained about preferential parking privileges

accorded Ripken. He also noticed more lenient times accorded other players for early batting practice.

Turned away from the batting cage one day after arriving several minutes late for early hitting, Alomar subsequently defied the team's pre-game dress code. He typically emerged from the clubhouse to take batting practice wearing a cut-off windbreaker, sneakers and his hat turned backward -- all team violations.

Johnson never reprimanded him.

Alomar later asked that a clubhouse attendant be allowed to drive his car into the tunnel after games. He was peeved when the request was denied because the attendant did not carry a driver's license.

Alomar insisted last month he felt he could play for Johnson. He has consistently denied seeking a trade, though the Orioles have introduced his name in preliminary discussions with at least two teams. As part of his shuttle diplomacy between Angelos and Johnson, Gillick would like to see a resolution of the friction between player and manager.

Alomar is among Angelos' favorite players. Johnson does not head the owner's list of favorite managers. Alomar is eligible for free agency after next season. Without an extension, Johnson also would enter the final year of a three-year contract.

Sources believe Alomar will not remain in Baltimore past 1998 with Johnson as manager. As of today, an immediate separation is still possible.

While Johnson dangles, many Orioles remain puzzled about how the issue has reached this stage. Though aware Johnson and Alomar shared differences last season, the players didn't see it as significant enough to possibly result in the firing of their manager.

"I think [Angelos and Johnson] should settle their differences and move on," said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. "We had a great season. We have a great team coming back. Davey deserves to be back. He's part of this. This team will be playing for the world championship next year."

At the same time, Gillick said improved communication could help alleviate what had become a tense situation by year's end.

"Talking never hurts. I think it's possible to co-exist," he said.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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