Johnson, free agents wait on Angelos Owner's delay may harm Orioles' ability to upgrade '98 roster

November 05, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Reminded that three weeks of suspense are seriously damaging his team's attractiveness among free agents, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is apparently closing on a decision regarding the future of manager Davey Johnson.

General manager Pat Gillick and assistant general manager Kevin Malone made the point during a two-hour meeting with Angelos yesterday. During the meeting, sources indicated Angelos renewed his indignation over Johnson's handling of a July fine of second baseman Roberto Alomar. Gillick, who spoke with Johnson afterward, declined to comment except to say the meeting was "an internal matter." Malone declined to comment.

Club sources indicate the continuing roil over Johnson could affect how agents and their clients perceive the AL East champions.

"This," one organization member said, "has gone from silly to absurd."

With Johnson allowed to dangle for three weeks since the Orioles were eliminated from the American League Championship Series, a perception grows of an uncertain direction. Even if Johnson returns, he will be considered on shaky footing.

A feeling exists that nothing is worse than continued inaction. Even some Johnson supporters believe it would be better to promote a successor from within the coaching staff rather than allow the uncertainty to fester. Pitching coach Ray Miller or hitting coach Rick Down likely would succeed Johnson. Down is also a finalist for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays post.

Johnson expected to hear from Angelos last Friday but says he has yet to receive a follow-up from their Thursday conversation. He indicated he may soon try to contact Angelos to facilitate a resolution.

"I think we need to get together," Johnson said. Asked if he may soon call Angelos, he added, "I may have to. I don't know the protocol at this point."

Angelos did not return phone calls last night.

Today Johnson will honor a commitment to attend a charity fishing tournament. Ironically, he is among the favorites to be named American League Manager of the Year when the Baseball Writers Association of America announces its vote at 6 p.m.

"I don't know what's going on, but I've got to get on with my life," Johnson said. "I haven't heard anything. I don't when I'm going to hear anything. As far as I know, I'm still up for review. Is that the word?"

Last weekend Angelos described the situation as being "under review." Momentum appeared to be shifting in Johnson's favor as he seemed willing to acknowledge his mishandling of Alomar's fine, which was compounded by assigning the fine money to a charity that retains Johnson's wife, Susan, as a leading fund-raiser. However, Angelos has yet to fax a copy of the prepared statement he would issue in conjunction with an announcement of Johnson's return.

Johnson reiterated last night he has no intention of quitting. "I'm under contract," he said. "I want to find out."

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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