Those who've worked with Angelos aren't surprised by parting Owner called 'demanding,' but also 'decent, forthright': DAVEY JOHNSON RESIGNATION

November 06, 1997|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

Millionaire attorney Peter Angelos was viewed as a savior when he spent $173 million to bring the Orioles back under local ownership in August 1993, and he has spent liberally to build a championship-caliber team. But in the process, he also has built a reputation for being a harsh boss.

His management style was called into question again yesterday, when successful manager Davey Johnson submitted his resignation after weeks of speculation about his future with the club.

Angelos has gone through three managers during his four years as the club's chairman and CEO, even though the team has improved steadily and reached the American League Championship Series the past two seasons.

Johnson's resignation may have surprised fans who watched the Orioles become only the sixth team in baseball history to spend every day of the regular season in first place, but it did not come as a shock to people who have worked with and for Angelos.

They describe Angelos as fiercely loyal, focused and driven -- but capable of micromanagement and flashes of hot temper.

"Obviously, he's very demanding," said former Orioles executive Doug Melvin, now the general manager of the Texas Rangers. "But there's pressure everywhere. I guess there are just some places that are quieter than others.

"Somewhere along the line, there will be someone who will be a fit for Peter," said Melvin, who was lured away by the Rangers before the 1996 management shuffle that resulted in the hiring of general manager Pat Gillick and assistant GM Kevin Malone. "Obviously, the one he's looking for hasn't been through there yet."

One ex-employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still has business ties to the owner, said of Angelos: "He can't bear the idea of sharing authority with anyone. Delegating is not one of his talents."

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who worked as an assistant GM for Angelos, said the latest managerial controversy raises more questions about the expectations of a demanding owner.

"What are they looking for?" Robinson said. "What do you have to do to keep your job? The next manager is going to be saying to himself, 'How do I satisfy him -- by winning a world championship every year? Would that be enough?' "

It is a scenario that has been played out before, with Johnny Oates playing the role of the spurned American League Manager of the Year.

"I think Davey did a great job," said Oates, who has managed the Rangers the past three seasons, "but a lot of times it's not just what goes on between the lines and what's good for the organization. It goes deeper than that. Davey feels he has to move on."

Former Orioles broadcaster Jon Miller, who went to work for the San Francisco Giants after Angelos failed to offer him a contract and criticized him for not being enough of a cheerleader, said he was puzzled by the Johnson matter but didn't see any parallel with his situation.

"Ultimately it's Mr. Angelos' right to have the games broadcast or managed the way he judges to be best," said Miller, who said his tenure under Angelos was "great."

"He hired the premier manager in baseball and one of, if not the, premier general managers in baseball. And they lived up to their reputations.

"He made great moves bringing them in. It becomes a mystery as to why he's [Davey Johnson] not here anymore," Miller said.

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, an analyst on Orioles television broadcasts, said he's worried about the team's success being affected by the turnover at the top.

"In general, the organization is going in the right direction," Palmer said. "Now, you lose some of that continuity. Not that there aren't other good managerial candidates out there, but Davey's got a track record. Is he a perfect human being who isn't going to ruffle any feathers? No. He's had trouble in other places. But he wins. I'm shocked and disappointed," he said of Johnson's departure.

Angelos isn't afraid to tangle with prominent people outside his chain of command. The past two years he has been severely at odds with his landlord, John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Early in his pursuit of an NFL team, Moag cut Angelos out of the loop -- and the baseball team owner asked Gov. Parris N. Glendening to fire Moag in 1995. Glendening refused.

Angelos and Moag have since tangled over everything from parking to development on and near Camden Yards and the number of parking passes issued to stadium authority employees.

"There are days when I can relate to Davey Johnson. Except for the $700,000 salary," Moag said.

Charles Steinberg, senior vice president of public affairs for the San Diego Padres, who held a similar post with the Orioles until 1995, said "I never had a problem with Peter Angelos.

"He was very good to me. He was very, very good and decent and forthright and we worked well together. We would sit and talk and you were talking with a real heart-felt Baltimorean who truly wanted what was best for Baltimore."

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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