1st and last, Johnson was answer man

May 24, 1998|By John Eisenberg

So, you think it's all Ray Miller's fault that the Orioles are wallowing instead of winning?

You think things would be fine if Davey Johnson were still the manager?

Prove it. Show me the evidence.

Well?

That's right, you can't. Because Johnson isn't still managing. He's playing golf in Florida and traveling to Japan and waiting for the phone to ring and probably giggling a little when he checks the standings. Which means we'll never know what would have happened if he hadn't "resigned" after last season.

Would Mike Mussina have gone on the disabled list twice? Who knows? Would Brady Anderson have struggled to hit .100, much less .200? Who knows? Would the team just have caved in on him before the end of May, as it has on Miller? Who knows?

Johnson probably would have stirred the soup by now, tinkered with the hard drive, started a war with someone -- done anything, basically, to distract the club and keep it from falling into a languid, losing rut. Miller isn't as emotional, and certainly not as combative. Has it mattered? Who knows?

The reality is you never know for sure what any manager's impact is on any team in any season. Some things are his fault, some aren't. But it's never easy to tell which events fall into which category. In many cases, it's impossible to tell.

Any speculation as to how the Orioles would have fared with Johnson instead of Miller is exactly that -- speculation. Supposition based on conjecture rooted in opinion. A big, fat guess.

No one knows. You can't look it up.

What we do know, based on Johnson's record, which you can look up, is there's a good chance the Orioles would have pulled out of this funk and ended up with a winning record and probably in playoff contention.

Johnson, if you recall, has never failed to deliver such a season when managing a club from the beginning to the end of a season. That's not just a coincidence. He is a competent, capable manager, one of the best in the game.

To suggest that he was only "superficially" involved in the Orioles' success last season -- Orioles owner Peter Angelos said that last week in an interview with The Sun's Joe Strauss -- is laughable.

There's no way of knowing how many more games the club won last season because Johnson was the manager, but, based on the hard evidence of his record, there was a meaningful correlation.

Miller has no such evidence supporting him. You can't say his presence makes it likely that the club will right itself and end up in contention. Miller hasn't shown yet that he is capable of that as a manager.

He is a good baseball man and a terrific pitching coach, but he was 109-130 in his first shot at managing with the Twins in the mid-'80s, and now he is presiding over a $69 million club sitting in last place. Facts are facts. There's no promise in that record.

You can't blame him for the key injuries that have upset the club's balance, or the lack of speed, or the hitters not hitting, or the pitchers not pitching well. You * Air exceeds 15% of leg depth. Distributing 133.0 points of excess space through leg.

I can't vertically justify this block Johnson certainly can't blame him for the front office losing Randy Myers to free agency.

But you can blame Angelos for messing with a formula that worked so well in 1997.

For thinking the Orioles wouldn't suffer if he traded in his proven, successful manager for one that hasn't done much of anything.

That's the thinking of a neophyte.

The reality is managers never are just "superficially" involved in a team's success or failure. They don't hit or pitch, but they make critical decisions. A lot of them. Every day.

No, you often can't tell which individual decisions to credit or fault.

But you certainly can tell a quality manager when you see one.

It wasn't a coincidence that Earl Weaver won all those games for all those years, platooning and juggling and creating little miracles that never ceased.

Weaver could manage, period. It's a skill and he was good at it, very good at it. That's why he is in the Hall of Fame.

There's no way of knowing how the Orioles would have fared for all those years under a manager with less skill than Weaver, but it's highly doubtful that they would have won as much.

That's just common sense.

By the same token, while there's no way of knowing whether the Orioles would be better or worse this year with Johnson, it's highly doubtful that they're better off without him.

That's not meant to be a criticism of Miller. This isn't even about him, really.

It's just that a good manager is a good manager, and the Orioles had one, and they lost him.

In that sense, for having made a move so shortsighted and rooted in non-baseball issues, they're getting what they deserve.

Pub Date: 5/24/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.