Malone GM? No, Angelos wants puppet

July 12, 1998|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Kevin Malone should be the Orioles' next general manager, and owner Peter Angelos should give him the authority to pick his own manager, farm director and scouting director.

Will it happen?

Not a chance.

Malone is not a puppet, can't be a puppet, will never be a puppet. He's not going to accept the job unless Angelos allows him to run the team. And there's no indication that Angelos is even willing to hire him.

"I would have interest in the job, but I think there would have to be some changes made," Malone told the Associated Press. "The general manager needs the necessary authority in the decision-making process. If Mr. Angelos wants me to stay, I'd like to think he would believe in my vision and my direction."

Again, not a chance.

Pat Gillick is gone, possibly to Seattle. Malone is gone, maybe to one of the half-dozen other clubs seeking new GMs. If you think the Orioles are in bad shape now, just wait -- it could get worse.

In their first two seasons, the team of Gillick, Malone and manager Davey Johnson guided the Orioles to back-to-back appearances in the American League Championship Series.

Johnson resigned last season. Gillick and Malone likely will resign after this season. The game's most respected GM, one of the most respected managers, an overqualified assistant GM -- all chased out.

Angelos hired a manager who wouldn't challenge him, and he'll be looking for an equally subservient GM. Independent thinkers need not apply. If Angelos wouldn't trust Gillick, who is he going to trust?

Malone surely is asking himself that question, as are countless other GM candidates who would love the chance to manage Angelos' payroll, but fear his interference.

Angelos will find someone, maybe even someone with impressive credentials. What difference will it make? As Gillick quickly learned, a GM under Angelos is a GM in name only.

Malone has witnessed the humiliation of his mentor up-close and personal. He has worked without a contract all season, which shows how much Angelos values him. By now, it stands to reason that he has had enough.

Too bad.

There is no better candidate for the job.

Malone, 40, would take the same aggressive approach to the draft as Gillick. He could hire bright young farm and scouting directors, and at some point, his own manager.

There's plenty to recommend, especially when you consider that part of the Orioles' rationale for hiring Ray Miller was that he offered a smooth transition from Johnson. Malone carries the same appeal, and he's better qualified to be GM than Miller was to be manager.

His background is in scouting. He spent two seasons as the GM in Montreal. He has Gillick's endorsement after three years as his assistant, knows the organization and seems to communicate well with Angelos.

What more could the owner want?

Ask Jon Miller. Ask Davey Johnson. Ask Gillick.

A yes man.

Gillick certainly didn't qualify, imploring the owner to trade David Wells and Bobby Bonilla in July 1996, believing the moves would better position the Orioles for the future. The two have clashed repeatedly ever since.

Coming from the cash-strapped Expos, Malone is just as passionate as Gillick about player development. Successful teams -- the Braves, the Indians, the Yankees -- build strong foundations through their farm systems. But the Orioles are so thin on prospects, they're forced to keep overpaying for veterans.

It's a vicious cycle, and as the Orioles discovered in the late 1980s, it can lead to a crash. Angelos probably fears that he won't draw 40,000 fans a night unless the team remains highly competitive. But the team can't remain highly competitive unless it adopts the philosophy advocated by Gillick and Malone.

If left alone, Malone probably would strip down the club to a greater extent than Angelos envisions, attempt to build the organization the way he did in Montreal and ensure that the Orioles never operate in handcuffs again.

They were in positions of weakness with Brady Anderson and Scott Erickson. Now they're in positions of weakness with Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro. If they lose a potential free agent, they've got nowhere to turn.

Cal Ripken has lobbied for the Orioles to keep Alomar and Palmeiro. Alas, the future Hall of Famer is focusing on the wrong duo. The losses of Gillick and Malone would create a far greater void.

Cincinnati GM Jim Bowden is the most speculated candidate, largely because of his prior association with Orioles farm director Syd Thrift. Why should that be a selling point? Thrift has sparred with Gillick, Malone and Miller. And his farm system isn't exactly thriving.

Whatever, we've seen it all before.

Gillick and Malone will depart, the selection process will begin and the puppet GM will be introduced at a news conference, promising yet another return to the Oriole Way.

No one should be fooled.

Jon Miller. Davey Johnson. Pat Gillick. Kevin Malone.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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