Dodgers hire O's Malone as GM Gillick assistant leaves despite Orioles' hints he would be promoted

September 12, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Leaving the Orioles scrambling for front-office direction, assistant general manager Kevin Malone yesterday accepted a four-year, $2 million contract and control of baseball operations as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The move elevates Malone, 41, to one of the game's most prestigious positions. He succeeds Tommy Lasorda and becomes the Dodgers' third GM in less than four months.

Malone had been expected to succeed Pat Gillick as Orioles general manager but never received the offer that the Dodgers extended him late Thursday night.

Calling his new position "an outstanding opportunity" only hinted at in Baltimore, Malone said, "It was implied there was a good chance I'd be the next general manager of the Orioles but there was no guarantee, no commitment."

He informed Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos of his decision in a telephone call yesterday morning. They exchanged best wishes and parted amicably, Malone said.

Angelos was unavailable for comment.

Coupled with Gillick's anticipated departure after the season, Malone's exodus creates a huge void.

Orioles chief operation officer Joe Foss said last night that he would begin an immediate search for Gillick's successor. Foss and Angelos had held preliminary talks with Malone.

"I think Kevin was the likely selection but not the only selection. We intended to interview a number of candidates," Foss said.

Hoping to choose Gillick's successor by the end of the World Series, the Orioles will seek permission from other clubs to begin the interview process.

Foss said there are "half a dozen" candidates. Possibilities include Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Dean Taylor, Cleveland Indians assistant general manager Dan O'Dowd, former New York Yankees general manager Bob Watson, former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire and Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden.

"We have had a list of candidates in the event that Pat does not come back, which is the likely course," Foss said.

Foss said Gillick would be allowed a voice in choosing his successor. "We'd be shortsighted in not getting Pat's input," Foss said.

The Orioles could have locked up Malone by guaranteeing him the general manager's job. They chose to wait.

"I don't think it's that simple a point," Foss said. "The fans deserve the organization go through the complete process of reviewing all the candidates for the job. I don't think you should be limited to the candidates who are within the organization."

He said that Malone had been "the front runner" but that Gillick's status made it improper for the club to guarantee anything until Gillick's departure becomes official.

Gillick has indicated he will not remain after his three-year contract with the club expires after this season.

He made a statement yesterday congratulating Malone but was otherwise unavailable for comment. "This is a great opportunity for him and I wish him all the best. Kevin is an outstanding baseball man and I have enjoyed the relationship that we have developed during our time in Baltimore," he said.

The shade was drawn on Malone's warehouse office yesterday, a metaphor for an organization that faces the defection of its top two baseball officials.

"Pat is still the GM and everything's working. It's not like there's no one in control right now," manager Ray Miller said.

Minor-league director Syd Thrift could temporarily replace Gillick. do what I have to do if I have to do it," Thrift said. "I would expect [the general manager] would come from the outside."

Miller and Gillick lobbied long and loud for the club to anoint Malone but could not force Foss' timetable.

The move disappointed but did not surprise many within the warehouse. Malone, who had been working without a contract since December, was frustrated over his lack of job security. "At first it bothered me because I think I was unique in the industry," Malone admitted. "I didn't understand why I didn't have a contract like everybody else does. "

He also chafed when ownership called off several prospective trades, including a May deal that would have dispatched second baseman Roberto Alomar and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro to the New York Mets.

Yet Malone enjoyed better communication with Angelos than Gillick did. It was Malone who orchestrated the July 31 trade for Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Juan Guzman. He was also a link between Angelos and several pending free agents, including B. J. Surhoff, Eric Davis and Rafael Palmeiro.

Miller downplayed the apparent uncertainty facing the club as it addresses eight free agents, and probable internal renovations.

"He's still there for me in anything I need. And this is a big time of the year for us. We've got some big decisions to make," Miller said.

Malone had said publicly that he preferred to remain with the Orioles, but he immediately accepted the Dodgers' offer.

"I don't know if there was a choice. I was never offered a contract [in Baltimore] and I was never guaranteed anything there," he said.

Malone had met several times recently with Angelos and Foss concerning the general manager's job. Though Malone said an offer was "implied," none was made. His acceptance would have been predicated on restructuring a chain of command he considered too fragmented.

"If I had taken the job as general manager of the Baltimore Orioles -- if it had been offered to me -- I believe I would have accepted it with the understanding I would make all necessary baseball decisions," Malone said yesterday.

Malone plans to clean out his office this weekend and go to Los Angeles next week. A Christian, he said yesterday's decision was part of a larger plan for him controlled not by Angelos, the Dodgers or himself.

"I know a lot of people think I'm leaving disappointed, but I think it worked out the way God wanted it to work out. I'm happy," he said.

Pub Date: 9/12/98

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