Malone glad to leave 'the process' behind Hidden in his Dodgers joy is hurt of O's waiting game

Inside the Orioles

September 13, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Former assistant general manager Kevin Malone handled his departure from the Orioles glibly and tactfully Friday. His criticism was restrained as he instead chose to speak enthusiastically of his new challenge as Los Angeles Dodgers GM.

Yet six weeks ago, Malone, unsure of his future except that it would not be in Baltimore, absorbed a financial hit to sell his Florida home and promised his family they finally would be together. He just didn't know where.

Tired of his front office free agency, Malone assured his wife and two children they would no longer have to continue waiting along with him for an unfulfilled promise.

For all the organizational face-saving and spin that accompanied Friday's announcement that Malone was the Dodgers' new general manager, he left over issues of respect and dignity more so than ego and responsibility.

The Orioles still have what chief operating officer Joe Foss describes as "the process" for hiring a successor to Pat Gillick.

Malone has what he wanted all along: a contract, pay commensurate with responsibility, and the ability to tell his family they can move without fear of his imminent dismissal over philosophical differences.

"The process" remains but Malone does not, even though majority owner Peter Angelos classified Malone as the presumptive successor to Gillick, who has done everything but proclaim on Eutaw Street that he is leaving the club.

While the Orioles refer to Gillick's pending "retirement," the rest of the industry believes he will resurface in Seattle, Colorado or possibly Toronto. Friends don't describe Gillick as tired but rather tired of "the process."

"The process" will likely produce Jim Bowden, Bob Watson, Fred Claire, Al Goldis, Dan O'Dowd or similar as the Orioles' next general manager. Foss says it will be done by the end of October. Left to dangle since last December, Malone refused to wait on the Orioles to accept or reject his world view.

"I can't think of what their plan was for me. There was no formal commitment. It was implied there was a good chance I would be the next GM of the Orioles, but there were no guarantees," Malone said. "That had gone on for eight months. When [Angelos and Foss] granted permission they granted permission not just to interview me but to hire me. Once permission was granted, it was up to them to decide whether to make a proposal or not."

The Dodgers, who face the same postseason deadlines as the Orioles, moved quickly. As soon as Florida Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski excused himself from consideration, Malone was summoned for a second interview with News Corporation honchos Chase Carey and Peter Chernin.

An offer was made. Malone accepted without giving the Orioles a chance to counteroffer. Of course, it didn't matter. Foss had assured Dodgers president Bob Graziano that the club would not join in a bidding war. "They couldn't make up their mind in eight months here," said Malone. "The Dodgers decided in one week."

A glibmeister, Malone smiled for public consumption but privately stewed over the cavalier treatment he received. Even while Angelos and Foss informally interviewed him over a span of weeks, he coveted an offer elsewhere.

Foss spoke of Malone choosing the Southern California "lifestyle" over Baltimore. However, the lifestyle Malone rejected was the uncertainty attached to working without a contract since December.

"They can say what they want," Malone said. "I think everyone knows what the situation is."

The Orioles know Gillick has no intention of returning. He has told Foss as much. Yet the club remains hostage to a rigid "process" that will accelerate only after the departure of its self-described front-runner.

"Each situation is unique. I think the Orioles have their specific challenges. They have a lot of work to do," Malone said.

Malone engineered much of the planning for this off-season. He hoped to incorporate more speed within a veteran, heavy-legged clubhouse, possibly move Brady Anderson to left field, actively pursue free-agent catcher Mike Piazza and solidify the team's starting rotation with a No. 3-quality starter. Though he leaves town tomorrow, his blueprint stays behind.

Malone would have demanded substantive changes within the club's horizontal structure, changes that would not have played well on the business side of the warehouse.

"This year has been very disappointing for a lot of reasons," Malone said. "I've learned a lot; I've grown a lot. I thank the Orioles for that."

Malone then retrieved his tongue from his cheek.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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