Someone to show the O's how to execute

April 29, 1999|By Kevin Cowherd

If the Orioles are serious about turning around this car wreck of a season, there's only one man for the job.

Hint: He'd be the ultimate no-nonsense manager. Another hint: He's a huge baseball fan who routinely caps off the night at Havana's Palacio Nacional by clicking on ESPN.

Final hint: His national team plays the O's Monday night at Camden Yards.

Right, we're talking the Hall of Fame dictator, Cuba's Maximum Leader himself: Fidel Castro.

The benefits of having Fidel Castro as your manager are obvious.

For one thing, he's a big name, and big-name managers put fannies in the seats.

For another, you wouldn't need a six-figure contract to lure him here. As a die-hard communist, he'd be content if you kept him in clean fatigues and cigars.

The other thing is, this is a guy who gets results.

If you play for Castro and fail to run out a ground ball, you're gone, it's that simple.

Miss a sign from the third base coach, you're gone.

Understand, when I say you're gone, I don't mean you just lose your place in the lineup.

I mean you're literally gone.

In the middle of the night, a dark Russian sedan pulls up to your house, four burly guys in raincoats get out and hustle you away and no one ever sees you again.

The next day, a team "spokesman" in fatigues and a black beret would announce: "Senor Albert Belle is no longer with los Orioles de Baltimore."

And if anyone gets too nosy and asks "Well, where is Senor Belle?" the spokesman would say: "Senor Belle is taking una vacacion. Senor Rich Amaral will play right field.

"Viva la revolucion! There will be no more questions."

A tad harsh? Perhaps.

But, remember, this is a last-place team we're talking about. This is a team badly in need of shaking up.

And if it takes sending a few overpaid, uninterested players on, uh, vacation, who'd argue with that?

Here's another reason why Castro would be perfect for the Orioles: There's a tremendous air of negativity surrounding the ballclub right now. And who better to deal with negativity than Castro?

Look, in Cuba, people stand in line four hours just to buy an egg. They go days, sometimes weeks, without electricity. So you don't think there's a little bit of grumbling going on down there?

But the thing is, like all the great despots, Castro knows how to handle grumbling.

First thing he'd do as O's manager is end media access to the team. Win or lose, the O's would issue the same terse statement after every game: "Our brave campeones fought hard. As always, they will strive to do better manana, and to bring honor and glory to the cause. Viva, Fidel!"

And that would be it.

No moaning from the manager, no hand-wringing from the players, no endless analyzing before the TV cameras about what went wrong, who failed to hit in the clutch, who missed the cutoff man.

Now, let's be honest here. Are there risks involved in hiring Castro to manage the Orioles?

Of course.

For one thing, the man is getting up there in age. He's 73 and with the wild beard and the cigar-stained teeth and everything, he looks even older.

But you'd look old, too, if you'd spent your early years blowing up railroad tracks and bridges and ambushing government troops, and then hot-footing it back into the Sierra Maestra mountains.

Planning a good ambush can be very stressful; all the great revolutionaries, the Che Guevaras, the Ho Chi Minhs, looked old before their time.

The other thing about Castro is, he's not used to taking direction. This is a man who pretty much likes to do things his own way, which means he could butt heads with O's owner Peter Angelos.

If Angelos were to take him aside and say: "Fidel, maybe Brady should bat leadoff and Conine second," I don't know how that would go over.

I could see Castro quietly turning to one of his security men and whispering: "Take this meddling, imperialist perro away."

Still, it's worth a shot. What have the O's got to lose?

Me, I keep picturing this: a warm spring night, a sellout crowd at Camden Yards and a voice over the PA system intoning: "Ladies and gentlemen, let's give a warm Baltimore welcome to the new manager of the Orioles: Fidel Castro!"

And here he comes bounding out of the dugout on those spindly legs, green fatigues shimmering in the night, waving his army cap high in the air as he acknowledges a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

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