Orioles manager Ray Miller offered a blunt, often emotional defense yesterday of his working relationship with majority owner Peter Angelos and first-year general manager Frank Wren, insisting there is "absolutely nothing subversive, nothing hidden" in his regular discussions with Angelos concerning personnel moves and organizational direction.
Reacting to a story in Tuesday's editions of The Sun that reported he may have strengthened his influence with Angelos at a time when Wren is being criticized internally for the team's struggles, Miller labeled several assertions "blatant lies" and described an aboveboard relationship with the general manager.
"The point of this whole thing is I have a relationship with Peter Angelos that requires me when I signed a contract to talk to him two or three times a week about the ballclub. That's all I do," Miller said, adding, "And every conversation is based on what Frank and I talk about. We talk about how we can help the ballclub."
Miller said the effort is a cooperative one with Wren rather than a competitive one. Any recommendations he might make are first discussed with the general manager, Miller said.
"My conversations with the owner are three or four days a week and basically a state of the union," Miller said. "We've tried to improve our pitching. I can say that any decision that has been made on this club as far as releasing someone or bringing someone up or sending someone down is totally shared and Frank has the final say-so.
"There is absolutely nothing subversive, nothing hidden. I've got the best relationship with any general manager I've had in baseball."
As manager of the Minnesota Twins in 1985-86, Miller said he felt abandoned by his front office. Last September, he complained about the inconsistent availability of Wren's predecessors, GM Pat Gillick and assistant Kevin Malone.
Wren said he and Miller are "on the same page on almost every personnel decision. In some cases, I've bent. In other cases, he's bent."
Miller denied participating in discussions about the possible release of pitchers Scott Kamieniecki and Mike Fetters. He also insisted that the April 30 release of reliever Heathcliff Slocumb was a joint decision between him and Wren. However, as recently as Sunday, Miller engaged reporters in a conversation about possible alternatives to the staff's current alignment. Club sources say similar talks have occurred with Angelos.
"We've got a 6.04 ERA and we're scoring 5.25 runs a game. We've played 37 games and the starters haven't gone beyond the fifth inning 12 times," Miller said. "That's not a defense of myself, the ballclub, the staff or anyone else. It's a fact. We're doing the best we can."
Miller, long sensitive to media characterizations of him as ownership's puppet, said no personnel decisions are mandated by Angelos. "I've never gotten a direct order from the owner about anything," he said. "When we sit and talk, Frank makes the ultimate decision. The only time ownership gets involved with the ballclub is anytime it involves a substantial amount of money."
The manager offered no apologies for his regular talks with Angelos, whom he spoke to on Monday about a roster move involving Kamieniecki. Miller notified the owner of the club's ability to option Kamieniecki to Triple-A Rochester for 20 days as a means of assisting the veteran's halting recovery from a strained left hamstring. (Kamieniecki cleared waivers last week and is eligible to be optioned if he grants permission.) Angelos apparently consented to the move and Miller phoned Kamieniecki on Monday night for further discussion.
Yesterday, the club optioned Kamieniecki and replaced him with Jason Johnson, who will start tomorrow night's series finale against the Anaheim Angels.
"All [Angelos] has ever asked -- and all I've ever given him -- is the state of the club. We talk about where it needs to be shored up and what we're trying to do about people who are struggling. He likes to know what's going on," said Miller, adding, "I have never had him put pressure on me about, `Don't play this guy; don't play that guy; get rid of this guy; get rid of that guy.' He leaves that strictly up to the baseball people. I respect that."
Miller resented the implication that he enjoys better access to Angelos than Wren does, but organizational sources indicate he enjoys a far easier relationship with the owner than Wren, who has borne the brunt of internal scrutiny for the team's 14-24 start. Wren's repeated urging that Angelos make a managerial change has gone unheeded, at least partially because of Angelos' reluctance to dislodge well-respected director of player development Tom Trebelhorn to assume an interim role.
Wren's relationship with the owner has become so strained, sources say, that Trebelhorn may also fear being recognized as "Wren's manager."
Asked whether he had recommended Miller's firing, Wren said, "I really can't answer that."