Orioles delay Miller decision

Angelos takes time, surprises manager

Leyland scenario rises

October 05, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

And on the first day, they waited.

Proving that they will not be hastened by expectations, the Orioles postponed any decision on the fate of manager Ray Miller for at least 24 hours yesterday as Miller waited for a call that never came.

Miller remained in Baltimore after Sunday's season-ending 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox in anticipation of a meeting with majority owner Peter Angelos. However, as of last night Angelos had yet to contact Miller, leaving club employees to field a flood of phone calls and delaying what is believed to be the inevitable search for Miller's successor.

"I had expected to hear something," Miller said. "I don't know how to read it."

Angelos repeatedly has exhibited a lawyer's penchant for using every available moment to reach a decision. Miller's contract offers a 72-hour window in which the club must either exercise or decline a $650,000 option for next season. Widespread reports of Miller's imminent ouster likely added to yesterday's inactivity, according to a source familiar with the process.

General manager Frank Wren said he spoke to neither Miller nor Angelos yesterday but declined further comment.

It has become clear that Angelos will control the process. Wren has advocated a swift resolution in order to begin quickly the search for a successor but has yet to receive authorization from Angelos, according to a club source. While Miller said last weekend he is not interested in remaining with the organization if his option is declined, Angelos may be considering an offer to keep Miller in another capacity.

Such a move would have precedent. Miller was involved in talks last October that would have brought Jim Leyland to Baltimore as manager. Approached by a club executive on behalf of Angelos, Miller agreed to stay on as pitching coach if the Orioles could lure Leyland.

Granted managerial free agency after the Florida Marlins were sold by Wayne Huizenga, Leyland instead accepted the Colorado Rockies' $2 million-per-year offer.

"There was talk, but it never got to the boiling point," said an Orioles official.

Leyland, disgusted by player attitudes, resigned after one season and has insisted he will not return to the dugout, though the Orioles still have interest.

Miller, Leyland's pitching coach for 10 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, said he spoke with his former boss last week and received no indication that Leyland was reconsidering his decision to leave the dugout.

Miller did not stop by his Camden Yards office yesterday as he had done the previous two seasons. The belief is so prevalent that a switch will be made that Miller accepted the thanks and best wishes from numerous players while wishing them future luck.

Wren has spoken with Miller's staff but few have received any guarantees. Hitting coach Terry Crowley has been assured he will be retained. The remainder of those still under contract would likely be offered other positions within the organization if not retained by Miller's successor.

The Orioles' list of available candidates grew by one yesterday when the Chicago Cubs fired manager Jim Riggleman, last year's runner-up in NL Manager of the Year balloting.

The Cubs crashed to a 67-95 last-place finish in the NL Central. Former Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner and Atlanta Braves hitting coach Don Baylor also are believed to be leading candidates.

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