New O's hires will be another chapter in same old story

October 08, 1999|By John Eisenberg

Who will replace Ray Miller and Frank Wren as the Orioles' manager and general manager?

Who cares?

There's no drama in this anymore. None of the excitement that the unknown can bring.

At this point, like in a cheap novel, we know the ending before the story even begins.

No matter who gets hired, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos will become disenchanted with them for some reason, real or imagined, and they'll get fired. Then another pair will get hired and fired with Angelos lurking in the background, unseen but madly second-guessing.

And with the front office in such constant chaos, rendering any long-range planning impossible, the team will continue to be a loser.

Those are the only, depressing certainties about a franchise that has fallen to a new low as the laughingstock of an industry it once ruled.

Giving Wren a chance to hire a new manager would have restored a semblance of credibility, proving that the organization could adhere to the typical chain of command and at least get one move right after a string of setbacks.

So much for that.

Angelos wanted to control the hire, just as he controlled Miller's hiring, which resulted in a fourth-place finish in 1999. So, goodbye, Wren. And so much for restoring any semblance of credibility.

As usual, the Orioles are throwing up a smoke screen, claiming they had to fire Wren because he forced the team charter to take off on a cross-country flight without Cal Ripken, implying that that might have further injured Ripken's back. What a crock.

They're changing the GM because Angelos didn't like Wren.

Angelos, a chronic second-guesser, never likes the GM.

Or the manager.

He hated Davey Johnson, who was good at the job, but he parted ways with Johnson because Davey wouldn't go to lunch with him.

Miller was free for lunch whenever called, but a lot of good it did him. He got fired, too.

In other words, you can't win with Angelos. Just look it up.

The new manager will be the Orioles' fifth since 1994. The new GM will be the fourth since 1995. Expect the annual change at pitching coach any day now.

Is it too much transition? Of course. No organization can withstand such an assault from within on sensible baseball behavior.

Oh, sure, maybe the Orioles can fashion a fluke winning season now and then in these frenetic conditions, when all the moons are aligned and the big checks cash. This is baseball. Anything can happen.

But make no mistake, they're going to be losers much more often than winners as long as Angelos continues to exhibit all the patience of a hungry king sitting in front an empty dinner plate.

All the millions he spends on player salaries? Doesn't matter. Doesn't right the wrongs. This is a franchise with no blueprint, no consistency of thought, no sense of building or growing.

A franchise that never acts, just reacts.

A loser.

Not that firing Miller was a mistake; he wasn't the Orioles' biggest problem in 1999, but he wasn't a skillful manager and he wasn't part of the solution. The change should have been made long before now.

Of course, Angelos couldn't even fire him right, letting him dangle for a few days after meeting with him and not giving him the news face-to-face.

But the canning of Wren is the real fiasco. Angelos hired the guy less than a year ago, knowing Wren was a first-time GM who probably would make some mistakes, as all rookies do. Sure enough, Wren made some mistakes. But he also did a lot of things right, making several shrewd trades and accumulating a slew of promising, young pitchers.

He had the right instincts and a lot of promise as a GM. But Angelos couldn't forgive him for making mistakes, and that was that.

Now the organization has to start from scratch again, just what it didn't need. There are going to be new faces, new philosophies, new opinions -- until the next regime takes over after the next round of firings in a couple of years.

It's almost boring at this point, repetitive to the point of tedium. Who gets these jobs just doesn't matter. They're all temps in the end.

Anyone who wants Wren's job is an Angelos family member or desperate. Wren was tortured here. Given a job and not allowed to do it. Treated about as fairly as a stray cat. And to think he celebrated on the night he got the job. Little did he know.

A replacement for Miller? There'll be some candidates, but a lot will look elsewhere first. The word is out on the Baltimore job. Enter at your own risk. And get your money up front.

The best idea is for Angelos just to do away with the GM's job and take on the role himself. He knows so much, let's see him do it. That would cut down on the firings and the ridiculous micro-managing. It's a doomsday scenario, but why not just go with it at this point? What's to lose? Changing the manager and GM every few years isn't working. Let's just go on and paint everything black.

As the saying goes, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can start to climb back up.

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