Filling in O's slots shouldn't be rocket science

October 10, 1999|By JOHN STEADMAN

What Peter Angelos must know by now is that operating a baseball team is more than counting wins and losses. It's also about keeping the public content and confident in the direction the team is going.

By way of background

Ray Miller wasn't cut out to be a manager, as earlier proved in Minnesota. And maybe the same could be said for the obviously ineffective interview process that led to the hiring of Frank Wren as the Orioles' general manager.

What infuriated Angelos is Wren's predecessor, Pat Gillick, was a frequent sounding board and consultant to the young general manager, both before and after he arrived. Had Angelos wanted Gillick's influence, he'd have kept him. Gillick knew Wren was going to be hired as his successor, and the Orioles say Gillick was aware of Wren's Thursday firing before it was even formalized.

Gillick has always been well-informed, but ceased being of full value to the Orioles when Angelos told him he couldn't trade David Wells and Bobby Bonilla in July 1996 -- when the season was hardly two-thirds over.

At the time, Gillick vanished into temporary oblivion. It was mentioned he had disappeared to the Caribbean to scout players, but there also was conjecture he had gone to Cape Cod or Nantucket. Take your pick. He simply wasn't happy. For the first time, he was told he couldn't do what he wanted. In Toronto, he had autonomy while working for a brewery that owned the team and put him in complete command.

How much vigor Gillick put forth on behalf of the Orioles after his proposed deal was rejected is open to debate. He seemed to be almost caught in a pout, childlike, and didn't show the same zest. Just an impression.

As for Wren, the public hardly knew him. He was ineffective signing free agents despite tons of money. The club overpaid for Mike Timlin and Delino DeShields and lost $1.75 million on a grievance involving Xavier Hernandez, who never threw a pitch in Baltimore.

Wren, to his credit, made the trade for Charles Johnson. More importantly, he established credibility with the Orioles' minor-league managers and scouts. They said he was open in conversation and well-liked, and his final recorded message to those he worked with expressed disappointment in not being able to conclude what he began to do with the Orioles.

As for the future

Three positions need to be filled, and the choices are easy. For general manager: Joe Klein, who finished second to Gillick in the 1995 screening process. Angelos' committee never even granted him an interview last year. Too bad. The Orioles were the losers.

Klein is from Baltimore, lives in Sykesville and is president of the independent Atlantic League, where he is hailed for his organizational ability. He is a former minor-league player, manager, farm director and general manager of three major-league clubs.

Last year, he was the first prospective general manager to say that, if appointed, he'd try to hire Don Baylor as manager because of what he had seen him do with the Colorado Rockies. This was before anyone else even gave a mention of Baylor as a possible Orioles manager.

Klein has an excellent reputation for being able to gain cooperation within an organization. His personality brings people together and doesn't divide. He's what the Orioles need.

The manager, if it can be done, should be either Baylor or Tom Trebelhorn, who is now involved in player development.

The other vacancy is in public relations, the director's job, or whatever the Orioles call the position. Bill Stetka has the ability and is next in line. He was the assistant to John Maroon, who left for an annual $100,000 contract for three years from the Washington Redskins. Actually, some media, including this reporter, believe Maroon should have been assistant to Stetka rather than vice versa.

Word is around that John Angelos, executive vice president, and Michael Lehr, director of broadcasting, may bring in a high-profile public relations figure. What a waste of money that would be. It won't help. Hopefully, the Orioles will promote Stetka, who needs no endorsement because of his well-respected professional ability and the quality of fairness he has displayed, first as a student at the Naval Academy, then at Towson State University and still later as a newspaper reporter.

Originally, the Orioles didn't know whether to hire Maroon or Stetka. But Angelos, when told of their capabilities, said, "Take them both." Now Stetka has earned elevation through his efforts, and his choice would be popular.

Decisions, even three appointments of such dimensions, aren't always as tough as we make them. They're so easy that they qualify as automatic.

Pub Date: 10/10/99

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