Teams' pursuit of Baylor is in full swing

Ready to manage again, Braves hitting coach would listen if O's call

October 15, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- His pupils are busy teaching the New York Mets a lesson, generating enough timely hits to build a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series. Two more wins and the Atlanta Braves are headed to another World Series, poised to stake their claim as the team of the decade.

This is a good time to be Don Baylor, the Braves' hitting coach who awaits tonight's Game 3 in New York. And it should get even better.

Baylor has interviewed with three clubs for their vacant managerial positions and is considered the leading candidate in Anaheim. He's waiting to hear from a fourth, the organization that nurtured his development as a player and introduced him to the major leagues, then broke his heart by trading him away.

The Orioles need a manager to replace Ray Miller, who was dismissed last week after two losing seasons. Baylor, though happy in his current role, is ready to listen if they decide to contact him.

"I would definitely welcome a phone call," he said.

Baylor's roots in Baltimore run deep. He was a rookie back in 1970, the product of a thriving farm system that kept churning out young talent at such a rapid rate that the Orioles couldn't always find room for it on their roster. Five years later, he was gone.

The Orioles traded him to Oakland in a five-player deal that brought Reggie Jackson to Baltimore. Baylor broke down and cried when given the news.

"That's where all the Orioles during my time learned how to play the game. They loved the city. Great fans. I've never forgotten that," said Baylor, 50, who was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1979 after batting .296 with 36 home runs and 139 RBIs with the California Angels.

"I've always been an admirer of the Orioles. So, yes, I would welcome the opportunity to talk to them."

The Orioles still are in the early stages of their search, having interviewed third base coach Sam Perlozzo on Saturday. First base coach Marv Foley and bench coach Eddie Murray also would like to be considered, and the club is expected to invite in Boston bullpen coach Grady Little after the postseason.

The organization also has considered Jim Riggleman, recently fired by the Chicago Cubs.

Baylor's opinion of the organization hasn't been reshaped by the constant change from within, including the succession of managers since Peter Angelos became principal owner in 1993, and last week's firing of general manager Frank Wren after one season.

"You've got to remember, I played for the Yankees, too," Baylor said, grinning. "As a potential manager, everybody says, `Well, I can handle the situation.' I'm sure they have some talented players over there. But until that happens, I don't want to get my hopes up."

Baylor went 440-469 in six years at the helm of the Colorado Rockies, including a playoff appearance as the National League wild-card team in 1995, before being replaced by Jim Leyland after last season.

Braves manager Bobby Cox wants to have Baylor on his staff again next season. He knows it's not likely to happen.

"He's been a great coach. He's worked hard. I think he's got the attention of a lot of the hitters," Cox said. "I like Don an awful lot and everybody knows he can manage. And he's going to do it again real quick."

By next spring, perhaps?

"Oh yeah," Cox said. "There's no doubt in my mind."

Said Baylor: "When I see my guys do well, it makes me feel good. But if the right opportunity comes along, I'd like to manage again. I have a couple weeks to find the right situation, and hopefully it happens. I'm not going to drag it out for a long period of time. If it's going to happen, in the right place, I'll do it."

Pub Date: 10/15/99

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