Little chance O's will land a big name

October 20, 1999|By John Eisenberg

Mike Hargrove as a replacement for Ray Miller? Don't count on it.

It's an interesting idea, but with their credibility within the industry at a low ebb in the wake of another round of front office firings, the Orioles probably will have to settle for an untested managerial candidate such as third base coach Sam Perlozzo, who had a second interview yesterday.

That wouldn't be a bad fallback position, actually; Perlozzo is a deserving, competent baseball man from Cumberland who is popular with the big names in the Orioles' clubhouse, and he could blossom if given a chance. His hiring certainly would foster continuity on the coaching staff. The idea was endorsed here as a viable option several months ago.

But the reality is that Perlozzo's biggest asset as a candidate may be that he wants the job, unlike so many of the other, better-known candidates whose names are circulating.

Former top candidate Phil Garner took a job in Detroit without even interviewing with Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, and at this point, at least, Buddy Bell and Don Baylor seem to be on tracks headed elsewhere.

No one seems to be headed this way, that's for sure. With Angelos making all the big decisions and the Orioles lacking a general manager and any evident blueprint after firing Frank Wren two weeks ago, their managerial vacancy isn't regarded as the plum it once was.

There's no way of knowing if Perlozzo will end up getting the job, but if he doesn't, the guy who does probably will be an untested major-league manager, too.

Any candidate with serious credentials probably would rather find work elsewhere than deal with a factionalized clubhouse, an impatient owner and a general manager who didn't hire him -- unenviable circumstances, to say the least.

Hargrove, fired by the Indians last week after winning five straight American League Central titles, told The Sun's Joe Strauss the other day that he was "interested" in coming to Baltimore. But you have to wonder how serious he is.

His choice is to sit at home for a year, get paid by the Indians for not working and consider some less stressful options, or come here and deal with Angelos, Albert Belle and a bullpen even worse than the one that cost him his job in Cleveland.

Which option would you choose?

The Orioles would be lucky to get him, of course; even if he doesn't have a reputation for tactical brilliance, he has taken two teams to the World Series, become a playoff fixture and thrived in a high-pressure, full-ballpark environment similar to Camden Yards. Who cares if he isn't the second coming of John McGraw? He's competent and diplomatic, which would be a big improvement over Miller, and he has handled Belle and won a ton of games with a big-budget club -- not easy feats, as the Orioles' past two seasons suggest.

There's been a lot of debate in Cleveland about whether he was canned unfairly by a GM, John Hart, who never gave him enough pitching to win a Series. Hargrove, a gentleman, has said he could accept Hart's basic rationale -- that a fresh approach was needed after nine years with the same manager. Hart probably didn't take enough of the blame himself, but he also probably was right that a change was a good idea. Sometimes, even a good manager needs to be replaced if the players are tired of listening to him.

Oddly enough, Hargrove probably would be under less pressure here than in Cleveland, which has operated with a win-the-Series-or-bust mentality throughout the late '90s, dumping heavy and unrelenting pressure on Hargrove's shoulders. In that sense, he probably would be the perfect guy to replace Miller. His hide is already thick.

He also wouldn't be out to prove himself, another bonus. If there's any lesson to take from the Orioles' past two seasons, it's that a manager desperate to prove himself is a bad mix with the Orioles' blend of high-priced stars. Why do you think Wren was set on hiring a manager with "significant experience"?

Oh, well. So much for that.

It's tempting to say that the job is going to be too tough for any managerial rookie without a supporting GM on the same page, a bad sign for Perlozzo.

But hey, the job was tough for winning managers such as Davey Johnson and Johnny Oates, and also tough for losing managers such as Miller and Phil Regan. Let's face it, the job is just tough, period.

That's why Hargrove or any manager who might have other options probably will end up elsewhere.

And that's why names such as Perlozzo, Marv Foley, Eddie Murray and Grady Little are the only ones you keep hearing.

Why not just get the thing over with, give the job to Perlozzo and get on with life?

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