O's hire Hargrove, a proven winner

Manager gets deal for 3 years, $3 million

November 04, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

In a move that would have shocked both parties one month ago, the Orioles yesterday announced the hiring of Mike Hargrove as the 14th manager in franchise history.

Hargrove, hired less than three weeks after being fired by the Cleveland Indians, agreed to a three-year, $3 million contract with an option for 2003, and will retain the majority of predecessor Ray Miller's coaching staff. Hargrove becomes the first $1 million manager in franchise history.

Selected over incumbent third base coach Sam Perlozzo and Boston bench coach Grady Little, Hargrove's first act was to notify the Orioles coaches of their fate. Bench coach Eddie Murray, hitting coach Terry Crowley, bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks and Perlozzo were offered a chance to remain with the club.

Pitching coach Bruce Kison, who is signed through next season, and first base coach Marv Foley were offered other jobs within the organization. Foley may be asked to return as manager at Triple-A Rochester.

Foley and Murray also interviewed for the managerial job. Asked whether retaining several coaches who had sought the same job was awkward, Hargrove said: "I want people working for me who want to manage. I don't want them wanting my job. I want people with ambition. I don't want people who are just happy to be here."

Hargrove, 50, brings from Cleveland a gaudy 721-591 record. He has won more games in the past eight seasons than any other American League manager and was one of four managers this decade -- Cito Gaston, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre were the others -- to take his team to multiple World Series. In 1995, the Indians won their first pennant in 41 years only to lose to the Atlanta Braves, then returned to the World Series in 1997, where they lost in seven games to the Florida Marlins.

Angelos, who interviewed Little as recently as Monday afternoon, wrangled over Hargrove and Perlozzo for most of two days before opting in favor of Hargrove's record.

`Atmosphere of winning'

"The Orioles are pleased to have a manager with Mike Hargrove's managerial experience and record of success," Angelos said in a statement. "He brings an atmosphere of winning baseball that we believe will help us achieve the goal of the entire Orioles organization -- to put a team of excitement on the field and bring a world championship home to our fans."

Executive Vice President John Angelos, who introduced Hargrove, conceded that Hargrove's experience "had something to do with" his hiring.

Yesterday's announcement on the sixth floor of the B&O Warehouse finalized a process that included nine candidates and took nearly a month to complete. The outcome was one that a five-man advisory committee and Angelos could hardly have expected when Miller was dismissed Oct. 6.

Hargrove was abruptly fired by the Indians on Oct. 15 after taking the team to its fifth straight AL Central title and within a game of the American League Championship Series. However, losing to the Red Sox after taking a two-game lead in the Division Series helped Indians general manager John Hart convince ownership that "a new voice" was needed in the clubhouse.

"I'll be honest with you and tell you that I never thought that I would be wearing the black and orange of the Orioles," said Hargrove. "But again, it's a thought that gives me a lot of pleasure, a lot of excitement. I'm looking forward to making a difference and becoming a part of Baltimore."

Hargrove avidly sought the job but not out of necessity. The Indians owed him $600,000 for the remaining year on his contract.

During his 4 1/2-hour interview with Angelos on Sunday, Hargrove told the majority owner, "Don't take this the wrong way but I don't need this job. I want this job."

A Texas native known for a down-to-earth, understated manner, Hargrove received the offer Monday afternoon and arrived in Baltimore yesterday afternoon.

During opening remarks, Hargrove cited ownership's commitment to winning, fan support and the city itself as the reasons he sought the job. He spoke of the Orioles and Baltimore as "a team and a city that are absolutely passionate about the game of baseball and absolutely passionate about their ballclub. I want to be a part of that. That excites me."

Hargrove made no claims of tactical genius or an ability to single-handedly reverse the course of a franchise that has endured consecutive fourth-place seasons despite stratospheric payrolls. He did say attention would be paid to discipline and a uniform set of team rules.

"I think whether it's a young club or an old club, respect is paramount," he said. "There are some things I'm going to ask some players on the Orioles to do that aren't going to be very popular. But when you ask and have their respect, they'll do them and do them to the best of their ability."

The move represents a reunion of Hargrove and right fielder Albert Belle. Hargrove was Belle's first manager at Single-A Kinston in 1987, then managed him from 1991 to 1996 in Cleveland.

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