The belief is part of Hargrove's overarching philosophy that loyalty remain most precious. He never barked at Hart when he received a puny one-year extension following the 1998 season.
He refused to embarrass right fielder Manny Ramirez last season after pulling him from a game in Detroit for failing to hustle after a foul pop.
Yet even in Cleveland's relatively soft media market -- Belle was lionized there despite his transgressions, then became a bad boy upon jumping to the Chicago White Sox -- Hargrove sustained teeth marks. Criticize a player and you've quit on him. Withhold comment and you've gone soft.
Hargrove's self-description as a "disciplinarian" Wednesday doesn't square with print accounts following his dismissal. At the end, players anonymously criticized him for spending more time in his office than on the field before games. One anecdote documented how a veteran player approached a reporter, told how he intended to flaunt a team rule and would avoid a reprimand.
The player wandered out of the dugout late for team stretching while holding a cup of coffee. No one said anything.
Shortstop Omar Vizquel repeatedly failed to run out routine grounders, an affliction of the 1999 Orioles, especially early in the season.
Hargrove inherits a clubhouse characterized as a caste society. During the four-week process leading up to Hargrove's hiring, majority owner Peter Angelos asked several candidates how they would have handled Cal Ripken's celebrated late arrival for a Sept. 17 team charter. (General manager Frank Wren apparently cemented his ouster by not ordering the plane to wait for the third baseman.)
At the same time, Ripken and center fielder Brady Anderson's custom of staying at a separate hotel from the rest of the team (as granted in their contracts) has become a source of organizational irritation.
The Belle exception
Team rules quickly became a casualty among this year's Orioles. Once Belle arrived with a goatee, a longstanding ban on facial hair other than mustaches evaporated. The right fielder was also allowed to perform his pre-game routine out of uniform -- his warm-up did not carry a number -- and after a dugout confrontation in June with Miller he never again took batting practice with the rest of the team. Belle's brother, Terry, eventually served as his personal hitting coach.
Hargrove, one of four men to manage Belle in the American League, did not have an easy relationship with the outfielder.
"There are things about Albert you accept and move on," said Hargrove. "The one thing that you need to accept is that he's a very good baseball player."
At Wednesday's news conference, Hargrove pledged to enforce a single set of team rules while not instituting "unenforceable" mandates.
Hargrove is, after all, the guy who had to tell future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield that he would not be part of the Indians' postseason roster in 1995.
"If anybody can handle a bunch of [stuff] swirling around him, it's Grover," said an Indians official. "No one has had to deal with more clubhouse lawyers than this guy."
Hargrove said: "As a player, you don't understand what goes on on this side of the game. You think you do and you act like you do, but you really don't. As a coach, you realize why those decisions were made that didn't make sense as a player. As a manager, you're the guy who's the target. You've got to answer the questions. You're the guy who can't be seen to waffle in situations. So the level of responsibility and the level of stress increases as you come to the job."
Patience should be a Hargrove trait. As a player, he frustrated opposing pitchers -- and deadline writers -- with his complicated routine before every pitch. Hargrove's mannerisms included constant adjustments of his helmet and batting gloves and he became known as the Human Rain Delay. More importantly, the first baseman became known as a professional hitter who was AL Rookie of the Year in 1974, compiled a .290 career average in 12 seasons and walked nearly twice as often (965) as he struck out (550).
Not until college did Hargrove play baseball. At Perryton High, he excelled in football, basketball and golf before attending Northwest Oklahoma State, where he played baseball before being made the 527th overall selection of the 1972 amateur draft.
Staying in Cleveland
Along the way, he and Sharon married and had five children, one a high school senior and the youngest a 10-year-old daughter. Hargrove will maintain his home in Richfield rather than tear his children from their friends and Sharon away from a neighborhood the couple loves.
"We will continue to live in the Cleveland area," Hargrove said after his firing. "Maybe there are people here who won't like that, but we have grown to love it here."