Hargrove's future hasn't come up, though contract is winding down

Manager unfazed

Orioles cite `many things' on list


January 31, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove is entering the final year of a four-year contract, and he will likely start this season without an extension, meaning this could be his final year in Baltimore.

Hargrove is not on the hot seat, Orioles officials said yesterday, and he said the situation doesn't bother him. With executive vice president Jim Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan less than two months into their new jobs, Hargrove's status simply has yet to be addressed.

"We haven't even thought about it," Beattie said. "There have been so many things on our plate that we've been trying to get done this winter. We're happy to have [Hargrove]. We're anxious to get to spring training and work with him and the coaching staff."

Hargrove has gone 204-281 in his three years with the Orioles, and his .421 winning percentage is well below the .550 mark he posted in nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians.

Last year, he received high marks throughout the industry for leading the Orioles to a 63-63 record through Aug. 23. But the club finished the season 4-32, enduring one of the worst 36-game stretches in baseball history.

To find a worse 36-game stretch, one has to go back to the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, who had a 2-34 skid. The 1909 Boston Braves had a 3-33 slide. There are four other 4-32 stretches on record: by the 1996 Detroit Tigers, 1982 Minnesota Twins, 1949 Washington Senators and 1909 St. Louis Cardinals.

Though Flanagan and Beattie have made it clear Hargrove has their full support, his job could be in jeopardy if the Orioles get off to another slow start. Last year, the Orioles started the season 4-11 before slowly climbing back to .500.

Orioles manager Peter Angelos has never fired a manager or general manager during midseason, and if things start badly, the length of Hargrove's grace period could depend on what type of team Beattie and Flanagan assemble.

Last year, the Orioles scored the second-fewest runs in the American League, and to date they have done little to improve their offense. The Orioles have signed starting pitcher Omar Daal and reliever Kerry Ligtenberg, but their only offensive addition has been shortstop Deivi Cruz, who batted .263 last season with seven homers and 47 RBIs.

Beattie and Flanagan hope to address the offense with one or more trades before Opening Day.

When Hargrove was in Cleveland, he often entered a season in the final year of his contract. He said that's part of the business.

"I'm not going into this season feeling slighted," he said. "I enjoy working for the Orioles and hopefully it continues. I certainly want it to continue, especially with the direction we're taking now. It's very exciting and invigorating, and I'd like to be a part of it."

Beattie said there is no timetable for when Hargrove's status will be addressed, but it might take until after the season.

"With Mike and I coming on, we want to find the rhythm for the whole year and see how things work," Beattie said.

NOTE: Cal Ripken Jr. will be inducted into the Orioles' Hall of Fame on Sept. 6, eight years to the day he passed Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played. Media members who cover the Orioles made Ripken a unanimous selection yesterday in his first year of eligibility, and he'll join his father, Cal Sr., as the only father-son duo in the club's Hall.

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