Standup guy Murray looks fit for role with O's

October 03, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

IT WAS NOT exactly the Eddie Murray Comedy Hour, but then again, by comparison to the old days, it was.

Murray had a quick answer for what a major league team managed by him would look like.

"Oh, you know. Full of .350 hitters, hitting 40 home runs, driving in 140. We might be able to swing our way somewhere, but you know, we've got to throw shutouts every third start," he said.

The room full of reporters -- yes, those swarming and reviled gnats called The Media -- broke up.

Oh, yeah. We were laughing with Eddie. And why not? He's into it.

"I'm thinking this might be the right time to do this," he said.

It would be a lot more intriguing if we could ascribe sinister and ulterior motives to the reasons the Orioles trotted Murray out for a news conference yesterday.

Were the Orioles merely attempting to bank a little offseason good will from the downtrodden Orioles fan base, many of whom are crying for someone, anyone, particularly an "old" Oriole, upon whom they can hang their dreams?

Answer?

No, this was not a slick bit of public relations work during the Ravens' bye week, although it certainly could have been initially read that way. But Murray is a legitimate candidate to replace Mike Hargrove.

Or this plot line:

Was this a ploy by owner Peter Angelos, who continues to be viewed (and vilified) as the grand Wizard of O's -- the master manipulator behind the orange curtain who is pushing his twin GMs to hire Murray?

Answer?

"I did not see him today, but Mr. Angelos has done some great things for me. I really appreciate him getting me back here as a player," Murray said.

Finally, was this a dog-and-pony production to allow Murray the chance to prove, once and for all, there's a more personable, communicative and sociable side to the man who steadfastly gave the media the glowering, cold shoulder all those seasons?

Answer?

No, this was not an Eddie Murray Special Production. The Orioles intend to put all managerial candidates in front of the media -- only raising the question:

How many will show up for Triple-A Ottawa manager Gary Allenson and Brewers bench coach Rich Dauer?

It takes a Hall of Famer to raise the media village's attention. Murray did that. It was a veritable love fest.

He accomplished more in a half-hour of broadcasting his methods and qualifications for the manager's job than he did in all those years of refusing to interact with the sporting media.

For that, Murray gets a passing grade.

In fact, he gets an A for effort and a B+ for substance -- but with an important footnote:

Murray's ideas about how he would run a baseball team do not take into consideration the intangibles a former player of his stature, caliber and pedigree bring to the job.

There had been skepticism that a former player as great as Murray would get a leg up on the competition among Orioles managerial candidates by the mere fact that Murray was a great player and a student of the game. Well, it is tough to deny that those intangibles he brings are pretty alluring.

It's one thing to rationally analyze what difference an experienced manager might make and what difference a hyper-prepared "non-player" (think Buck Showalter) would bring to the job. It's another thing to see the eyes of a player like Murray and not wonder what effect he would have on a team.

The other candidates had better be very prepared and enthusiastic, because Murray certainly came off as a man ready for the job, capable and willing to do what has to be done to make it work. That includes dealing with the swarming gnats called The Media.

Even his closest friends and advisers have been waiting to see if Murray, 47, would really embrace all aspects of the interview process and job description.

Well, Murray was relaxed and comfortable, promising to yell when he has to but to take what he learned from Earl Weaver, that you can't treat 25 guys the same, that you have to "get them to buy into some things."

"I'm here to help," Murray said, which is a good start.

Now, Murray has put himself in play, passing at least the media test -- however consequential this proves to be in the overall evaluation.

See how easy that was?

Pushovers. All of us, really.

It's no secret that, deep down, all sportswriters really want is for the most talented superstar to be the most agreeable subject and give good interviews.

For all those years with the Orioles, Murray could not or would not do that.

Fine. His choice. It got him where he wanted to be.

Now he has had to make another choice, play another game. To our surprise, he's playing nice, which makes him look very good.

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