Dempsey gets shot to impress Orioles

Former catcher interviews for club's managerial job, speaks of return to glory

Baseball

October 17, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Rick Dempsey showed up to interview for the Orioles' vacant managerial post yesterday looking nothing like the goofy character most fans still remember from his playing days.

Instead of the sloppy uniform and fake, protruding gut that helped complete his Babe Ruth pantomime during rain delays, he wore a gray suit and red tie.

Instead of grabbing the microphone to sing Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll," he spoke eloquently before the television cameras at the B&O warehouse.

This was the fifth time Dempsey had interviewed for a major league managing job, and he wanted the Orioles to take him seriously. Twenty years to the day after being named the Most Valuable Player of the 1983 World Series, Dempsey spoke of the ways he would try to return the team to glory if given the chance to manage.

"If they say that a team adopts the personality of its manager, then they're going to be very intense between the lines and probably very loose outside the lines," Dempsey said. "I think it's an ingredient that every ballclub needs ... to be a little looser than they have in the past. But once you get between those lines, there's no fooling around out there.

"By the end of spring training, I would have every player believing that we can win our division. If they didn't think that we could, then there's no place for them here in an Oriole uniform."

Dempsey, who has spent the past two years as the Orioles' first base coach, was the fourth candidate to interview for the managing job, joining Cleveland Indians hitting coach Eddie Murray, Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo and Milwaukee Brewers bench coach Rich Dauer.

One major league source said the Orioles have also asked the Oakland Athletics for permission to interview their bench coach and ex-Philadelphia Phillies manager Terry Francona. Last night, the Orioles were still awaiting word from A's general manager Billy Beane.

The Orioles have yet to interview anyone with major league managing experience, but executive vice president Jim Beattie said they have considered several such candidates.

Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan plan to be in Miami next week for the World Series, and they might conduct an interview there, Beattie said.

Dempsey, 54, has eight years of minor league managing experience to complement his 24 years as a big league catcher, including 11 1/2 with the Orioles. He played on six playoff teams, advancing to the World Series three times, and in 1994, he guided the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate to the Pacific Coast League title.

When the Orioles' managing job came open in 1994 and 1999, Dempsey interviewed, but those jobs went to Phil Regan and Mike Hargrove, respectively. He also interviewed with the Phillies and Dodgers in 2000, but those jobs went to Larry Bowa and Jim Tracy.

"I've seen a lot of my peers - Bob Boone, Mike Scioscia - get managing jobs, and I used to think my time was running out," Dempsey said. "But I don't feel that way anymore. I'm where I want to be. I'm in an Oriole uniform. This is my baseball home.

"If they want to take advantage of what I have to offer, all the better for everybody. If they don't, I'm not going to be crushed by it."

But Dempsey showed his serious side yesterday by giving Beattie and Flanagan ideas about improving the team's conditioning program. He also stressed the importance of the manager having a one-on-one relationship with each player.

"I think some people have had tendencies to kind of ignore rookies and just kind of let them watch and learn on their own," Dempsey said. "We've lost a little translation in the old ways of playing the game. Some young players come up and think that all they have to do is hit 20 to 30 home runs in a season, and put up some good numbers offensively, and they're set for life.

"That's not what it's all about. It's not about the individual. It's about the organization. Impressing upon them that it's not all about playing for the name on the back of the uniform, but the name on the front [of the uniform] that is more important."

NOTES: The Orioles have opened talks with starting pitcher Pat Hentgen, whose contract includes a club option for next season at $4 million. They have until Nov. 1 to pick up the option or let Hentgen become a free agent, but they may try to persuade him to come back at a lower price. "I have spoken to [Hentgen's agent] Bob LaMonte about the situation," Beattie said. "I'm just trying to see what our options are."

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