If Perlozzo goes, Johnson may return

Sources say ex-Orioles manager in team's thoughts amid troubles

May 27, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,sun reporter

Although the Orioles still haven't decided whether they will fire embattled manager Sam Perlozzo, they have discussed some potential replacements if they do, including one name that harks back to their winning past.

According to two club sources, the Orioles will give serious consideration to bringing back Davey Johnson if Perlozzo is let go during his second full season as manager. Johnson's highly successful two-year run as manager ended in 1997 when he abruptly resigned because of a conflict with owner Peter Angelos after the organization's last winning season.

Johnson, who couldn't be reached to comment yesterday, was 186-138 with the Orioles in 1996 and 1997 and directed them to back-to-back American League Championship Series. He hasn't managed in the majors since leading the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

He was the bench coach for the U.S. team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and is managing the American team in its quest to qualify for next year's Summer Olympics.

To this point, the Orioles, according to sources, have not had significant discussions with Johnson or any other potential candidate, including former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi, who also is well-regarded by team executives.

Angelos didn't return calls seeking a comment, but one club source said the owner is intent on giving Perlozzo every opportunity to get the team back on track. The Orioles entered last night's game with the Oakland Athletics a season-high six games below .500.

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said last night that the front office hasn't discussed Johnson or any other potential replacement for Perlozzo.

"We're not going to comment on the manager," Flanagan said. "We're focusing on the day-to-day performance of the team."

Vice president Jim Duquette also declined to discuss Perlozzo when approached on the field during batting practice last night.

Perlozzo has been under fire recently because of several in-game managing decisions and clubhouse unrest. On Friday night, third baseman Melvin Mora became the third Oriole to publicly criticize the manager after he learned from a reporter that he was not in the starting lineup.

Mora wasn't upset that he was getting the day off, but was annoyed that Perlozzo didn't notify him after Thursday's game.

Perlozzo apologized to Mora during a heated conversation before Friday night's game and both sides said later that it was a dead issue. Mora also maintained yesterday that he was speaking for himself, and not about any of the other players.

"I don't know about the other guys," he said. "I was just talking about communication. That's the only thing I had a problem with. I am fine with him."

Johnson, 64, was long considered one of the best managers in baseball. He was at the helm of the 1986 New York Mets when they won the World Series and he continued that success in Baltimore. In 14 seasons as a major league manager, he went 1,148-888.

But on the day that he was named AL Manager of the Year in 1997, he resigned after a fallout with Angelos, though Johnson says to this day that he was fired.

In March 2006, Johnson stopped by Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., before the Orioles played the Washington Nationals in a spring training game to visit Perlozzo, who was his third base coach for the Cincinnati Reds and the Orioles.

Johnson said he lost any "ill will" toward Angelos when the Orioles owner sent his family a bouquet of flowers after the death of Johnson's 32-year-old daughter, Andrea Lyn, an accomplished surfer who died in June 2005 after a lengthy battle with schizophrenia.

"Any ill will I had harbored vanished with that - completely," Johnson said last year. "The ill will wasn't so much [about] getting fired, because I've been fired before and that wasn't an issue. The ill will I harbored is that I did try to do everything in my power to make the Orioles successful and please him. I did want to do that and I failed at that, but I did give it my best."

Johnson had a health scare in 2004 with a ruptured appendix that resulted in him losing more than 100 pounds. He lives in Florida and last year worked as a consultant for Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden.

He said in 2005 that he was content not to manage, though that year he guided Team USA to a seventh-place finish in the Baseball World Cup and the next year was current Orioles broadcaster Buck Martinez's bench coach in the World Baseball Classic.

In the March 2006 interview, Johnson said that the Orioles, whom he played for from 1965 to 1972, remain his favorite team

"My kids were born in Baltimore, I grew up in the organization, I had the opportunity to come back and manage it," he said. "You know where your roots are, where your heart is and you want them to continue to be good."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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