Girardi would be nice fit if O's make alterations

Orioles Shake-up

June 19, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

In wake of change, depth of O's commitment unclear

Depth of club's commitment unclear

You say the Orioles can't go wrong whether they pick Joe Girardi or Davey Johnson as their next manager, do you? Of course they can go wrong. What organization are we talking about here?

The same one that fired its old manager, Sam Perlozzo, yesterday and held a news conference to talk about it, without having his successor already in place.

Unfortunately, the fan base is so cynical after 9 1/2 lousy years, it's conditioned to expect the worst. Managers with better resumes than Girardi's brief and colorful one have come and gone here. Managers like - well, like Johnson, remember?

From the look of things, the job is Girardi's to accept or decline. If he comes, he'll come in a package deal with the new chief operating officer, Andy MacPhail, and you'd be deluded not to jump to the conclusion that they're both coming to make massive alterations to the roster.

And the Orioles are deluded if they think the roster doesn't need massive alterations. If they don't think that, then they're probably looking in the wrong direction for a manager, and would be much better off looking elsewhere.

Of course, if Girardi says no - and he has plenty of reasons to say no, starting with the fact that it's the Orioles - then Johnson's name likely comes up soon, if not next. The same principle applies: Why would Johnson want to come back and deal with a roster that all but pushed the old manager off the gangplank? One that never played up to the money it was being paid, one whose chemistry jelled for about two weeks in April, then disintegrated and threatened to re-emerge only the day before Perlozzo got canned?

This doesn't appear to be Johnson's kind of clubhouse any more than it seems to be Girardi's. Actually, it's hard to tell what self-respecting manager with either a successful past or a gleaming future would want any part of this dysfunctional, unstable organization. MacPhail had better be carrying some real clout, the long-lasting kind, just to have his own position work out.

Johnson is good at getting veterans to go his way - but in his most successful years, they've been his veterans, and they weren't veterans he inherited midseason with them in last place and on an eight-game skid. So if Girardi isn't the answer, it isn't all that clear that Johnson is the man, either.

Besides, no one is clear on whether Johnson is a guy MacPhail is interested in.

Now, there is a managerial candidate available who is a MacPhail guy, as much as Girardi was: Dusty Baker, who managed for MacPhail with the Chicago Cubs for four years. He got the Cubs to within a fan-interfered foul ball of the World Series in 2003. He got a flawed San Francisco Giants team into the World Series the season before. He's managed clubhouses with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in them, and did it by walking the finest of lines between being a players' manager and a disciplinarian. So this group shouldn't scare him.

If he's not the first or second choice, he'd be a pretty enticing alternative for MacPhail. Particularly if whoever is calling the shots in the front office decides to give this group one more shot to prove it can play up to expectations and its own potential with a new manager and justify the lack of support it gave Perlozzo.

After two straight managers in their first major league top jobs, maybe the impact of an experienced manager will make the difference.

In fact, whom the Orioles hire will indicate the direction they want to go with the roster. Executive vice president Mike Flanagan, in his masterful display of evasion on the deeper issues about this franchise, said he didn't want to get into what the front office might do as the trade deadline approached. But if the tag team of MacPhail and Girardi is the choice, then figure on the Orioles having something of a grand plan in mind, one that won't include significant elements of the bunch that takes the field tonight in San Diego.

If true, then Girardi is a good choice. He's got to start with a clubhouse full of players that isn't wedded to the old regime. The same goes for Johnson - if he's the manager we've gotten to know over the years, he's a guy who wouldn't re-enter the game unless he had a chance to shape his own group rather than trying to polish this one.

If the idea is to stand pat the rest of the season, or beyond, then this doesn't make sense at all, and both Girardi and MacPhail are wasting their time. Someone like Baker is a better fit. Someone who can massage the strange mix on this roster - the handful of homegrown products, the expensive imports, the underachievers and gripers and overall collection of players who are less than the sum of their parts, putting up numbers that look better than the win-loss record shows.

Of course, we're just guessing at all of this, for now. Maybe the answers will come as early as today. For sure, they didn't come yesterday. The only thing the Orioles made clear then was what they didn't want. After all this losing, no one should have to keep waiting to figure out what they do want.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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