The un-Mets

O's were far classier in firing manager

On the Oriole way

June 19, 2008|By DAVID STEELE

How gracious of the New York Mets to give the Orioles faithful a present for the one-year anniversary of their team's regime change: crystal-clear proof of how lucky they are.

Lucky to have Peter Angelos making those decisions. That's right, I said it.

Lucky because your team, downtrodden as it has been for the past decade, could be owned and operated by the frauds in charge of the Mets. By the way, notice how the words "gracious" and "Mets" clash up there, as if they don't belong in the same sentence.

That could have been your team that is a national punch line, a pinata not just for baseball fans, but for anybody who still believes class, dignity and human decency still have a place in this business. Even with overpaid, underachieving teams and their lame-duck coaches involved.

Maybe it's naive to believe that. Maybe the crass manner in which the Mets kneecapped Willie Randolph two days ago is business as usual. Maybe no one should expect an organization to treat its employees with any more respect and courtesy than that. Or to exhibit even a hint of accountability or responsibility. Or to handle an unpleasant task without inflicting gratuitous pain and humiliation.

Maybe that's how it's supposed to work.

Except that it's not. Because that's not how the Orioles handled almost the identical situation one year and one day ago.

Some insane, inexplicable instinct -- Character? Common sense? Humanity? -- fluttering up to the brains of Angelos and then-general manager Mike Flanagan told them that the morning of June 18 last year -- before the Orioles headed west, as the skidding Mets were doing this week -- would be the best time, relatively speaking, to deliver the bad news to Sam Perlozzo.

They even managed to deliver it in broad daylight, then name Dave Trembley as his interim replacement, then invite the media to their announcement at the Warehouse that morning, then answer the very tough questions -- even if they didn't have all the answers yet and even though they couldn't confirm the reports that Andy MacPhail would take over baseball operations.

If you didn't know any better, you would think the Orioles had had a plan in place, including a professional, aboveboard way of unveiling it. You would think that even as you remember that this is the Orioles and Angelos, whose reputation for smooth managerial transitions is -- well, he had none.

Regardless, the Orioles sure didn't allow Perlozzo to twist in the wind the day after his last home game, as the Mets did with Randolph. Didn't let him fly cross-country with the team, ignorant of his fate, as the Mets did. Didn't let him manage the next game, as the Mets did.

Didn't send out the weaselly-est news release of all time two hours after the end of the game, in the wee hours back home, without telling the players and leaving them to find out from the stunned, awakened media the next morning, as the Mets did. Didn't conduct a news conference the next afternoon that presented general manager Omar Minaya as a combination hand puppet and human shield, unable even to keep his stories straight about how Randolph got the ax, as the Mets did.

Perlozzo wasn't happy about being fired by the Orioles. But chances are that as he compares how the Orioles got him with how the Mets got Randolph, he feels a lot better. Michael Corleone showed more sensitivity when he whacked Fredo.

In the year since the big shake-up, the Orioles have gained not just respectability, but also respect. It's hard not to make a connection between their record and the increasingly professional way they've handled their business. The cynical public has gone beyond less-alienated all the way to revitalized, possibly on the way to die-hard again.

Meanwhile, the Mets' boorishness has its longtime faithful bailing out. Two lines of reasoning emerge from the enraged fan base: 1) Randolph had to go, but he didn't have to be treated like garbage. 2) Losing stinks, but losing and being back-stabbing, cowardly jerks is unforgivable.

Organizations that skulk around in the middle of the night, sowing mistrust and harvesting bitterness, generally keep losing. The Mets deserve nothing less.

The Orioles, by turning away from that path a year ago and taking the high road instead, are also getting what they deserve.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele Wednesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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