In dealing with umpires, Oates is as placid as they come


It's still too early for a complete evaluation, but the head man in the home team dugout at Memorial Stadium has already established a personal trademark after only 57 games.

Carve this observation in stone: When it comes to dealing with umpires, John Oates is the most reasonable, reserved, laid-back and/or placid manager in the 38-year history of the Baltimore Orioles.

Not even Billy Hitchcock, the mild-mannered pipe smoker wh ** was the epitome of a gentleman, or Joe Altobelli, who provided a distinct contrast to the fiery Earl Weaver, had a longer fuse than Oates. That much has already been established on several occasions. So far the new kid on the managerial block has been more like an altar boy than the leader of a major-league team struggling for respectability.

Oates has had only one prolonged on-field discussion sincstarting on the job May 24. And that's what it was -- a discussion, with Dave Phillips three nights ago during a pitching change.

Earlier Oates had questioned a pitch, which Phillips said was low, and was annoyed by the veteran umpire's reaction. That later prompted a chat between the two, which at no time took on the appearance of an argument and was completed by the time the game was ready to resume.

"I didn't think what I said warranted the reaction it got," was hoOates explained his conversation with Phillips.

The next day, while watching films of Ben McDonald, Oates got another look at the pitch in question. "He was right, it was low," Oates said with a smile. "It wasn't even close to being a strike."

Which is not to suggest Oates thinks the umpires are always right -- or that he won't take up a case on the field if he thinks it's justified. He just doesn't believe in arguing for the sake of an argument.

"I'm not going to go out there on a bang-bang play," said Oatesexplaining his philosophy. "I'm not going out there just to get 50,000 people screaming and take a cheap shot at him [the umpire].

"If he's not in position to make the call, or if he's not hustlingthat's something else. Then I'll go out there. I squatted behind home plate for 10 years and was a coach in the big leagues for seven years," said Oates, "and I've listened to things they have said about some managers."

He didn't say it in as many words, but Oates isn't going to falinto that category.

There are those who think a manager has to perform on the fieldthat he could lose the respect of his players otherwise, but Oates doesn't buy that theory. "I'll stand up for my players and I'll go out there to protect them [against being thrown out of a game], but I won't go out to argue a call just because they think I should be out there.

"Why should I? Just to show up an umpire for their benefit?"

Oates was asked if he had vocalized his feelings to the players. "No,

I haven't said anything to them," he answered. "I don't think that's necessary. I think my players know me. They know I'm going to stick up for them and that I'll protect them as much as I can."

It is interesting to note that Oates has either played or coacheunder four of the nine men who preceded him as Orioles manager (Weaver, Altobelli, Cal Ripken Sr. and Frank Robinson). But his style is closer to that of Dick Howser, for whom he played with the Yankees.

Like Howser, a quiet but extremely competitive individual whose managerial career was cut short by a fatal brain tumor, Oates does have a fiery side. It has occasionally been on display for his players and members of the media.

Eventually, unavoidably, the umpires will see it too. But don'expect to see any animated performances.

That just isn't his schtick.

* BRAVE NEW WORLD: Maybe John Schuerholz is clairvoyantThe Baltimore native, who gave up a teaching career to become one of baseball's top executives, has definitely made the switch of the year.

Schuerholz left what appeared to be a lifetime job in KansaCity. Apparently he got out just in time, because the Royals' troubles are enough to threaten anybody in power.

In moving to Atlanta, home of the perennial National Leagudeadbeats, Schuerholz arrived just in time. Early in the year the Braves were a novelty. Now they must be considered legitimate contenders.

If the Executive of the Year and Manager of the Year awardwere to be given out today, Schuerholz and his field boss, Bobby Cox, would win in a walkover.

* FREE-AGENT COUNTDOWN: Danny Tartabull's monster yeain Kansas City is going to cost somebody a lot of money. The outfielder with Triple Crown possibilities is in the last year of his contract, which has to make the Royals nervous.

In what is almost a man-bites-dog situation, Wally Joyner is saito want out of California, where many players want to go home to finish their careers. The Cardinals are said to be willing to let Pedro Guerrero go the free-agent route and would like to replace him with Joyner.

* CORRECTION ON CAL: Thanks to Pat Wojciechouski for correcting an earlier report that Cal Ripken's hat and spikes from the All-Star Game would represent his first display at the Hall of Fame. The shoes Ripken wore while setting a major-league record for consecutive errorless games by a shortstop last year were already on display.

Incidentally the bat Ripken used to hit the three-run homer in thAll-Star Game was cracked five days later and is en route to Cooperstown to join the two pairs of spikes and hat. His glove, needless to say, is still in working order.

* DON'T FORGET WALT: Much has been written and said about how injuries have affected the Oakland A's this year and that the three-time American League champions will be better now that their bullpen is intact again.

MA But don't overlook the importance of shortstop Walt Weiss, whowent down a month ago and could be lost for the year. On a team loaded with stars, Weiss was the glue of Oakland's inner defense and a vastly underrated player. Coupled with the loss of third baseman Carney Lansford, who has just returned to the lineup, the left side of the A's infield has been devastated.

It doesn't help matters that righthander Mike Moore recentljoined Weiss on the disabled list. Moore is the ninth A's pitcher to go on the DL.

* THIS 'N THAT: In his first 42 games as the Astros' leadoff hitter, Steve Finley hit .524 (22-for-42) leading off the game. He had an .881 slugging percentage in those situations, compared to .359 in all other at-bats.

* IMPERTINENT QUESTIONS: What is it with Ron Dibble?

What happened to the Red Sox?

Is there a Western Division team capable of spoiling Toronto'World Series party?

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