New Orioles managing general partner Peter Angelos gave the current front office a solid vote of confidence yesterday when he signed manager Johnny Oates and general manager Roland Hemond to multi-year contracts.
The announcement on Oates was no surprise. Angelos had confirmed Thursday night that he was ready to give his manager a new contract that called for a two-year guarantee at a significant raise and a club option on the 1996 season. The
decision on Hemond was not expected until next week, but Angelos removed any doubt about his status with a two-year extension. No terms were disclosed.
"There never was a feeling that they wouldn't be coming back," )) Angelos said. "There was the consideration of bringing them back for one year, but we wanted to get it straight that we have absolute confidence in their present roles."
Angelos isn't alone. Cal Ripken was pleased to hear Oates would be returning.
"I think it's a good move," Ripken said. "Johnny's a very good manager, a very good strategist. I think he's well-liked. I think it takes the pressure off any manager to get more than a one-year contract. It allows him to sit back and think only about baseball. It's a great vote of confidence."
The dominoes are falling quickly now. On Oct. 4, the day he took control of the club, Angelos said he wanted to get many of the major front-office decisions out of the way in a matter of weeks. His timetable was delayed by a severe throat infection that kept him home for more than a week, but he has moved quickly since he returned to work.
Angelos met with Hemond last Saturday and spent 3 1/2 hours with Oates on Tuesday. Those two meetings set the stage for yesterday's news conference at Camden Yards. Angelos originally intended to make only the announcement on Oates -- ** whose old contract contained an Oct. 31 deadline for exercising the club's option on the 1994 season -- but moved up the announcement on Hemond to avoid the appearance of making one a priority.
"I actually met with Roland before I met with Johnny," Angelos said. "In the process of bringing Johnny's situation to a close, we put Roland on the back burner, but we have had an understanding for more than a week."
Angelos also announced the addition of two more front-office executives. Former bank president Joe Foss, who has been coordinating the ownership transition, apparently will assume one of the top spots in the organization and businessman Fred Arscott will take on a permanent role in the club's business operation. Angelos did not elaborate on what their duties will be.
There are several other front-office questions to be resolved. Angelos apparently will outline the duties of former club president Larry Lucchino and retain assistant general managers Doug Melvin and Frank Robinson.
Angelos continues to indicate it might be a very exciting winter. He said again yesterday that he intends to do whatever is necessary to turn the Orioles into a championship club, even if it means spending millions in the free-agent market.
"I think we can do more for Johnny Oates and Roland Hemond," Angelos said, "because our ownership group is ready to give them more support financially. We're not going to sell the farm, but we are going to go that extra mile to help them win."
The names haven't changed. The club is expected to pursue free-agent first basemen Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark, hoping to sign one of them and to acquire a front-line starting pitcher.
"What I said to Johnny is, 'We'll help you more and we'll give you more,' " Angelos said. "Johnny has my home phone number and my office number. We intend to be available to the general manager and the field manager . . . but I'm not going to call him up and tell him who to bat fifth."
If there was little doubt that the Orioles would re-sign Oates, he never took it for granted. He managed the club to back-to-back winning seasons in his first two full seasons as manager, but the club slipped badly in September after a series of key injuries hampered the pitching staff.
"I always had doubts," Oates said. "There was doubt in my mind until it was settled. I thought I did a good job, but we came up short a couple of times. Then you have a new owner coming in, and you really don't know what he's going to want to do."
Oates was all smiles at the news conference, and why not? Last week, he was named American League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News in a vote of his peers and this week he received a measure of financial and job security from his new boss. But the thing he seemed most pleased about was the kind of team he has a chance to field next spring.
"I'm very excited about it," Oates said. "I think he [Angelos] is going to be a very personable guy who is very interested in winning. He's not going to leave a stone unturned. He gave me chill bumps with the people he was talking about."
Hemond, who signed his fourth consecutive two-year deal with the club, also expressed his excitement at the likelihood that Angelos will commit the club's substantial resources toward the construction of a championship team.
"Evidently, the man in purchasing the franchise showed great loyalty to the community and you can feel he wants to win so much," Hemond said. "He wants so much to be proud of the club's accomplishments both on and off the field."
Angelos made it clear in a conversation Thursday night that he does not intend to involve himself in every personnel decision, but he is expected to spend the next several weeks working on the reorganization of the front office. He said that he would meet with Hemond almost daily next week to familiarize himself with the baseball operation.
"He's going to continue to review throughout the organization," Hemond said, "so we'll be getting together some more."
The Orioles announced yesterday that five coaches have been invited back for the 1994 season, but that third-base coach Mike Ferraro -- who had been widely criticized for a series of questionable base-running decisions last season -- was relieved of his duties. Article, 4C.