The Orioles completed a busy day in the front office by announcing that five members of the coaching staff had been invited back for the 1994 season and third-base coach Mike Ferraro had not.
Ferraro, who came under fire late in the season after a series of questionable base-running plays, was informed late yesterday that he was being relieved of his duties. No new coach was named, and manager Johnny Oates indicated that he might reconfigure the staff rather than hire a replacement.
"I don't have a whole lot of comment to make," Oates said. "The base running was not Mike's fault, but we were not happy with the way it went. This is the direction that I want to go."
Pitching coach Dick Bosman was invited back, as were hitting coach Greg Biagini, dugout coach Jerry Narron, bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks and first-base coach Davey Lopes. All are expected to return, with the possible exception of Lopes, who is considered to be a leading candidate for the vacant managerial job in Houston.
Ferraro's departure, after just one season with the Orioles, does not come as a major surprise. There were rumors that the club was dissatisfied with him as early as mid season, but he still held out hope that he would be back.
"To tell you the truth, I'm very disappointed," he said from his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home. "I was looking forward to being back there. Even as much as I've been criticized and after all the finger-pointing, I still felt I deserved to be back."
The announcement was the only unhappy news of an otherwise upbeat day in the Orioles' front office. The club held a news conference to announce that Oates and general manager Roland Hemond had been given multi-year contract extensions, then Oates and Hemond went upstairs to discuss the makeup of the coaching staff.
Ferraro was hired after the club moved Cal Ripken Sr. out of the third-base coaching box. The team had hired Lopes two years ago to improve the club's base running, but the overall performance of the Orioles on the bases was very uneven.
Lopes could be a possibility at third base if he does not get the managerial job with Houston, although Oates has indicated he would stay at first. The team also could move Narron from the dugout to first or third and not hire a new dugout coach.
There has even been speculation that Ripken may be asked back -- a distant possibility, but one that Oates said has been discussed. Ferraro, meanwhile, will look for another coaching job.
"The sad thing to me is, [one year ago] you read about Cal Ripken Sr. holding up a couple of runners and they fire him," Ferraro said. "Then they do the same things with me. From a baseball standpoint, the downfall of the Orioles was in the pitching staff. This club was second in the league in ERA at the All-Star break and fell to seventh by the end of the year. That means you didn't pitch very good in the second half.
"We had the No. 1 pitcher come up with a bad arm and the No. 1 reliever get hurt. It's sad to me that you then point the finger at the third-base coach."
So, Ferraro pointed back. He criticized the team for its laid-back approach down the stretch.
"I'm an old-school guy," he said. "It bothered me to see guys going out to play golf on the day of a game when we had just lost seven games in a row. We had the team party on an off night when we were two games out of first place. To me, that's a team that doesn't have its priorities right."
Ferraro got the news late yesterday afternoon. He said that Oates told him that the decision was dictated by new managing general partner Peter Angelos. Angelos said in a conversation Thursday night that he had given Oates his opinion on the coaching staff, but that it was not binding. The ultimate decision, he said, would rest with the manager. Hemond also referred questions about the decision to Oates.
"To a great extent, you count on the manager to make his decisions," Hemond said. "There are discussions, but it's primarily the manager's decision. It's an unfortunate situation. The third-base coaching job is the most thankless job in baseball."