Answer to Orioles' second-base question an easy one: Bill Ripken


Spraying to all fields in celebration of managerial and GM searches stoking the fires of the reborn Hot Stove League, which has made fans in Baltimore, Boston, Kansas City, St. Louis, etc., forget that baseball hangs in limbo:

* If only the Orioles could find a right-handed-hitting second baseman with a strong glove to platoon with Mark McLemore in 1995. Preferably, one who hit .309 in 1994 and has a low salary. A check of the free-agent list reveals one name that fits that description: Bill Ripken ($200,000, 81 at-bats, strained hamstring, bruised hip).

Having two reserve infielders on the roster instead of one would allow McLemore to slide to the outfield more easily, should injuries make that a necessity. The steady decline of defense in baseball is the most overlooked factor in the increase in runs. Few play second base as well as Bill Ripken, whose infusion of spirit certainly could only help the Orioles.

* Coaches Bob Boone (Cincinnati Reds), Ron Gardenhire (Minnesota Twins), Tony Muser (Chicago Cubs), Chris Chambliss Louis Cardinals) and Tim Johnson (Montreal Expos) have been interviewed or will be interviewed for the Kansas City Royals' managing vacancy.

Muser, badly burned in a spring training clubhouse fire in Chandler, Ariz., while with the Milwaukee Brewers, was in line for the Brewers' managing job that went to Tom Trebelhorn, but lost out because he was recovering from the burns. Muser finished second to Trebelhorn again last off-season when Cubs GM Larry Himes narrowed the field to two.

* Hal McRae, fired by the Royals, has not surfaced as a managerial candidate elsewhere and is likely to return to hitting coach duties.

* New York Mets right-hander Bret Saberhagen averaged one walk per 13 innings.

* "Why would I need an agent now, so he can take 10 percent of Y-E-S?" said Rick Dempsey, when asked if he would have an agent negotiate his contract should he be offered a major-league managing job.

* If Dempsey becomes a manager, don't look for him to hire Jim Gantner as his base-running coach. Every member of Dempsey's family who has professional baseball experience has thrown out Gantner -- Dempsey, brother Pat, son John, and nephew Greg Zaun. The latter two caught the former Brewers second baseman trying to steal while Gantner was on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment.

* If Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos was to blame for fired manager Johnny Oates' tension during the 1994 season, who was to blame in 1993 when similar reports of uptightness surfaced?

* Fact: Lou Angelos, one of the owner's two sons, attends law school in Florida and seldom is in Baltimore.

* In 1993, his first season working with San Diego Padres hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, Phil Plantier hit 34 home runs and drove in 100 runs in 462 at-bats, compared to career totals of 18 home runs and 68 at-bats in 512 at-bats before coming to the Padres before the 1993 season.

* In 1992, his first season under Rettenmund, Gary Sheffield hit .330 with 33 home runs and 100 RBIs. Before that, Sheffield never had more than 10 home runs or more than 67 RBIs in a season.

* No wonder the Orioles are interested in Rettenmund.

* Orioles left-handers Sid Fernandez (.255, .247), Jamie Moyer (.286, .268), Jim Poole (.421, .333) and Arthur Rhodes (.316, .247) all allowed left-handed hitters a higher batting average than right-handed hitters.

* Tom House, pitching coach for the Texas Rangers from 1985 to 1992, always said that as long as Tom Grieve was in charge of baseball decisions he would have a job. Grieve has been demoted and House has been told to look for a job.

Under House, the Rangers led the league in walks six consecutive seasons. He used to preach "absolute pitching principles" and had his pitchers play catch with a football.

This season, House was put in charge of three pitchers rehabilitating from arm surgeries. Jack Armstrong, Bruce Hurst and Roger Pavlik combined for a 4-7 record and 7.05 ERA.

PD * Orioles assistant GM Doug Melvin is one of 10 candidates inter

viewing for the Cardinals' GM vacancy and one of six interviewing for the Rangers' opening. His interview with the Rangers lasted four hours, nearly twice as long as that of most of the other candidates.

* As leadoff hitter Brady Anderson went, so went the Orioles. In the Orioles' 63 victories, Anderson hit .297, scored 59 runs and drove in 40 runs. In the 49 losses, Anderson hit .211, scored 19 runs and drove in eight runs.

* Reds general manager Jim Bowden is campaigning for jobs, and who can blame him? Bowden got his first GM position in part because he came cheaply, accepting a reported $50,000 salary.

* If both sides spent more time at the negotiating table and less time trying to sway public opinion through the media, we all would be better off.

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