The Orioles haven't found a manager, but they did lose a front-office official yesterday. Doug Melvin took that long-coveted step from general manager prospect to GM of the Texas Rangers yesterday when he was named to replace Tom Grieve.
Melvin, 42, an assistant general manager in charge of the minor-league department for the Orioles, leaves the organization for which he has worked since 1986.
During his years with the Orioles, Melvin became a close understudy of Orioles GM Roland Hemond, the man Melvin went out of his way to praise yesterday at a news conference in Arlington, Texas.
"It's a great situation for me," Melvin said. "I hate to leave Roland, butyou have to move forward. Roland had the greatest impact on my career of anyone. When your kids call your boss 'Uncle Roland,' that says something."
Melvin's departure frees a front-office logjam that some viewed as gridlock. Davey Johnson, considered the favorite for the Orioles' managing vacancy, expressed concerns about how *T many people he would have to answer to if hired.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos also favors a setup with one assistant general manager rather than two. Angelos, believed to favor Frank Robinson over Melvin, granted the Rangers permission to speak to Melvin without any strings attached and issued a gracious statement.
"We congratulate Doug Melvin and wish him all the best," Angelos said. "He is an excellent young baseball executive and no greater compliment can be paid to a baseball professional than to be sought out by another organization for a position of this importance."
The most qualified candidate within the Orioles' organization to succeed Melvin is assistant scouting director Fred Uhlman Jr., who is considered one of the game's bright young administrators in line for an advancement with the Orioles or another organization.
"We haven't gotten into that," Hemond said of finding a replacement for Melvin.
Baltimore-area native Mark Shapiro, son of agent Ron Shapiro, heads the Cleveland Indians' minor-league department and could surface as a candidate if the Orioles decide to go outside the organization.
Melvin inherits a Rangers team stocked with big-name players who produce impressive offensive numbers but never enough victories. Poor pitching and shoddy defense have been Texas staples.
"Our goal is to set out and improve the pitching and defense," said Melvin, who also interviewed for the St. Louis Cardinals' GM vacancy. "The numbers of injuries also is an area of concern. We think with the right two or three moves we have a chance to win it."
One move is expected to be the firing of manager Kevin Kennedy, who has failed to turn the Rangers into a fundamentally sound team.
Kennedy has one year at a salary of $250,000 left on his contract. It isbelieved that Melvin and Rangers ownership agree that it would be best to hire a new manager.
Melvin, who has not participated in the Orioles' managerial search, was instrumental in recommending that Indians pitching coach Phil Regan and Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Bill Virdon be interviewed for the Orioles' vacancy. Melvin roomed with Orioles third base coach Jerry Narron in the minor leagues and thinks highly of his abilities. He also brought Johnny Oates to the Orioles' organization.
Asked yesterday about Kennedy's status, Melvin said he was not prepared to answer that question.
Melvin and his wife, Ellen, who live in Columbia with their two children, had lunch with Rangers owners George W. Bush and Rusty Rose on Saturday, then flew back to Baltimore on Sunday.
Melvin said he grew dejected after hearing erroneous reports that Colorado Rockies assistant general manager Walt Jocketty had gotten the job. Then the phone rang Sunday night and the voice on the other end told Melvin to return to Arlington yesterday for a news conference to announce his hiring.
Hemond predicts a bright future for Melvin.
"He's a tireless worker," Hemond said. "He's in early and leaves late and when he gets home he works some more. He's an around-the-clock worker, and still finds a way to get his family involved."