The Orioles performed a wide-ranging managerial search before turning the club over to new manager Phil Regan yesterday, which left a long list of candidates to look for reasons they didn't get the job.
Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson was considered the favorite in the nine-man field, but may end up returning to manage the Reds.
"I heard they wanted an experienced manager and a proven winner. . . . That's why I interviewed for the job," said Johnson. "But I guess that's not what they wanted, right?"
There was predictable disappointment, and some wonderment on the part of a few top candidates who said they thought that the interview process barely had reached the halfway point. And there also was near-unanimous praise for Regan, who is respected throughout the game.
"I'm very disappointed. . . . I don't mind letting people know that," former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey said from his home in Los Angeles. "Coming back would have been fantastic. This time, I thought it might fit, but I know that Phil Regan is a good man and I know that he'll do a good job for the Orioles."
Dempsey said he was caught off-guard by the announcement. He, like a lot of people in Baltimore, thought that the Orioles were planning to narrow the field of candidates to a handful of finalists and then bring them back into town.
"I thought there was going to be a second interview," he said. "Everybody I talked to thought I was one of the two or three that was going to be brought back to interview again."
Johnson apparently thought the same thing. Now, he wonders if his intense desire to return to Baltimore may harm his chances of returning to Cincinnati.
"I thought I'd have a chance to meet [owners] Tom Clancy and Peter Angelos in a second interview," he said. "I nowhere understood getting fired in New York, and I don't understand not getting a second go-around in Baltimore. It surprises me, but that's baseball."
Orioles coach Davey Lopes, who also was considered a strong candidate, said he didn't know what to think, but he knew enough not to get his hopes up -- perhaps because he has come up on the wrong end of this process a couple of times before. He has been waiting several years for a chance to manage, but Regan has been waiting a lot longer.
"Phil has waited a long time for a chance," said Lopes, one of the first candidates to be interviewed for the job. "He was very highly touted in the Dodgers organization, and there was a faction there that had him replacing Tommy Lasorda, back during that period when everyone thought Tommy was going to retire. [Regan] decided to go to Cleveland, and it turned out to be the right decision. He's now in a position where he wants to be."
Lopes did not question any aspect of the hiring process, the third he has been involved in during the past three years. He interviewed for the San Francisco Giants managerial opening two years ago, but lost out to close friend Dusty Baker. He interviewed last year for the opening in Houston, but that job went to another former member of the Dodgers organization -- Terry Collins.
"I thought everyone was treated fairly," Lopes said. "It's just a matter of during the interview process they are going to pick the individual they think is best for the ballclub. I have no problem with that.
"You go in and you give them your philosophy, and they pick who they feel is in sync with what they are looking for. This turned out to be Phil's opportunity. I wish him a lot of luck."
Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, the only other member of the Orioles coaching staff to receive an interview, said he was just happy to be included in the process.
"It was a pleasant surprise that they asked me to be interviewed," Hendricks said. "I was pleased with how it went, and, hopefully, I had some input in the organization because of it. I felt that way, anyway.
"I'm happy for Phil. He's a good baseball person, and he has put a lot of precious hours into this game."
Lopes and Hendricks are hoping to get to know Regan a lot better. They remain, at least for the moment, on the Orioles coaching staff. Pitching coach Dick Bosman was fired soon after manager Johnny Oates, but only because he was seeking a quick decision on his employment status.
"I hope to be retained as a coach," Lopes said. "I would think that we'll know something in the next few days. Most organizations let you know as soon as possible if they aren't going to bring you back, so you can begin looking for other opportunities. I'm not going to be manager there, but it's definitely a good place to coach."
Though the decision to hire a rookie manager over several more experienced candidates left room to wonder about the criteria employed by the four-man committee (Orioles executives Joe Foss, Roland Hemond and Frank Robinson and attorney Russell Smouse) that conducted the search, Regan's competition had only praise for his coaching ability and knowledge of the game.
"I've known Phil for a long time," said former Montreal Expos and California Angels manager Buck Rodgers, who, along with Bill Virdon, Chris Chambliss and Jeff Torborg, rounded out the group interviewed by the Orioles. "He's a longtime baseball man, and he's getting a shot at it. I'm happy for him."
Rodgers, fired by the Angels early in the 1994 season, came up through the minor leagues at the same time as Regan and roomed with him with the Detroit Tigers' Class-D team at Jamestown, N.Y.
"He's got a lot of experience with people," Rodgers said. "He has been a pitching coach, a scout and he's managed in the winter leagues. I know that he hasn't managed at the big-league level, ** but I think he'll do a great job."
Rodgers was interested in the Orioles opening, but he was not under pressure to find a new job. He still has one year's salary coming from the Angels, so he intends to be selective about the opportunities that arise.
"I'm not in a hurry to take just any job just to have a job," Rodgers said, "but I'm very interested in managing a baseball team again."
Phil Regan will be the Orioles' 11th manager since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954. Previous managers' records:
Manager .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Record .. .. .. .. .. .. Pct.
Jimmy Dykes .. .. .. ... ... 54-100 .. .. .. .. .. .. .351
Paul Richards .. .. .. .. .. 517-539 .. .. .. ... ... .490
Luman Harris .. .. .. .. ... 17-10 .. .. .. .. .. ... .630
Billy Hitchcock .. .. .. ... 163-161 .. .. .. ... ... .503
Hank Bauer .. .. .. .. .. .. 407-318 .. .. .. ... ... .561
Earl Weaver .. .. .. ... ... 1,480-1,060 ... .. .. .. .583
Joe Altobelli .. ... ... ... 212-167 .. .. ... ... ... .559
Cal Ripken Sr. .. .. ... ... 68-101 .. .. .. .. .. ... .402
Frank Robinson .. .. ... ... 230-285 .. .. .. .. .. .. .447
Johnny Oates .. .. .. .. ... 291-270 .. .. .. .. .. .. .519
* Ripken also managed one game in June 1985 between Altobelli's departure and Weaver's arrival.