Randy Smith went into his interview with the Orioles yesterday as the leading candidate to replace general manager Roland Hemond, in the event the club decides to reassign or fire Hemond. And Smith apparently did nothing to hurt his chances.
Smith, whose resignation from the San Diego Padres should become final in the next day or so, said he felt comfortable talking with owner Peter Angelos and club counsel Russell Smouse. "I thought the meeting went well," said Smith, who interviews with the Montreal Expos today.
"It would be presumptuous of me to say anything about my chances," he said. "They've already got a general manager in place, and I'm sure that they have to talk to other people. There are a lot of things that will go into their decision, like there will be a lot of things that will go into my decision.
"I was very comfortable. They made me feel at ease."
Angelos and Smouse, reached at their respective offices late yesterday afternoon, would not comment.
Smith interviewed the day after former Expos general manager Kevin Malone met with Angelos, and it appears that they will be the only two outside the organization considered for the job.
Showalter has been in a state of flux all year. His contract is set to expire at the end of this month, and the contact between him and Steinbrenner has been minimal in recent weeks. After the Mariners beat the Yankees on Sunday night, Steinbrenner refused to elaborate on what his plans are for Showalter, and his only praise was reserved for Seattle's Lou Piniella.
The New York Times is reporting today that Showalter cleaned out his office the last two days, stripping the walls of all pictures and memorabilia -- leading to speculation he will not be back with the Yankees next year.
If Showalter becomes available, the Orioles could interview him if they decide not to retain current manager Phil Regan. The Orioles' interest would be justified for several reasons: First, he is regarded as one of the better managers in the game, well-respected by his players. Secondly, he is a high-profile manager, an advantage in a city like Baltimore, where pressure is high with only one major sports team.
Third, Showalter could be a much less expensive investment for the Orioles than Oakland manager Tony La Russa, who has talked with the Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals. Showalter signed a three-year contract worth $1 million before the 1993 season, and likely would cost in the range of $500,000-$600,000 per year.
La Russa, on the other hand, has asked potential suitors for a multi-year contract worth $1.5 million per year, American League sources said, a salary that would make him the highest-paid manager in the majors. In addition, La Russa would want to bring along several coaches, including pitching coach Dave Duncan, who earned a whopping $250,000 in 1995 -- the highest salary for any coach in the game.
In fact, the cost of keeping La Russa and his staff is so high ($2 million) that some members of the Oakland organization would prefer that he go elsewhere.
"The ball's in Tony's court," Oakland owner Steve Schott, whose purchase of the club was approved last month, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Sandy [Alderson, GM] gave him the extension. Basically, it's another week, but we'll let him go until the end of the month if that's what he needs.
"I want Tony back if he's happy. I don't want Tony back if this is not his first choice."
Schott says he'd like to have an answer from La Russa by next Monday, if possible. That might not fit in with the Orioles' time frame; club sources indicated last week that the final decisions on the GM and manager could be made after the World Series.
The Orioles also may eventually meet with Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson, who is expected to be reassigned at the end of the season, because of a running rift with owner Marge Schott.
Johnson, interviewed by the Orioles last year, reiterated yesterday that he would like to become the Orioles' manager.
In the GM hunt, Malone, like Smith, came away from his interview feeling a solid rapport with Angelos. "I believe he's got vision," Malone said yesterday. "I think he knows what's needed to get a new Basic Agreement [between owners and players]. I believe he really cares about this game."
Malone was critical of Angelos during the players strike, making statements that he says he now regrets. "I was totally off base on who he is and what he wants. I was really impressed with what he represents for baseball. . . . I wish there were more owners like him," Malone says now.
* The Orioles have hired Mike Easler as a minor-league hitting instructor. Easler, 44, was hitting coach for Boston in 1993 and 1994 and Milwaukee in 1992. In 14 years in the majors, Easler hit .293. He finished his playing career in 1989, after two seasons in Japan.