Roland Hemond never made waves. He worked for three different owners during his eight years as general manager of the Orioles and he adapted to each, whether it meant working on a shoestring budget or spending millions in the free-agent market. He was -- to the end -- a company man.
That's why it was such a surprise when Hemond submitted his resignation yesterday, hours before the Orioles announced that Phil Regan would not be retained as manager. There was every reason to believe owner Peter Angelos would replace Hemond after his contract expired Oct. 31, but he has never been the resigning kind of guy.
"Of course, you'd like to complete the job," Hemond, 65, said last night. "You want to win the world championship here and be part of it. I just decided that since they were indicating their interest in other people, I decided it was time to march on. Peter indicated that he would like me to stay in the organization and I appreciated that, but I felt it was time."
The writing had been on the front-office wall for months. The lackluster performance of the team strained the owner's patience and sent him searching for a new general manager well before the end of the 1995 season. Angelos asked for permission to interview Cleveland Indians assistant GM Dan O'Dowd. When it was denied, he waited until the season was over and began interviewing other candidates.
It was not a well-kept secret, but Hemond did not complain. He worked and waited while former Montreal Expos GM Kevin Malone and former San Diego Padres GM Randy Smith met with Angelos to discuss his job. Then, on the day the club was to announce its decision on Regan -- another move that was telegraphed well in advance -- Hemond got out of bed and quit.
"I was surprised because I've been around Roland all the time this has been going on," said Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson. "I've seen this stuff eat at him, but he had always indicated to me that he would not quit. We talked yesterday and he gave no indication of it."
Hemond's resignation stirred speculation that he already had somewhere else to go. He is believed to be a candidate to replace Malone in Montreal. He even has been mentioned as a possible candidate for commissioner of baseball, if major-league owners ever decide to fill that job. He has made enough friends in his 44 years as a baseball executive to be assured that he'll land somewhere if he wants to remain in the game.
He denied that he has anything lined up, but made it clear that he has every intention of remaining in baseball management.
"I don't feel I'm ready to retire," Hemond said. "I have too much energy and too much vitality. I'd like to remain in the game. The fact that Peter showed continued interest in my services, I'm grateful for that. But we went 71-73. The general manager pays the price when you don't win."
Angelos declined to comment, other than to release a prepared statement that applauded Hemond for his service to the club. The Orioles owner has been criticized for the way he left Hemond and Regan in limbo the past few weeks, and his approach was questioned again yesterday by another employee who is expected to leave the club in the near future.
"I think Roland deserved to be treated better than he was under these circumstances," Robinson said. "If they were really trying to replace him, they should have brought him in before they started interviewing people and told him what direction they were going to take. I thought he deserved that, because of the way he has conducted himself."
Hemond came to Baltimore with a reputation for being a Bill Veeck-style wheeler-dealer, but he would suffer because of a couple of disastrous trades and lost credibility with Angelos when he failed to sign power-hitting outfielder Ron Gant in 1994.
He leaves as the man who traded Eddie Murray for a handful of players who never made a big contribution in Baltimore. He leaves as the GM who traded Steve Finley, Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch for a walking emergency room named Glenn Davis. He leaves as the one who traded away Mickey Tettleton and 95 home runs over the next three seasons.
But Hemond also leaves as the architect of the "Why not?" season of 1989, when the Orioles went from the debacle of a season-opening 21-game losing streak in '88 to a final-weekend, divisional showdown against the Toronto Blue Jays in '89 with a team that was made up largely of overachieving minor-league prospects.
"It's sort of sad, from the standpoint that he's a very good man," said shortstop Cal Ripken. "I'm not privy to any kind of info about what goes on . . . what percentage of moves were his and what percentage were somebody else's. That part is pretty unclear, but I, for one, will miss him."
Only time will tell if the organization will miss him. The Orioles have spent liberally to put a contending team on the field, but have failed to make a legitimate run at the division title in the two years that Angelos has owned the franchise. He apparently is looking for younger, more dynamic leadership, but the most obvious candidate -- Smith -- passed up the Orioles and reportedly will sign a three-year deal to be GM for the Detroit Tigers.
Hemond would be a good fit for a small-market club on a tight budget, because he has proven that he can put a competitive team on the field for a bargain price. No one is better at culling workable talent from the waiver wire and the minor-league draft.
"Roland did a tremendous job under difficult circumstances," Robinson said. "When he came here he was asked to make do with an $8 million or $9 million budget and he kept the team competitive. He did what he could do under the circumstances. I thought he did a great job and he deserved more credit. He was here under three different owners and he never missed a beat."
Regarding Regan's firing, Hemond said, "Naturally, I was concerned for Phil as to what his status would be. I had hoped he would have the opportunity to fulfill his [two-year] contract. . . . That didn't have full bearing on my decision, but you have concern for others."
Hemond also said he was troubled that his status and that of Regan took so long to be resolved.
"I always worry for the managers and coaches, because they can lose other opportunities," he said. "That bothered me more for them than for myself. I hope the process will be expedited."
Hemond's major trades
A listing of the major trades during Roland Hemond's eight-year tenure with the Orioles:
12/9/87: Mike Morgan from Seattle for Ken Dixon
3/21/88: Rick Schu, Keith Hughes and Jeff Stone from Philadelphia for Mike Young and Frank Bellino
7/30/88: Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling from Boston for Mike Boddicker
8/31/88: Chris Hoiles, Robinson Garces and Cesar Mejia from Detroit for Fred Lynn
11/9/88: Randy Milligan from Pittsburgh for Pete Blohm
12/4/88: Ken Howell, Brian Holton and Juan Bell from Los Angeles for Eddie Murray
3/11/89: Mike Devereaux from Los Angeles for Mike Morgan
7/28/89: Keith Moreland from Detroit for Brian DuBois
7/30/90: Ron Kittle from Chicago White Sox for Phil Bradley
1/10/91: Glenn Davis from Houston for Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling
1/12/91: Jeff Robinson from Detroit for Mickey Tettleton
8/31/92: Craig Lefferts from San Diego for Erik Schullstrom and Ricky Gutierrez
1/21/93: Harold Baines from Oakland for Bobby Chouinard and Allen Plaster
7/7/95: Scott Erickson from Minnesota for Scott Klingenbeck and Kimera Bartee
7/28/95: Bobby Bonilla from N.Y. Mets for Alex Ochoa and Damon Buford