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Orioles fire Regan, lose GM Hemond General manager's resignation comes as surprise to many; Johnson is likely manager; F. Robinson says GM 'deserved better' than O's treatment

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Orioles announced the dismissal of manager Phil Regan and the resignation of general manager Roland Hemond

yesterday. The two men, generally blamed for the club's disappointing 1995 season, departed the organization under radically different circumstances.

The firing of Mr. Regan, 58, had been considered a fait accompli, particularly after owner Peter Angelos told him two days after the regular season that the team intended to interview possible replacements. Mr. Regan was so sure that he would be fired that he shipped all of his belongings to his Michigan home two weeks ago.

Former Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson is very likely to replace Mr. Regan, a move that could be completed Monday or delayed until after the World Series.

Mr. Hemond, 65, might have salvaged a job with the Orioles; there was talk within the organization that Mr. Hemond would be reassigned into an adviser's role. But early Thursday afternoon, he surprised assistant general manager Frank Robinson by telling him that he was taking the rest of the day off, that he had some personal business he needed to address.

When Mr. Angelos arrived at his downtown law firm yesterday morning, Mr. Hemond was waiting there for him, to tender his resignation after almost eight years with the Orioles.

"I thought about it the last few days," Mr. Hemond said last night. "I decided maybe this was a time when it was best to move on. Eight years is a relatively long time. When they indicate they have interest in someone else in your capacity, it's like a player: You either retire or you file for free agency."

A week ago it appeared the club had a good shot at hiring ex-San Diego general manager Randy Smith, but Mr. Smith said he is accepting a job in Detroit.

Former Montreal Expos general manager Kevin Malone, 38, fared well in an interview with the Orioles last week, and may get a second look. The club is likely to ask the Boston Red Sox for permission to interview assistant general manager Mike Port.

Mr. Robinson, who is interviewing Monday for a job in San Diego. is not a candidate to replace Mr. Hemond. Yesterday, he criticized the team's treatment of Mr. Hemond.

"I think Roland deserved to be treated better than he was under these circumstances," Mr. Robinson said. "If they were really trying to replace him, they should've 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 conducted himself."

Mr. Angelos would not comment yesterday beyond an official statement in which he credited Mr. Hemond with providing "great service to this ballclub for the last eight years" and said that "the Orioles will continue to hold Phil in high personal and professional esteem."

Mr. Hemond was hired in 1987 by the late Edward Bennett Williams. In part because of his ability to get along with people, he became a rarity among baseball executives, keeping his job despite ownership changes -- from Mr. Williams to Eli Jacobs and then Mr. Angelos.

Mr. Hemond worked under stringent budgets for years before Mr. Angelos bought the team in 1993 and asked him to work without a set budget. Rather, Mr. Angelos wanted Mr. Hemond to recommend a particular move over which the owner would exercise veto power.

Their styles clashed during negotiations with free-agent outfielder Ron Gant in the summer of 1994. Mr. Angelos wanted Mr. Gant signed and told Mr. Hemond to do so; Mr. Gant eventually signed with Cincinnati. At the time, Mr. Angelos was quoted as saying that Mr. Hemond's failure was equivalent to "insubordination."

Mr. Hemond traded a minor-league pitcher named Jay Powell to Florida for second baseman Bret Barberie last December, and while Mr. Powell blossomed, Mr. Barberie was a bust, losing his regular job by the second day of the season. By July, Mr. Hemond was playing a reduced role in trade decisions. Mr. Angelos dictated the Orioles' side of the negotiations that led up to the acquisition of Bobby Bonilla, for example.

It became evident by the end of the season that Mr. Hemond would not be kept as general manager. He went from player to player after the final game, tears welling in his eyes, and he told reporters he still had plenty of baseball left in his blood.

In fact, Mr. Regan said yesterday he thought Mr. Hemond already had a deal in the works with another club. A possibility is the Montreal general manager's job, although Mr. Hemond denied yesterday that he has negotiated with any other team.

In October 1994, Mr. Hemond was involved in the hiring of Mr. Regan, whose articulate manner and strong scouting background served him well in his interview to replace Johnny Oates as manager. But Mr. Regan was at a disadvantage when spring training opened in April -- delayed by baseball's strike -- because he had no prior knowledge of his players.

"My only regret," Mr. Regan said yesterday, "was that in spring training, I didn't have a chance to evaluate the players better. It's not easy to come in and start all new, and it took me a while to get to know the players, and for the players to know me."

The club started poorly, and the roster turned over. Many departing players and some who stayed groused that Mr. Regan was a poor communicator. First reliever Brad Pennington, then outfielder Andy Van Slyke, and catcher Matt Nokes; by the end of the year, Mr. Regan had confrontations with outfielder Brady Anderson and pitchers Ben McDonald and Kevin Brown.

"When people do well," Mr. Regan said, "you have communication. If they don't, then they say there's no communication. You can't go around every day as a manager and say, 'Hey, you're not going to play.' "

Pitcher Mike Mussina said: "I don't think [Mr. Regan] gave some guys a chance. Other guys he gave more than enough chances. It's a tough job. Everyone is looking at you. If we don't win, it's [his] fault. But a lot of times, he's not the reason we lost.

"We lost because Ben [McDonald] was hurt, [catcher Chris] Hoiles had a below-average year, and [outfielder Jeffrey] Hammonds was hurt."

On the night of Aug. 1 -- a watershed for the 1995 Orioles -- reliever Doug Jones blew a 10-6 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing six runs to score in the ninth before retiring a

single hitter. When Mr. Regan went to the mound, the crowd booed lustily. Fans at Camden Yards continued to boo Mr. Regan as the season wound down.

The Orioles finished well, with great pitching down the stretch, and ended the year with a 71-73 record. Mr. Regan remained hopeful that he would be back for the second year of his contract. But Mr. Angelos indicated to Mr. Regan in the meeting two days after the season that it was likely a new manager would be hired.

Mr. Angelos offered him an unspecified job in the organization, an idea that Mr. Regan said he never really entertained. The Orioles owe him $350,000 for next year, but Mr. Regan may well surface as a managerial candidate in Detroit or as an executive for the Los Angeles Dodgers. If he takes another position, the Orioles would have to make up any difference in his pay up to $350,000.

"I kind of understood what [Mr. Angelos] was doing," Mr. Regan said. "I think he was trying to do what he thought was best."

Mr. Regan said he couldn't think of anything he would do differently. "I leave there with my head up," he said. "To finish with our record, we did as much as we could do with what we had."

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