O's players won over by Johnson's success His winning record earns their respect


Under Davey Johnson, Jesse Orosco experienced the thrill of a lifetime. He got the last out in the seventh game of the 1986 World Series.

Orosco spent eight years with the New York Mets, but Johnson helped him feel like a champion.

"He came to us in '84; we came off some disastrous seasons in '82 and '83," Orosco said. "Davey came around and turned it all around."

Most of the other Orioles haven't played for Johnson. Only a few have played against him. But all of them apparently respect him for being a winner and expect him to turn things around as Orioles manager.

"He's won everywhere he's gone, so he must be the right man for the job," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "He's won in New York, he's won in Cincinnati and he'll win in Baltimore."

Johnson has finished with a winning record in eight of his 10 seasons.

"What I think he's going to bring is a good track record," third baseman Jeff Manto said. "Players like to play for him. I've never heard anything bad about him. Most important are the winning teams that he's managed."

Kevin Bass is one of the few Orioles who knows those Johnson-led teams well. Bass was a member of the Houston Astros who finished second in the National League West to the Reds in 1994 and lost the 1986 NL playoffs to the Mets.

"Strategy-wise, there's probably nobody any better," Bass said. "His ability to relate to the players and to get the most out of their abilities, that's what makes him so successful."

All the Orioles contacted yesterday expressed regret that former manager Phil Regan had been fired and said Regan deserved another chance. But they are looking forward to playing for Johnson.

"I said, 'Wow,' when I first heard his name being mentioned," Palmeiro said.

Palmeiro and Orosco, former National Leaguers, regard Johnson's NL background as a plus.

The offense, Palmeiro said, will manufacture more runs.

"He's got a National League mentality," Palmeiro said. "We're probably going to do more offensively, instead of just standing around waiting for the big home run -- more hitting and running and base stealing, using the little speed we had last year."

Johnson joked yesterday that to keep himself from getting bored in the American League, he was going to make frequent player moves. Orosco said part of Johnson's genius with the Mets was keeping everybody involved.

"He used all 25 players during the season and used them quite a bit," Orosco said. "We had good bench strength, and he was running guys out there, platooning, pinch hitting, keeping the guys in the game. . . . Davey has demonstrated a great ability to keep everybody's confidence up."

Johnson never has lacked in confidence. He boasted yesterday that the Orioles would be the favorite to win the AL East. The players apparently believed him.

"We need somebody to lead us," Orosco said.

Bass said Johnson's hometown-hero status will keep him on good terms with the fans.

"I think he'll have a better rapport with the fans; that's one of the things Mr. Angelos is looking for," Bass said.

Orosco said Johnson never will fall out of favor with the players. The reliever liked Johnson when they won the World Series together in 1986; he also liked Johnson when Orosco tried to hook on with the Reds before the 1995 season.

Johnson told Orosco the Reds already had too many relievers and couldn't use him. Orosco said he always appreciated Johnson's candor.

The Orioles will, too.

"There were days I wouldn't pitch well, and Davey would jump on me," Orosco said. "He said, 'Let's go. You can do better than that.' "

And Orosco usually did.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad