NEW YORK -- Orioles owner Peter Angelos, strongly disagreeing with a suggestion by Cal Ripken that the team is struggling because the players are adjusting to a new manager and front-office staff, said yesterday that the club lacks leadership and challenged Ripken to assume that responsibility.
"This team is in desperate need of leadership on the field and around the clubhouse, and no one is more qualified than Cal Ripken to provide that leadership," Angelos said yesterday. "If Cal accepts that challenge with as much zeal as he plays and goes about his business of preparing to play every day, there's no question the Orioles will be able to reach their potential."
Ripken offered no comment after the Orioles' 7-4 win last night, but his brother Bill was quick to defend him.
"If Cal's not the first guy that everyone goes to for advice, then he's the second guy," Bill Ripken said.
The utility infielder cited such players as Bobby Bonilla and Chris Hoiles as among those who have gone to his big brother for personal help.
"After 14 years, you can't just turn that [vocal leadership] on," Bill said. "What would happen if he did chew somebody out? I think people would lose respect for him. There are leaders who go out there and stir it up, but they've stirred it up since Day 1, and that's how they got to be a leader."
Meeting with the New York media Thursday, Cal Ripken was asked for reasons the team isn't playing to expectations. One of the contributing factors, Ripken indicated, was that the team has required a period of adjustment for the players to get to know manager Davey Johnson, for Johnson to know the players, and for the players to know each other.
"People lose sight of the fact that we've assembled a team of new faces," Ripken said. "The coaches are new. Management is new. It requires jelling. It's a process where we have to learn each other."
Angelos disagreed vehemently with that assessment.
"I was mystified by the comments attributed to Cal," Angelos said from his law office in Baltimore, "that one of the reasons the Orioles are underachieving is because of unfamiliarity with Davey Johnson and Pat Gillick.
"My problem with this is that it ignores the obvious -- the Yankees are led by a new manager, Joe Torre, and a new GM, Bob Watson. They've got new players, Tino Martinez, Joe Girardi, Doc Gooden, Mariano Duncan, Jeff Nelson. And Derek Jeter."
Using Ripken's logic, Angelos said, the change has affected the Orioles players. But, "it hasn't affected the Yankees," Angelos said, "and to a greater degree, it hasn't affected the achievement of that team.
"To suggest the lack of familiarity with two of the most respected men in baseball, Johnson and Gillick, and the coaching staff, is a problem, is simply off the mark. It's off the mark, but more importantly, it precludes one from capturing the underlying truth."
The fans and players look to Ripken for his leadership, Angelos said. To contend that lack of familiarity with Johnson and Gillick is a drawback "is an excuse from a group of quality players who, so far, haven't been able to rise to the occasion."
With leadership, Angelos said, "they'll be able to do so."
Reliever Jesse Orosco agreed with Angelos, but said Johnson has to share the burden, too.
"Mr. Angelos is right," Orosco said. "We need somebody to send a wakeup call in the clubhouse when we need it. That's also the job of the manager, and in a lot of ways, it's up to Davey. We really don't have that type of person in the clubhouse who's willing to do whatever it takes to shock our seats and get us going.
"If you don't have anybody to do that role, you can't just name somebody. You can't say to Cal or Raffy [Rafael Palmeiro], you're quiet, but you've got to take a new role now."
Angelos said he isn't mad at Ripken, but was just trying to achieve something good with the team and act "for the fans who loyally support this team."
After his defense of his brother, Bill Ripken was asked if the Orioles needed a more vocal leader. He paused, and said, "When we start pitching the way we can, fielding the way we can and hitting the way we can, everything will take care of itself. We are underachievers at this point."
1. Roberto Alomar .. ..2B
2. Brady Anderson .. ..CF
3. Cal Ripken .. .. ...SS
4. Rafael Palmeiro .. .1B
5. Bobby Bonilla .. ...DH
6. B.J. Surhoff .. .. .3B
7. Mike Devereaux .. ..RF
8. Luis Polonia .. .. .LF
9. Gregg Zaun .. .. .. .C
Pub Date: 6/29/96