O's sluggish first half perplexes even some national observers


No one needs to tell any Orioles fan that the team has been enigmatic and inconsistent through the first half of the season. You only have to watch them stumble against the strong and whip up on the weak, usually during the same week, to know that this team has troubles.

Or does it? Seems that some of our national baseball broadcasters are just as perplexed by the Orioles as anyone in Baltimore.

For the cantankerous pre-game show gang at Fox, the Orioles' problems start with what they perceive as a contrary clubhouse that has been unwilling to deal with managers, starting with Johnny Oates, continuing with Phil Regan and extending to Davey Johnson.

"It might be time for [Orioles owner] Peter Angelos to take a look at his ballclub instead of his managers. For the last three years, he's run managers out of town," said Fox pre-game analyst Steve Lyons. "Oates couldn't hack it, they said Phil Regan couldn't relate to his players, and now I'm hearing that they might not all be on the same page with Davey Johnson. Maybe this is a case where you have too many chiefs and not enough Indians."

Lyons' colleague, Dave Winfield, points to a lack of leadership on the Orioles, and aims a finger at shortstop Cal Ripken.

"[Ripken] is not the verbal, vocal, motivational leader of the ballclub. If those guys are going to compete, they're going to have to develop better teamwork and other guys are going to have to step up and be leaders."

While Winfield and Lyons, both fairly recent baseball retirees, reflect a modern opinion, the view from a couple players with more distance from the clubhouse, namely NBC's Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan, is that this is all much ado about nothing.

Uecker, who regularly works Milwaukee Brewers games, says the season's events have been "blown out of proportion" and says Angelos' call for Ripken to take a more vocal role on the team is "totally out of whack.

"That guy [Ripken] is not going to change his style of play. I mean, he is a leader," said Uecker, who will work Tuesday's All-Star Game with Morgan and Bob Costas. "People look at leaders in different ways. That guy goes about his business as quietly as anybody else, but everybody looks up to him. How can you ask him to do any more than he's done?"

Morgan, who will join Jon Miller in the booth for Sunday night's Orioles-Boston Red Sox game on ESPN, concurs with Uecker that the issue of leadership can get "overblown" and adds that he hasn't seen the selfishness that people have accused the Orioles of.

"The problem sometimes arises when you have individuals going for records, as Ripken was. You have [Roberto] Alomar trying to hit .400, you have [Rafael] Palmeiro and guys trying to make the All-Star team. It seems that they're thinking about individual accomplishments rather than team goals," said Morgan.

He added, "I'm not sure that's the case. All these guys are veterans. They've come to the point where they've accomplished a lot as individuals. The only thing that's left is to try to win a championship. I'm not convinced there's a problem personally."

Evaluate for yourself this weekend. The final three games of the Red Sox series will appear on three different outlets. Tonight's game shows up on Channel 13 (7: 30 p.m.), tomorrow afternoon's contest gets the Fox ride (Channel 45, 1 p.m.), with Sunday's first half of the season finale airing on ESPN (8 p.m.)

Weekend wanderings

Tennis, particularly Wimbledon, leads the way this weekend.

The All-England Lawn championships come to a close, providing they can play between raindrops. The men's semifinals air today on NBC (Channel 11) at 1 p.m. and HBO at 5 p.m. NBC takes over exclusive coverage for tomorrow's women's final and the men's championship on Sunday, both at 9 a.m.

For the geriatric net set, ABC (Channel 2) has "The Challenge," pitting Jimmy Connors, Andres Gomez, Yannick Noah and John McEnroe against each other at 2: 30 p.m. tomorrow and at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team (no catchy marketing phrases here) gets its first two tuneups for the coming onslaught tomorrow against a group of college all-stars and on Sunday against their Brazilian counterparts. Both games are at 4 p.m., and, surprise, surprise, they both air on NBC.

Speaking of the Olympics, if you missed some of the American team trials, ESPN's "Call to Glory" anthology series will recap the boxing, fencing, gymnastics, wrestling and women's basketball efforts tonight and the track and field, equestrian, baseball and swimming performances tomorrow, both at 9 p.m.

Looking ahead

ESPN is the place to be Monday night for All-Star Game events. The annual All-Star gala, from Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center, airs at 7: 30 p.m., followed by the home run derby, which should include Baltimore's Brady Anderson.

The evening concludes at 10: 30 with an All-Star celebrity softball game, featuring such athletic titans as singer Meat Loaf and comedian Rob Schneider. Watch at your own peril, knowing that people who find out you tuned into this will laugh at you.

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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