Credit Angelos, Gillick, Johnson for Orioles' blueprint of success

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There has been no singular architect but rather a collective effort, past and present, that has elevated the Orioles to within arm's reach of the now promised pennant land. It means additional recognition for Peter Angelos, Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson. Their desire to achieve effectiveness merits an A-plus on any report card.

No magic formulas, only diligent attention to detail and an unrelenting willingness by Angelos to spend enormous sums of money. They have combined for a mighty thrust: Angelos, as owner, with an insatiable desire to use financial resources to produce a team that is the best in baseball; Gillick for his perception and quiet resolve in bringing it about; and Johnson, whose leadership skills leave little to be desired.

Angelos has been responsible for putting a winning combination in place, headed by the best general manager and manager in the major leagues. Check their records. Gillick and Johnson revel in any challenge to be the best at what they do. Their hiring came about because Angelos didn't let dollars stand in the way of seeking and signing the best men for the specialized roles they perform -- Gillick appraising player talent and Johnson extracting the best of what they have to give in on-field ability.

Without Angelos reuniting the two former Orioles, it never would have happened. They played together in the Baltimore farm system at Elmira of the Eastern League in 1963 and then applauded the success of each other as they went off in different baseball directions. In fact, Gillick, had it not been for Johnson, would still be basking in retirement after giving up a long-term general managership position with the Toronto Blue Jays that afforded him total autonomy.

The remaking of the Baltimore connection for the two of them, occurring after the 1995 season, fell into place because Johnson, after being hired as manager, quickly suggested to Angelos that Gillick would be a perfect fit for the GM position. That's precisely the way it evolved. It was probably the only time a manager played such a prominent role in helping to hire a general manager, virtually naming his own choice in the chain of command. So much for peculiar precedents.

A box-score recap on how the 1997 Orioles were built, comprising a list of 28 players, offers a revealing insight. It proves the present administration has been responsible for 19 ,, members of the current roster, 16 of them coming via Gillick, and three others when Roland Hemond, now in charge of personnel for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was serving at the pleasure of Angelos.

Hemond, simultaneously, proved the merit of his staying power since he was employed under three Orioles ownerships -- that of Edward Bennett Williams, Eli Jacobs and Angelos. The Hemond/Williams relationship brought in outfielder Brady Anderson, a trade that sent Mike Boddicker to the Boston Red Sox for Anderson and pitcher Curt Schilling, later dispatched by the Orioles in a mammoth deal to the Houston Astros for first baseman Glenn Davis; catcher Chris Hoiles coming from the Detroit Tigers, along with pitchers Robinson Garces and Cesar Mejia for Fred Lynn; and the amateur draft of pitcher Arthur Rhodes.

While working for Jacobs, the Hemond touch further resulted in the drafting of outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and pitchers Rick Krivda and Mike Mussina, plus free agent Armando Benitez. A trade with the New York Yankees brought pitcher Alan Mills for pitchers Francisco de la Rosa and Mark Carper. Then under Angelos, Hemond negotiated the signing of free-agent pitcher Jesse Orosco and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

The record shows Angelos played a major role in targeting Palmeiro, insisting that extensive medical examinations be given lTC to Will Clark and Palmeiro before making a judgment on which of the two first basemen would be preferred. It was determined that Clark had problems, a troublesome knee, but Palmeiro was physically sound. Then Angelos directed Hemond to pursue Palmeiro. In retrospect, it was a coup to get Palmeiro, the same as the Hemond trade with the Minnesota Twins for pitchers Scott Erickson and Jimmy Williams for pitcher Scott Klingenbeck and outfielder Kimera Bartee. That must be classified as something of a robbery, even a Brinks job.

Specifically, what Gillick, Johnson and Angelos produced has enabled the Orioles to move into position for their first hoped- for World Series since 1983. Gillick/Angelos, with Gillick's knowledge and Angelos' financial support, led to the acquisition of the following free agents: second baseman Roberto Alomar, shortstop Mike Bordick, utility infielders Jeff Reboulet and Aaron Ledesma, outfielders Eric Davis, Jerome Walton and B. J. Surhoff, catcher Lenny Webster and pitchers Shawn Boskie, Scott Kamieniecki, Jimmy Key and Randy Myers. Impressive.

In trades, Gillick/Angelos reacquired outfielder Harold Baines from the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Juan Bautista; obtained pitcher Terry Mathews from the Florida Marlins for catcher Gregg Zaun; outfielder Tony Tarasco from the Montreal Expos for outfielder Sherman Obando; and outfielder Geronimo Berroa from the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Jimmy Haynes and Mark Seaver.

One player remains unaccounted for in this intriguing cruise into the past, a comprehensive attempt to define how the present makeup of the Orioles was created. There's no need to provide a trumpeted introduction. He's Cal Ripken, who was acquired in the June 1978 draft from Aberdeen High School. The Orioles weren't entirely sure if he'd be a pitcher or a shortstop, but the late scout, Dick Bowie, prophesied he'd play shortstop.

Ripken came to the organization headed by then-owner Jerry Hoffberger and general manager Hank Peters. That's going back, as a point of reference, to four different owners and three general managers, a time when scouting and getting players to sign contracts wasn't the complex matter it has become.

The Orioles, it can be said without deliberation or disagreement, are the result of Angelos' recognizing that exceptionally talented people, Gillick and Johnson, are necessary in running the team. They are just as important to him, and to the Orioles, as the money it takes to obtain quality players in this era of nonstop spending. Vital to the Orioles' future is Angelos keeping them together.

Continuity must be maintained, to suppress egos, to continue to build and not deter the flow of success. Angelos' agenda, plus what Gillick and Johnson bring with them, is the formula that has taken the Orioles to where they are today. Can it happen without interruption and controversy? It's difficult to say, considering the nature of the personalities, but maintaining order and organization should be the first and only priority.

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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