O's new man could be old hand Coaches Miller, Down head list of candidates to succeed Johnson; F. Robinson interested; Search could extend beyond organization; DAVEY JOHNSON RESIGNATION


Chances are, the man who replaces departed manager Davey Johnson already is receiving a paycheck from the Orioles. The top two candidates are members of Johnson's 1997 coaching staff.

Pitching coach Ray Miller was handpicked by owner Peter Angelos last year to help re-establish the Orioles as a pitching powerhouse, and may be the owner's choice to oversee the entire on-field operation.

Hitting coach Rick Down is considered a rising star among baseball insiders, and has been interviewed for several vacant managerial positions over the past two years. He likely would be the choice of the club's front office staff.

The Orioles also could join the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a baseball-wide managerial talent hunt.

Only Angelos really knows which way he will turn, and he did not respond to repeated telephone inquiries last night.

Perhaps the more relevant question is, in light of Johnson's two straight trips to the American League Championship Series and subsequent resignation under fire, who in his right mind would want the job?

Former Orioles manager Frank Robinson said yesterday that the club's recent track record -- both Johnson and former manager Johnny Oates were named American League Manager of the Year and failed to win the approval of Angelos -- sends a mixed message to prospective candidates, both inside and outside the organization.

Robinson, however, said that the pressure of working for Angelos would not scare away quality candidates. He even threw his hat in the ring, though it seems unlikely that Angelos would bring him back for another tour as Orioles manager.

"They won't be lacking for candidates," Robinson said. "I would be honored to be considered."

The list of potential candidates is substantial, but the choice depends on the direction the club wants to go. If the front office wants to promote organizational stability, then Down may be the logical candidate.

He is grounded in the Orioles' system and has earned the respect of the players. He is a no-nonsense workaholic who will keep his head down and let the owner have the headlines.

Miller has big-league experience, but he went 109-130 in his only tour as a major-league manager (1985-86) with a developing Minnesota Twins team that did not develop fast enough to keep him employed. Angelos has great confidence in him, but a promotion would distance Miller from the pitching staff that was the backbone of the club's 1997 success.

Still, that decision would bear the unmistakable Angelos imprint and leave little doubt about who is responsible for the club's future accomplishments. It apparently was the ambiguity over who deserved credit for the team's success in 1996 and '97 that fueled Angelos' dislike for Johnson.

Angelos would not publicly compete for attention with Johnson, but admittedly was galled by the notion that Johnson led the team into the ALCS the past two years. It was Angelos, after all, who vetoed an attempt in July 1996 to unload veterans David Wells and Bobby Bonilla. And it was Angelos who insisted that Johnson fire pitching coach Pat Dobson and replace him with Miller.

Neither in-house candidate would be much of a foil for the volatile owner. Miller is quiet and reserved. Down is hard-nosed and intense, but he is a team guy who isn't going to upstage anybody.

If Angelos decides he wants somebody from outside the organization, there are a number of other experienced candidates available.

Angelos is known to be impressed with Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner, but so are the Brewers. Garner is under contract, so the Orioles would need permission from Brewers owner and interim commissioner Bud Selig to talk to him. They won't get it.

Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey has been managing in the minor leagues and waiting for a chance to move up, but his name has not been prominent in any of the searches going on this fall. New York Yankees coach Chris Chambliss also is considered a rising star, but is considered the front-runner for the Chicago White Sox job.

If published reports are true that the sale of the Florida Marlins will be announced today, Marlins manager Jim Leyland could be on Angelos' list. Leyland's contract allows him to leave if the team is sold, but he said he'd either stay put or not manage at all in 1998.

Former Texas Rangers and California Angels manager Doug Rader is considered one of the sharpest minds in the game, but quit his coaching job with the White Sox over differences with management.

He said yesterday that he would not have any trouble working with Angelos.

"I gotta like him," Rader said, "if only because he doesn't like [Jerry] Reinsdorf."

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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