A link to the organization's most successful era, Ray Miller was introduced yesterday as the 13th manager in Orioles history and insisted that his way, the Oriole Way and the Peter Angelos Way can be and, indeed, will be compatible.
His hiring considered a near-certainty since Friday, Miller inherited the American League East champions less than one week after Davey Johnson resigned as manager. Miller received a guaranteed two-year contract worth about $1.4 million and an option for 2000 as well as the expectations that accompany a $60 million payroll and consecutive trips to the AL Championship Series.
Rather than speak of change, Miller used a lengthy afternoon news conference to speak more of continuity.
"I'm looking forward to continuing what has been started here. I know we have a talented club that carries a lot of expectations. I've got no problem with that. I prefer it that way," said Miller, the team's pitching coach in 1997.
Miller's hiring ends a tumultuous week in which his predecessor exchanged verbal volleys with the club's owner and eventually resigned after failing to get a contract extension. It is hoped that Miller can maintain the club's on-field success while bringing about a more cohesive environment within the organization.
"I think it brings everything right back into focus," said assistant general manager Kevin Malone. "I feel for the fans. I feel their frustration. They felt that Davey was the best manager and [responsible] for what we accomplished. I consider this a step forward."
Orioles owner Angelos could not be reached.
Miller said he never campaigned for the job, but first thought it a possibility when Johnson phoned to tell him of his pending resignation last Wednesday.
Under Johnson, the Orioles again tried to return to the "Oriole Way," a disciplined form of instruction and technique that served the organization well for much of two decades. During yesterday's news conference, Malone described the transition from Johnson to Miller as "more of an adjustment than a change."
Miller, whose contract as a coach ran through 1998, sounded uneasy over what importing a manager might have meant.
"The reason that I said I would be a candidate for the job was that I was very, very concerned that it would be turned over to somebody else and changes would be made," Miller said. "This is a veteran club, a very good club, a club with a chance to win and a club that was only within a couple pitches or a couple calls of being in the World Series. And I think we can go right back to that situation."
To do so, Miller will keep hitting coach Rick Down, bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks and third base coach Sam Perlozzo. Down and Perlozzo have been offered extensions through 1999, according to a club source. Andy Etchebarren and John Stearns, Johnson's bench coach and first base coach, respectively, will be reassigned within the organization if they choose to remain. Etchebarren is under consideration to manage the club's Rookie League affiliate in Bluefield, W. Va.
Miller said the rest of his coaching staff should be named within the next week. It is believed longtime Dominican Republic scouting supervisor Carlos Bernhardt will be promoted as an outfield coach. Former Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray, technically considered a free-agent player, has been approached about returning as a first base coach. Miller also persuaded television analyst Mike Flanagan to return as pitching coach. Flanagan served under Phil Regan in 1995, was replaced by Pat Dobson in 1996 but served as a de facto consultant to Miller last season.
Flanagan wavered, but was persuaded yesterday morning by Miller and the offer of a two-year guarantee.
"I probably would not have considered any other place," said Flanagan, who won the 1979 AL Cy Young Award with Miller as his pitching coach.
A Takoma Park native, Miller, 52, served as Orioles pitching coach from 1978 to 1985, overseeing two Cy Young Award winners and five different 20-game winners. He left the organization in 1985 to manage the Minnesota Twins for parts of two seasons that produced a 109-130 record. After spending 10 years as Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach, Miller returned to the Orioles this year and helped transform an underachieving staff into one of the game's most respected.
Angelos, a strong supporter of Miller's hiring last winter, became an even stronger advocate during the past season.
Because of the incendiary relationship Angelos shared with Johnson, Miller's ability to work with ownership will be scrutinized. He is the Orioles' fourth manager since Angelos purchased the club in 1993.
"I think stability in this organization comes from communication, and I think I have the ability to communicate with ownership and the club," said Miller. "Mr. Angelos doesn't tell me who to play and who not to play. He simply wants to know what's going on. I plan to guarantee that."
In their 3 1/2 -hour conversation Monday, Miller said, Angelos requested that the two speak regularly, something that had ceased with Johnson. Miller saw no problem with the request.
Miller emphasized he believes his most important relationship is with the front office, including Malone, farm director Syd Thrift and general manager Pat Gillick, who did not attend yesterday's news conference because of a commitment in California. Miller added he requested organizational stability from Angelos. He cited a desire to improve the starting rotation and to retain free agents Brady Anderson and Randy Myers. Miller also verified that Gillick and Malone would be returning next season.
Addressing an offense that ranked last in the league in stolen bases (63) and base-running daring, Miller suggested the club would adopt a more aggressive, National League-style attack in contrast to the stop-and-start approach that infected the second half and the postseason. Miller promised more attention will be paid to bunting and base running in spring training and indicated his managerial style may be slightly more involved than Johnson's.
"I certainly might be a little more hands-on in making sure that it's all done," Miller said. "There were a few things last year that were supposed to be done that weren't, and that bothered me."
Miller made no pronouncements about third baseman Cal Ripken's consecutive-game streak, except to say he would not flinch at replacing the Iron Man in mid-game if it become clear he was physically limited.
Johnson once incorrectly predicted he would be the manager to end Ripken's streak.
"As far as the streak goes, Cal will take care of that," Miller said. "I'll certainly be in a lot bigger room with a lot more people if I'm the one to stop the streak."
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Pub Date: 11/12/97