Players: Manager always pays price for team's failures; Miller firing shocks few, though most know blaming any one man is simplistic; SHAKE-UP AT CAMDEN YARDS


The news was anticipated. It also was received with at least a modicum of sympathy.

Though not rushing to his defense, various Orioles were reluctant to place too much blame for another poor season on the shoulders of Ray Miller, who they learned yesterday wouldn't be retained as manager for the 2000 season.

"I feel bad for Ray," said shortstop Mike Bordick. "He's not the one throwing the ball. He's not the one hitting the ball. Obviously, we didn't have the success we wanted, but everyone thought he was a great guy.

"It's going to be interesting to see who they bring in."

The shoes won't be as difficult to fill as the ones Miller stepped into before the 1998 season. His predecessor, Davey Johnson, had led the club to two straight appearances in the American League Championship Series.

Miller's two years at the helm produced a 157-167 record and consecutive fourth-place finishes, ahead only of the newest kids on the division block, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Orioles were above .500 just once last year, after a 10-7 win over the Devil Rays on Opening Day. They lost two nights later and never again touched the surface.

"It wasn't a good year and things happened," said infielder Jeff Reboulet. "It's tough to blame one person for everything going on, but you end up pointing at the manager all the time. That's part of the game.

"I can see where they're coming from, making changes. It's not always the manager, though."

It wasn't just the manager taking the fall yesterday. General manager Frank Wren also is out, news that came as more of a surprise to the players than Miller's ouster.

Derrick May had been an Oriole for about a month, but heard enough rumblings to know Miller's days were numbered.

"I was just happy to be there, but I knew changes would be made," said May, one of six free agents on the club. "It's tough for me in that situation, with a whole new group of people again. I would like to stay, but you never know with new people coming in.

"I had a good understanding of how he did things and I had a good time. Then again, I played well while I was there so I got to see the good part. It was nice for me. And I thought he did a pretty good job."

One of Miller's former players, Texas first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, conceded the manager "pays the price" when a club underachieves.

"I wouldn't say he's the problem, but everybody has to be accountable when you have a team with a high payroll and things don't work out," Palmeiro said.

"I think the turnover of managers and general managers, the uncertainty, has trickled down to the team. It affects the whole organization. They need stability.

"They need somebody who can build from the bottom up, somebody [owner Peter Angelos] can trust. I can tell you one thing: Peter wants to win as bad as anybody. He just needs to surround himself with people he can trust."

Cleveland Indians designated hitter Harold Baines, a pending free agent, was asked if the firing of Miller and Wren would make him think twice about wanting to return to the Orioles next year: "Would it affect it? No, the nucleus [of talent] is still there. I'm still testing the market, just to see what's out there. I haven't eliminated Baltimore. Baltimore's on top of the list, but I'm taking all phone calls."

Doug Melvin, a onetime assistant general manager with the Orioles before being hired as the Rangers' GM, also touched on the importance of limited change without directly pointing to his former employer.

"I've got my own team to think about," he said. "I'll just say I'm happy our ownership has allowed us to have stability here."

Sun staff writers Peter Schmuck and Ken Rosenthal contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 10/08/99

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