The Orioles made official yesterday that Ray Miller's tenure as manager is done. Unsaid is whether the Orioles will pursue a "name" manager able to quench the club's marketing thirst as well as its desire for a credible clubhouse presence.
Given the absence of a general manager, the selection process that Frank Wren hoped to finalize before the end of the World Series apparently will be left to majority owner Peter Angelos and a team composed of organizational executives. One club insider suggested that the flux might lead to the promotion of an in-house candidate such as first base coach Marv Foley, third base coach Sam Perlozzo or bench coach Eddie Murray.
Chief operating officer Joe Foss said it was "impossible" to make that judgment at this time.
Wren and Angelos had constructed their own list of possible successors long before Wren's ouster was formulated. Former Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner was at the top of both men's list. Wren also expressed confidence in recently fired Chicago Cubs manager Jim Riggleman, Atlanta Braves hitting coach Don Baylor and Boston Red Sox bullpen coach Grady Little. None of the candidates has yet been contacted.
Baylor, fired as Colorado Rockies manager after the 1998 season, must be granted permission to interview if asked, according to a Braves source.
Former Rockies manager Jim Leyland also has appeared on the Orioles' wish list and may have already been contacted. Intermediaries approached Leyland after last season to gauge his interest. Having exercised an escape clause in his contract with the Florida Marlins, Leyland instead landed with the Rockies. Following a last-place campaign with the Rockies, Leyland resigned after one season.
Foss said an interview process will be arranged in the next several days. "Given the matters that have transpired over the last several days, we have not yet had conclusive discussions on how we will move forward in the process of selecting a new field manager and general manager."
Foss added the number of people to be interviewed for each position remains to be determined.
The search for a manager will be the fourth since Angelos purchased the team in 1993. Phil Regan, Davey Johnson and Miller have all been hired here since Angelos inherited Johnny Oates. Likewise, the next general manager will follow Roland Hemond, Pat Gillick and Wren as the club's leading baseball executive under Angelos.
Reached at his Kingwood, Texas, home, yesterday, Garner suggested that Wren's ouster would have little impact on his consideration of the Orioles.
"One of my criteria is being able to work with the new general manager. That's very important. But there are very few people I can't work with," he said.
Regarding Wren, Garner added, "When you say organization, an organization is compiled of people. I don't know Frank Wren, but he certainly has a good reputation within the industry. But in terms of having any kind of relationship with him, that's not a factor."
Miller met for about 90 minutes with Angelos on Tuesday. During the meeting, Miller said that he and the majority owner reached a handshake agreement to waive the 72-hour window in which his option must have been exercised. However, according to a prepared statement issued by the Orioles, Angelos followed up Wednesday by sending a letter to Miller notifying him of his dismissal.
Miller could not be reached for comment yesterday at his New Athens, Ohio, home. Under terms of the contract, Miller received a $100,000 buyout.
Miller's managerial tenure ended with a 157-167 record and two fourth-place finishes. Angelos reached his decision after a 42-33 second-half rush that included a 13-game win streak, vastly improved pitching and the completion of career seasons for left fielder B. J. Surhoff, shortstop Mike Bordick and catcher Charles Johnson.
The timing of Wren's ouster was interesting given his season-long frustration with Miller, whom he thought overextended his bullpen and was tactically unsound. Angelos repeatedly ignored Wren's recommendations for a midseason change.
Foss would not comment on the status of Miller's holdover staff. Hitting coach Terry Crowley has received assurances he will be retained. However, Perlozzo, Foley, bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks and bench coach Murray are without contracts at month's end. Pitching coach Bruce Kison's contract extends through next season but it is likely he will be reassigned within the organization. The hiring of an organizational name typically would mean the retention of more coaches.
Wren had expressed a necessity for the next manager possessing significant managerial experience. Because no determination has been made on whether a general manager or a manager will be first hired, it is unknown whether that prerequisite remains.