GM job unlikely to draw crowd; Authority, security seen touchy issues


The perpetual volatility of the Orioles' front office situation could create a problem for the search committee that will interview candidates to replace fired general manager Frank Wren.

The line of quality applicants may not be very long.

This will be the third time in less than five years that owner Peter Angelos has changed general managers. It should be obvious by now that it is not a typical general manager job and it certainly is not a tenured position.

"I'm not really sure what the job is that they're trying to fill," said Boston Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Port, who interviewed for the Orioles' job four years ago and currently is a candidate for the GM opening in Seattle. "When they say GM, the question is, what exactly is the job?

"I don't think you're talking about someone functioning as a GM in the sense of a John Schuerholz or Dan Duquette or John Hart. If you're going to have somebody do the job, let him do the job. In Frank Wren's regard, as good a man as Frank Wren is, if he isn't satisfactory, where do you go from there?"

Port, who as general manager of the California Angels in the 1980s presided over the most successful period in that club's history, is considered a solid candidate to move back into a GM role, but he said yesterday that he would not be interested in another interview in Baltimore.

"Someone will want that job, if just to say, 'I was a major-league GM,' " Port explained, "or there will be someone who feels that he can handle anything. But people in the upper echelon probably are going to look for a different situation."

Clearly, the word is out on Angelos. He wasn't satisfied with affable Roland Hemond, who was the GM when the Angelos ownership group bought the franchise. He didn't entirely trust the judgment of Gillick, who is one of the most successful front office executives of his era. And he certainly had no respect for Wren, who never got a chance to settle into the job.

"I think the turnover is going to cause some people to have second thoughts," said former Orioles executive Frank Robinson, who was pushed out of the front office when the club hired Gillick and assistant Kevin Malone in 1995. "People do a lot of investigating when they go after jobs. I think it will scare away some of them, but not all."

It wouldn't necessarily scare away Robinson, who has been seeking a general manager position since he was fired as Orioles manager during the 1991 season. He said yesterday that he probably won't call and request consideration, but would come to Baltimore for an interview if invited.

"Right now, I have no thought of calling him," Robinson said by phone from Arizona, where he is the director of baseball operations for the Arizona Fall League. "I would like to be a GM. I would also like to be part of a group that owns a ballclub, though not necessarily in that order."

Longtime baseball executive Buzzie Bavasi, now retired and living in the San Diego area, also expressed concern that the apparent instability of the Orioles' organization might drive away the best candidates.

"No doubt about it," said Bavasi, who's son, Bill, recently resigned as general manager of the Anaheim Angels. "If I was 20 years younger, I wouldn't apply."

Angelos never tangled publicly with Wren, but club officials felt it necessary to create a pretext for the first-year GM's abrupt dismissal. Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss cited, among other things, an incident during the season when Orioles icon Cal Ripken was late getting to the airport and Wren ordered the team charter to leave without him.

"I'm concerned about the reasons they gave for firing [Wren]," Bavasi said.

"I like Cal Ripken. I liked his father. If that young man [Wren] got fired because Cal was late, that doesn't make sense. Suppose it was a rookie. Would they have done the same thing?"

The Ripken revelation -- which Orioles officials apparently felt would create local sympathy for the decision to fire Wren -- apparently had the opposite effect.

Several baseball officials expressed shock that the Orioles would be so quick to admit that they fired a high-ranking employee for simply enforcing club rules even if it was just a smokescreen.

"I'm just afraid the whole situation in baseball is one that I don't understand," said Bavasi. "The guy in Chicago [Jim Rigglemam] was in the playoffs last year and he gets fired. I'm just glad I'm not part of it any more."

Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Dave Stewart is one of the rising young stars in baseball management.

He would appear to be a logical candidate to interview for the GM vacancy -- a former major-league star who has paid his dues as a coach and front office executive.

Stewart said yesterday that he would love the opportunity to help the Orioles get back on track, but he may have hurt his chances of getting a call when he took issue with the notion that Wren mishandled the Ripken incident.

"He did what anybody else would have done," Stewart said. "I like to think I was a key player on some of the clubs I was on, and we had a lot of other stars, like Rickey Henderson and Mark McGwire and Dennis Eckersley. But when the bus left, the bus left. It didn't wait for anybody."

But the Orioles are a different story. Ripken often marches to the beat of his own travel agent. Outfielder Albert Belle refuses to take batting practice with the team.

"I think that's dangerous," Stewart said. "I never played on a winning ballclub that had different standards of how we were treated."

Stewart wasn't placing any blame on Ripken, who simply got caught in traffic and was late.

"Cal is a class act," Stewart said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he isn't happy about this. I know he's not happy that it appears that he's the reason [Wren] was fired. I'm sure there were some other things surrounding that situation."

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