What if a manager who had steered five consecutive teams to the postseason suddenly became available, no strings attached? What if that manager's experience included dealing with a veteran, frequently combustible clubhouse that often invited the focus of national media?
What if that manager expressed an interest in the Orioles?
Three days after being abruptly fired by the Cleveland Indians, Mike Hargrove said last night that he would welcome an opportunity to discuss the Orioles' managerial vacancy. Hargrove called the post "an interesting job" and said he is not attracted to taking a year's paid vacation while the Indians assume his $600,000 salary.
"I'm available now. I want to get back into it," Hargrove said from his Perryton, Texas, home. "I've got a year left on my contract, which does allow me the luxury to see what's out there. But I'd rather manage sooner than later. I'm not looking for down time. Maybe it's the way I'm built. I like the competition; I like the challenge; I like being engaged. I'm not saying I won't stay out for a year. It certainly is an option. But I don't want to close the option of coming back and managing next year."
Hargrove's availability comes after the Indians were upset by the Boston Red Sox after squandering a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Division Series. It also dovetails with the Orioles' accelerating search to find a successor to Ray Miller and deposed general manager Frank Wren.
Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos met for several hours yesterday with department heads and an executive team of chief operating officer Joe Foss, executive vice president John Angelos and chairman's representative Louis Angelos.
Signaling another predictable retreat during a time of organizational decision-making, Foss and John Angelos did not return calls yesterday.
Club sources insist that Peter Angelos will dictate the hiring of the next manager and a director of baseball operations. Now serving as de facto general manager, director of player personnel Syd Thrift will serve as Angelos' point man in compiling a list of candidates for both positions.
The Orioles haven't indicated what qualifications they seek in either hire, but club sources confirmed that first base coach Marv Foley interviewed with Angelos Saturday. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo interviewed the previous weekend. Club executives began making calls after yesterday's meeting to prospective candidates. Bench coach Eddie Murray has expressed a desire for an interview.
Hargrove, who turns 50 next Tuesday, said he has yet to be contacted by any club. He has also voiced interest in the Anaheim Angels' vacancy but seemed to suggest a preference for a club such as the Orioles.
"I know I want to go to a job that has a chance to be a winning situation," he said. "I don't want to go to a club that's five or six years away from winning, though I would entertain that."
Hargrove said he was "surprised but not really shocked" at his firing. Hargrove's relationship with general manager John Hart had become increasingly strained the past two seasons and several anonymous players criticized his tactical skills and clubhouse rapport after his firing.
However, the Indians grew from perennial losers to an American League Central power under Hargrove. This season's division title was their fifth in a row and also marked Hargrove's second 100-win season. The Indians reached the 1995 and 1997 World Series, losing in '95 to the Atlanta Braves and in '97 to the Florida Marlins. Hargrove, who played for the Indians from 1979 to 1985, became the first Indians manager since Lou Boudreau (1942-1950) to last longer than seven seasons.
"To go from not having won anything for 40 years to the point where I was an integral part of bringing at least five years of postseason play to Cleveland. I feel very proud about that. No matter what it seemed from the outside looking in, I feel I was a very integral part of that," Hargrove said. "I started here as part of the futility in '79 and to take players like [Kenny] Lofton, [Sandy] Alomar, [Carlos] Baerga and take them from infancy to grow into stars in their own right. I feel gratified to be part of that."
Any return to Baltimore would represent a reunion between Hargrove and Orioles right fielder Albert Belle, whose arrival in Cleveland barely predated Hargrove's being promoted from Indians first base coach on July 6, 1991.
Asked whether he felt Belle's presence represented a positive, negative or neutral for him, Hargrove said "a neutral."
"Albert's an awfully good player, and he plays hard," Hargrove said. "I don't think he's ever had a manager who would say he doesn't play all-out."
The Orioles cemented their 40-man roster by outrighting catchers Tommy Davis and Chip Alley to Triple-A Rochester and adding pitcher Calvin Maduro from Rochester and outfielder Wady Almonte from Double-A Bowie.
Second baseman Delino DeShields (quadriceps) and first baseman Will Clark (elbow) returned to the roster from the 60-day disabled list. To create roster room, outfielder Derrick May was outrighted but chose to pursue free agency, and right-handed pitcher Julio Moreno was outrighted and became a minor-league free agent.
Pub Date: 10/19/99