The Orioles intensified their managerial search yesterday by conducting a group interview with former Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove, the third known candidate and the first from outside the organization to speak with majority owner Peter Angelos or his executives.
Hargrove met with Angelos' advisory committee, which includes executive vice president John Angelos, chairman's representative Louis Angelos and director of player personnel Syd Thrift, according to a club source.
Coming only a day after the committee granted incumbent third base coach Sam Perlozzo his second interview in 10 days, Hargrove's appearance suggests the Orioles are moving toward a decision on a successor to Ray Miller before finding a director of baseball operations.
Also, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Dodgers coach Rick Dempsey, who played 10-plus seasons for the Orioles, will interview soon for the job.
Industry sources told the Times that Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone granted permission this week for the Orioles to speak with Dempsey, who just completed his first season on manager Davey Johnson's staff.
Hargrove, contacted by Thrift's office late Tuesday afternoon, met with the committee for about four hours, including lunch at the Camden Club. Hargrove insisted he has a sincere interest in the job and hopes he conveyed that to the gathering.
"I respect those people too much to go in practicing," he said. "I am interested in that situation and that position. Whether it will come to fruition, I don't know with any certainty. But I can assure you I didn't come to Baltimore today to practice on them for somebody else."
Hargrove returned home after the meeting and will accompany his son on a tour of colleges over the next several days. The Orioles' search committee will continue its process but did not provide Hargrove any indication of its timetable.
Hargrove, meanwhile, has not been contacted by the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs or Anaheim Angels regarding their managerial openings.
"I do know I came away very impressed," he said. "We enjoyed a very frank discussion of baseball."
Fired by the Indians on Friday after Cleveland's fifth consecutive American League Central title and a five-game loss to the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series, Hargrove offers the most impressive resume of any of the club's candidates.
The Indians finished 1999 with a 97-65 record, giving Hargrove a 721-591 mark in nine seasons as manager. His teams twice reached the World Series, losing both times, as he compiled a 27-25 postseason record.
Hargrove has twice finished among the top three in balloting for AL Manager of the Year conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
But his status as the winningest AL manager over the past eight years was not enough to save him when the Indians fumbled a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Division Series.
General manager John Hart cited the need for a "new voice" in the clubhouse in announcing Hargrove's ouster.
Hargrove strongly implied that he would favor the Orioles' job over several other vacancies because of the available resources and the franchise's tradition of contending.
"I'd rather manage sooner than later," Hargrove said. "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."
Hargrove, a resident of Perryton, Texas, is owed $600,000 by the Indians for the remaining season on his contract.
Though he says finances are not an issue, he would likely command a significant increase over his previous deal. Angelos paid Miller a combined $1.3 million for two fourth-place seasons.
The Colorado Rockies yesterday became the second team in five days to name a new manager. Their selection of former Detroit Tigers manager Buddy Bell to succeed the retired Jim Leyland came as little surprise and did not cause a ripple within the Orioles' search team.
Conversely, Phil Garner's hiring by the Tigers on Oct. 15 erased a top candidate from Angelos' list of potential hires.
Orioles executives continue to implement a media blackout, a tradition that makes them an exception within the industry during their regular searches for highly visible personnel.
One source familiar with the process described Angelos as "obsessed" with cloaking the proceedings, by now oft-repeated given the search for three general managers and four managers during Angelos' six-year stewardship of the franchise.
The interview process is believed to also include Boston Red Sox bench coach Grady Little, a Thrift favorite; Orioles first base coach Marv Foley and, potentially, bench coach Eddie Murray.
Foley was interviewed by Angelos for about 2 1/2 hours on Saturday, but he hasn't been notified of a follow-up. Murray, endorsed by right fielder Albert Belle, is hopeful of receiving an interview, as well.
On the Dempsey interview, industry sources told the Los Angeles Times that Peter Angelos may meet with the former Oriole as early as tomorrow.
Dempsey was unavailable for comment yesterday. Los Angeles GM Malone reportedly declined to comment regarding the Orioles' inquiry, but Dodgers sources said he recently had a lengthy conversation about Dempsey with Thrift.
Dempsey is considered to be on the Orioles' short list because of his ties to the organization. The former catcher took part in two World Series in his decade-long tenure with the organization.
Dempsey was named the MVP in the 1983 Series while helping the Orioles defeat the Phillies.
He began this season as the Dodgers' third base coach, but he was moved to the bullpen during a staff shake-up in which pitching coach Charlie Hough was fired. Dempsey and Johnson are good friends.
Though chief operating officer Joe Foss has said it is "not unlikely" the club will hire its next manager by Oct. 31, neither he nor anyone else within the Orioles' front office has indicated whether the organization will conform to commissioner Bud Selig's edict of minority participation in the process.
The process that led to the November 1997 hiring of Miller and last October's hiring of Frank Wren did not include a minority candidate, a move noticed both within and outside the warehouse. Among other issues, club officials refuse to address questions regarding minority hiring.