Hargrove testimony to quality interest


So much for the notion that no quality candidates would be seriously interested in the Orioles' managerial opening. Former Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove could sit home and collect $600,000 for doing nothing next year, but he was interviewing in Baltimore before the ink was dry on his severance deal.

The guy put up with Albert Belle's strange antics for years, and he's willing to do it again. Maybe they should let him.

The Orioles franchise has taken a huge public relations hit the past few weeks, and deservedly so. The team handled its recent front-office purge in such an amateur fashion that there was legitimate concern no one of any stature would be interested in joining the organization.

Hargrove has stature. He has five straight playoff appearances on his resume, and his integrity and character have never been impugned. He wants to come here and help the Orioles rebuild the reputation of what was once one of baseball's truly great organizations.

It's hard to imagine anyone wanting to step into this situation, especially when the alternative to Angry Albert and Co. is a rich paid vacation, but that says something else about Hargrove. He's either insane or he's the right man for the job.

Critics can point to his high-salaried roster and his outstanding offensive lineup in Cleveland and ask why he never won a World Series, but he got into the postseason five times in a row without a premier pitching staff. If the Orioles can fix the bullpen over the off-season, he would have one here.

Hargrove already has proven he can coexist with Belle, who helped lead the Indians to the World Series in 1995. Why he would want to do it again is a mystery, but his track record with Belle would eliminate one of the major variables in the new managerial equation.

Orioles third base coach Sam Perlozzo, the top internal candidate for the job, also deserves serious consideration -- and he's getting it -- but the selection committee may be hesitant to gamble on someone with no major-league managerial experience.

If that's the case, Hargrove might be the logical choice.

Other considerations

Of course, the Orioles could choose, instead, to take advantage of a unique opportunity to make a strong organizational statement in favor of diversity hiring.

The Orioles are the only team in baseball with two major front-office positions open, so it will be interesting to see whether owner Peter Angelos and his executive search committee make a legitimate effort to seek out top minority candidates for each job. Club officials apparently have several minority candidates under consideration.

So far, however, the club is keeping a tight lid on information about the search for a new manager and a new director of baseball operations, which could be construed as an indication that the search committee would rather not have its hiring practices examined in the light of day.

That probably isn't the case, but the search committee could remove any doubt by opening up the process. Angelos, after all, promised when he acquired the team to treat it as a public trust and keep its business practices open to outside examination.

Is Rocker off his?

The Atlanta Braves would like reliever John Rocker to tone down his frequent counterattacks on New York fans, but it probably isn't going to happen.

It became clear during the National League Championship Series that Rocker not only likes the hostile interaction, he also likes the attention it generates. Whether he consciously decided to make a national name for himself this October is not known, but he has spent way too much time in front of the television cameras for anyone to believe it was an accident.

Then again, his recent behavior -- including a scary traffic accident on Monday -- could be an indication of a more complex situation that warrants the close attention of the Braves' front office.

A-Rod an Oriole?

When Alex Rodriguez announced recently that he will not negotiate with the Seattle Mariners until after next season and will not sign a contract extension if he is traded, his chances of ending up in an Orioles uniform increased significantly.

There are three major-league teams that figure to have the money and the motivation to sign Rodriguez to the huge contract that agent Scott Boras is certain to seek in the free-agent market next year -- the Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and Braves.

Rodriguez might even be willing to call off his self-imposed negotiating embargo for the chance to play next to boyhood hero Cal Ripken in 2000, though the Orioles would have trouble assembling enough talent to make a deal with the Mariners.

Orel's history

Don't know what to make of reports that Mets pitcher Orel Hershiser has been contacted about the managerial vacancy left by Hargrove in Cleveland.

Hershiser has had one foot out of the door on a couple of occasions over the past three years, each time pondering a post-playing career in broadcasting. Now, he says he wants to be a major-league manager after his playing career is over, but it seems unlikely that he would be willing to go back to the minor leagues to learn the craft.

He'll probably sign on with the Indians or some other club as a pitching coach and try to make the jump from there, though former Orioles managers Phil Regan and Ray Miller are proof that it isn't an easy transition.

Who'd a thunk it?

Don't know about you, but when the 1999 season began, I figured that it would take Frank Wren at least a few years to get to the World Series. Still waiting for a postcard.

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