Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos is considering whether to fill his team's 27-day-old managerial vacancy with a proven outsider, former Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove, or the club's incumbent third base coach, Sam Perlozzo, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Angelos is expected to extend an offer to either candidate today. Hargrove is scheduled to begin a vacation Thursday while the club's front office is mobilizing for the general managers' meetings in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Boston Red Sox bench coach Grady Little remains a candidate but is believed to be overshadowed by both Hargrove and Perlozzo. According to a club source who has spoken with Angelos about the matter, hiring Little, who has no major-league managerial experience, over Perlozzo would represent a "slap" not only to Perlozzo but also to others within the organization.
Perlozzo is no longer under contract to the Orioles and has already been approached by the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Devil Rays about coaching vacancies, according to industry sources.
Hargrove interviewed with Angelos for about 4 1/2 hours on Sunday in Baltimore, discussing a broad range of topics from philosophy to construction of a coaching staff. He remained at his Ohio home yesterday awaiting Angelos' decision.
"I really enjoyed [the interview]," Hargrove said. "I found him to be a fascinating and intelligent man. I came away feeling good. Hopefully, we'll get this done."
His credentials make Hargrove easily the most proven of the nine candidates who have interviewed for the position. Among the others only Jim Riggleman (San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs) and Hal McRae (Kansas City Royals) have major-league managerial experience.
Hargrove's contract demands may be buttressed by the Chicago Cubs' signing of Don Baylor to a four-year, $5.2 million pact last weekend. Baylor's resume included one trip to the postseason with the expansion Colorado Rockies.
Hargrove, 50, guided the Indians to five consecutive AL Central titles, two World Series and a 100-win season in 1995. The second-winningest manager in Indians history, Hargrove was fired after his heavily favored team fumbled a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series earlier this month.
In 1998 the Indians granted Hargrove a contract extension for the 2000 season. They are still liable for the $600,000 owed Hargrove for next season. Industry sources suggest it is unlikely a manager of Hargrove's standing would commit to another job without a significant bump in salary.
Angelos has never paid a manager more than Davey Johnson's $750,000 salary for 1996 and 1997. Ray Miller, whom Angelos dismissed on Oct. 6, earned $600,000 in each of his two seasons plus a $100,000 severance package. (Johnson subsequently signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $1.5 million a season.)
Hargrove described his interview as "very thorough"; however, he remained uncertain about Angelos' ultimate decision.
"This is my first time going through something like this," said Hargrove, who was promoted from Indians first base coach to manager during the 1991 season. "I'm really a rookie when it comes to this."
At every step of the process, Hargrove has voiced his enthusiasm for immediately returning to the dugout. He has not been out of baseball since beginning his playing career in 1972. In 12 major-league seasons divided among three organizations, Hargrove was named 1974 AL Rookie of the Year before compiling a career .290 average, 80 home runs and 686 RBIs.
Orioless officials did not return phone calls last night.
Perlozzo, 48, made a strong impression in his initial interview with Angelos on Oct. 10 and before a five-man advisory committee. Recognized as one of the game's top third base coaches, Perlozzo also enjoys the respect of a veteran clubhouse that chafed under Miller's hand.
As infield and base-running coach, Perlozzo's skills as a teacher are also significant at a time when there is an increased desire for a younger, faster roster. Young infielders Jerry Hairston and Jesse Garcia, and left-handed pitchers B. J. Ryan and Matt Riley are given a solid chance of making next year's team. An active off-season for trades may also hasten clubhouse turnover.
Internal candidates Marv Foley and Eddie Murray are apparently being considered as members of the next coaching staff but have not elicited the same committee support as Hargrove, Perlozzo and Little.