Hargrove plays it straight with O's; Record, honest style bring manager respect


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- If he had only remembered to write it down, Mike Hargrove would have welcomed the Orioles' full squad yesterday with the same 20-minute introduction he delivered to pitchers and catchers five days before.

But since the Orioles' new manager said what he meant, index cards really weren't necessary.

"I told them they would be treated with respect and I expected the same thing in return," Hargrove said while intentionally leaving out tidbits such as team rules. "We deal in honesty and I'm a good listener."

With that, Hargrove's own version of the Straight Talk Express opened for business. Hargrove hardly grew misty-eyed discussing the need for cozy relationships within the clubhouse, but he made clear that he has an open-door policy, though his philosophy isn't to serve as a Dr. Feelgood. Just as pitchers were told that the overwhelming majority of spots have been determined, a clubhouse welcoming back every member of last season's starting lineup doesn't offer many chances for breakthrough.

"You don't have to break a lot of people's hearts," he said, comparing this bunch to his recent Cleveland Indians teams "where there weren't a lot of decisions to be made."

Hargrove hasn't swaggered into camp -- a wise move since his left knee hasn't taken to the weather change. But he has imported the bearing of a manager with five consecutive division titles and two World Series berths, one at the expense of some of his new players in 1997.

Within a veteran clubhouse containing at least one future Hall of Famer and perhaps several future managers, credibility is hardly a given. However, he has the attention of a traditionally tough crowd.

"Especially with a big-league manager, you've got to have the respect of the players. And he's got a track record," said shortstop Mike Bordick.

"We've been here only four or five days, but we have a pretty good idea of what's going on already," said first baseman Will Clark, the clubhouse sheriff who reported early with pitchers and catchers. "With him, my impression is what you see is what you get. There's no lying or stuff. He flat out says if you ask a question you might not want to hear the answer. That's the way I was brought up -- in an environment of constructive criticism. I don't mind having toes stepped on. Some people have a problem with that.

"I think it's something that's important no matter what situation you're in with a ballclub and no matter what team you're with. You've got to have relationships at least to the extent that you can talk to each other and exchange ideas."

But with Hargrove, bridge-building has its limits. Respect is a must, friendship optional.

"I'm not making a conscious effort every morning to make a list of who I've got to talk to," Hargrove said. "I do know it's important but it's not something where I have to make a note to myself that I have to talk to five different players every day."

Hargrove intends to meet individually with players to convey his expectations. He already has done so with Jeff Conine about his receiving time at third base and intends to do the same with Mike Timlin regarding his thoughts on the closer role.

"He's been in the big leagues. He's been to two World Series. He's been to the playoffs the last five years," center fielder Brady Anderson said of Hargrove. "We've played the Indians so many times over the years you have a pretty good idea."

Coming from a tough clubhouse's second-most tenured Oriole, Hargrove could count the day as a success, note cards or not.

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