Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift denied a report yesterday that he criticized manager Mike Hargrove and the coaching staff to an opposing general manager, and Hargrove called the matter "water under the bridge."
The issue surfaced Friday night when Orioles broadcaster and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer alluded to the incident during a 30-minute interview with WBAL Radio's Steve Melewski.
"You know and I know how hard the coaching staff works," Palmer told the station. "I know how much Mike Hargrove cares, and when the GM goes up to New York and starts, you know, ripping his manager and coaches to other GMs, it's not a healthy situation, and I know for a fact that happened."
Said Thrift: "That's 100 percent not true at all. I think they're doing a great job, all of them. It's a lie."
Hargrove discussed the issue with Thrift in his office on Sept. 16, after the Orioles returned from their road trip to New York and Boston. Thrift accompanied the team to New York and returned to Baltimore while the team was in Boston.
When the Orioles left New York, they had lost 18 of their previous 19 games.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos quelled concerns about the coaching staff's future on Sept. 15, when he told The Sun that Hargrove and the coaching staff would be invited back for next season.
"I talked to Syd about it, and it's forgotten, it's gone, it's water under the bridge," Hargrove said. "So there's nothing there as far as Syd and I are concerned. Syd and I have a good relationship. We get along well, and as far as I know Syd's very supportive of me."
Thrift's own future remains uncertain, as Angelos has yet to address his status for next season. Last week, when asked for his opinion, Palmer said the organization is "in disarray." He added, "They need to look at making some changes."
The Orioles' top three minor-league affiliates finished a combined 109 games under .500 this season, and the big-league club has lost 31 of its past 35 games.
But in a recent interview addressing his status for next season, Thrift went out of his way to praise Hargrove and the coaches. "The coaching staff is to be commended for their tireless work," Thrift said.
"Every one of them has worked diligently, teaching. The manager has been the leader. He has been poised, he has patience and remains positive in trying times, and none of us have been in a position where we blame somebody else for something that didn't go right. So I think that's a major sign of growth and development."
Groom makes history
Orioles reliever Buddy Groom became the first pitcher in major-league history to reach 70 appearances for a seventh consecutive season.
Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Mike Myers also entered the year with a string of six consecutive seasons with at least 70 appearances. But Myers' streak will come to an end today. He made his 68th appearance yesterday, and the Diamondbacks have one game left.
"It's a great honor, and something I'll never forget," said Groom, who turned 37 in July. "I don't think a lot of people understand how hard that is to do seven years in a row."
Last year, Groom made his 70th appearance on the final day of the season. He hadn't pitched since Monday, but Hargrove summoned him two outs into the ninth inning last night. He faced one batter, as Nick Johnson popped out to third base, lowering Groom's ERA to 1.60.
"It's a unique achievement," Hargrove said. "Seven straight seasons with 70 appearances, and it all started after he was 31 years old. To get that many appearances that many years in a row, that means No. 1 you're durable, but No. 2 you're doing your job. If he wasn't effective at what he does, he wouldn't be getting 70 appearances a year."
Thrift held a meeting yesterday with Hargrove, the coaching staff and several members of the baseball operations department, for the purpose of evaluating every member of the Orioles' roster before forming an offseason strategy.
The meeting started at 9 a.m. Hargrove and his staff left to prepare for the game around 3 p.m., and Thrift continued meeting with his scouts and assistants until closer to game time.
"It was a good meeting," Hargrove said. "I'm glad we had it."