One decision I'll gladly make: not to be O's decision-maker

The Baltimore Sun

There's only one thing I know for sure about the cloud of indecision that has been hanging over the Orioles organization for the past week or so:

I wouldn't want to be Peter Angelos right now.

Oh, I suppose having a billion dollars would be OK, and it's probably fun to sue people anytime you want, but I wouldn't want to be the guy who has to decide whether to make big personnel changes or stay the course with the 2007 season seemingly coming unglued.

If you're Angelos right now, you're damned if you do something dynamic and you're probably even more damned if you don't.

Angelos has gained a reputation over the years for being a meddlesome, overbearing guy who calls all the important shots in his baseball organization, and that perception would only be reinforced if he gave Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette the go-ahead to find a new manager for the struggling Orioles.

The alternative - a wait-and-see approach with the club already facing a double-digit deficit in the American League East - would cast him in the role of a certain unpopular emperor who plucked at his lyre while Rome burned.

It is important at this point to note that Angelos, for all his imperial bravado and all the times he has been compared to the George Steinbrenner who used to fire employees for parking his car wrong, has seldom had a hair trigger when it comes to replacing his high-level baseball decision-makers.

In fact, until Lee Mazzilli got bounced in late August 2005, Angelos had never fired a manager in-season. He has taken his sweet time making most of the major employment decisions during the 14 years he has owned the team, so a quick hook for Sam Perlozzo would actually be quite out of character.

His first instinct is usually protective, though there have been times when that has only prolonged the agony.

Perlozzo has been the subject of rumors and Internet chatter for the past couple of weeks, thanks to a frightful convergence of poor play on the field, questionable decisions in the dugout and several well-publicized brush fires in the clubhouse. The situation seemed to be calming down over the weekend, only to flare up again yesterday when he brought on struggling right-hander Danys Baez to face a left-handed hitter in the eighth inning, with predictably discouraging results.

Personally, I sympathize with Perlozzo, who came to spring training intent on instilling a new, no-nonsense attitude in the team. The whole thing apparently backfired, however, and there seems to be no end to the nonsense that keeps bubbling up around him.

He certainly has made some iffy moves, but anyone who thinks he's the reason the Orioles aren't a good team is either infected with some insidious new strain of Orioles Fever or just hasn't been paying close attention.

The Orioles aren't good enough to validate Perlozzo's best decisions, much less insulate him when he makes a mistake. I'm pretty sure Terry Francona has blown his share of matchups this year, too, but those kind of mistakes are barely noticeable when you've got David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to erase them every night.

Everybody jumped down Perlozzo's throat for taking Jeremy Guthrie out of that game at Fenway Park eight days ago, but it was the right move - no matter how many of the message board bozos would gladly have burned up his arm for a meaningless complete game.

Though that decision was vindicated when Guthrie came back to pitch well again in his next start, there have been plenty of instances when Perlozzo has made decisions that were legitimately questionable, including the one yesterday that allowed the Washington Nationals to avoid a three-game sweep at RFK Stadium.

No doubt, Perlozzo stuck with Baez because the Orioles spent big money to install him as the club's top setup man. Maybe a more decisive manager would have stepped back in before Baez gave up the game-deciding hit to another left-handed hitter with lefty Jamie Walker long since warmed up in the bullpen.

If Baez and closer Chris Ray were as good as advertised, we might not even be having this conversation, but the problems of this team go much deeper than a handful of ugly bullpen blowups.

Perlozzo's credibility with the players has been called into question, and an environment has developed in which fundamental lapses and mental errors have become too common to ignore. Something needs to be done to restore the proper attitude in the clubhouse and turn the franchise in the right direction.

I don't know if that means it's time for new field leadership or it's time for the supreme leader to let Orioles personnel - from the clubhouse to the warehouse - know that they had better get their act together or more than one head will roll.

That's up to Peter Angelos.

Glad I'm not him.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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