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8 Upper

Who's the Boss?

By Tom Scocca | Posted 11/10/1999

From inside the Warehouse, things really do look different. Down at ground level on the afternoon the Orioles hired Mike Hargrove as manager, a cold wind was blowing along the darkening Eutaw Street, past the shuttered and abandoned diversions of the Oriole Park concourse.

Up on the sixth floor, in team headquarters, the TV lights were warm and bright on the restored brickwork, and there was a first-rate selection of canapés and petits fours. The sight lines were fantastic; it almost seemed, in the fading light, as if you could lean out the window and touch the field.

Two massive diamond rings glittered on Hargrove's fingers as he waited to be introduced—the rings, presumably, celebrating the two pennants the Cleveland Indians won under his guidance. The new manager is ruddy-faced and gray-haired, and looks more sturdily built in person than he does on television. Besides the pennants, his résumé includes five straight playoff appearances and the 1995 Manager of the Year Award. He is, as team owner Peter Angelos said, "a gentleman and a fine baseball man." No, wait—that was Ray Miller, the manager who just got canned. Hargrove is a straight shooter and a stand-up guy. He is, Orioles executive vice president John Angelos said, a "manager with a record of winning baseball."

The senior Angelos was not there to speak, but he was well represented. Besides John Angelos, his first-born, there was Lou Angelos, the "chairman's representative." The brothers made up two-fifths of the search committee that chose Hargrove; they, along with director of player personnel Syd Thrift, scouting director Tony DeMacio, and director of player development Tom Trebelhorn, examined nine managerial candidates and, John Angelos explained, "we made a recommendation to Mr. Angelos."

"Mr. Angelos" is how the Orioles' executive vice president habitually refers to the team's owner. At one point, talking with reporters, he said something about "my father," then corrected it to "Mr. Angelos." Isn't he himself "Mr. Angelos"? "No, I'm not Mr. Angelos," John Angelos said. "I'm only 32."

Nevertheless, it was John Angelos who was running the show at the press conference. Other teams might have turned things over to the general manager, but the Orioles don't have a general manager anymore. They have abolished the position, replacing it with a "director of baseball operations." And they haven't even bothered filling that job yet; for now and indefinitely, "baseball operations" are in the hands of the committee that hired Hargrove. "We're not missing a beat," John Angelos told reporters, by way of reassurance.

Up in the Warehouse, one could almost believe it. Certainly, the Hargrove hiring was a promising move, one that countered the rumors that Peter Angelos' meddling and high-handed style had hurt the team's reputation and scared off prime candidates. Those rumors were overblown: Good managers have signed on with such proven sadists and lunatics as Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner. As long as there are only 30 big-league managing jobs, the 31st guy will be willing to overlook almost anything.

And Hargrove was not there to dwell on the negative. No sooner had he ceremonially slipped on the black-and-orange team jacket than he seemed to start channeling some of the departed Miller's trademark optimism. He came to the Orioles, Hargrove said, for the "chance to win immediately." He spoke highly of the veteran position players and the starting rotation. He noted, as Miller had before him, that the bullpen needed to be shored up and the team could be speedier.

Unlike Miller, however, Hargrove doesn't sound clueless when he says such things. There was much more wrong with the '99 Orioles than lack of foot speed and relief pitching—like, say, the fact that the number-two starter lost eight of his first nine decisions, or that there wasn't a proper center fielder in the lineup—but the team wasn't hopelessly bad. If history is any indication, just getting rid of the hopelessly incompetent Miller should be good for a bounce in the standings; the last team he left, the Minnesota Twins, went directly from last place to a world championship.

But the O's are not those Twins, or the Cleveland Indians. Right now, Hargrove—who spent his last three games in a Cleveland uniform trudging to and from the mound to replace one bad pitcher with another—likes the look of the Baltimore pitching staff. Then again, in Cleveland he juggled four star outfielders among three outfield slots; in Baltimore, he'll juggle two outfielders among the three positions.

More than all that, though, the new manager is going to have to deal with the strange games of the Warehouse. Hargrove wants a better bullpen and some speedier players. This is where, in a normal baseball organization, a manager calls up his general manager and they talk things over. In the highly successful Cleveland organization, Hargrove recalled, "we did not make a trade . . . that I did not sign off on."

Absent a general manager, or even a "director of baseball operations," with whom exactly is Hargrove supposed to talk to about player moves? "I'd just as soon not go down that road," he said when asked.

The rest of the nebulous brain trust was similarly noncommittal. "I would imagine he'd pick the phone up and call either Syd or he'd call me," John Angelos said. "He could also, of course, call Mr. Angelos."

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