Justice: Miller Is Gone but Ripken Is Not
Richard Justice, The Post's national baseball writer, discussing the Orioles and baseball's pennant races on Sports Online, said that there is little doubt that Ray Miller will be fired at the end of the season. Justice also predicts that the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves will be the two teams in the World Series.
Baltimore, Md.: We know that Cal Ripken is a Hall of Famer. No one will dispute his contributions to the Orioles and the sport of baseball during his career. Yet, I have such conflicting emotions about him. In the final analysis, I think Ripken has harmed the Orioles -in terms of team chemistry and setting a double standard among the players- more than helped them over the course of his career. Am I being unfair to him? I'd like to hear your thoughts on the clique that he seems to lead and how it has affected the Orioles as a team in the last several years. Thanks.
Richard Justice: I've known Cal pretty well since 1984 and am constantly amazed at his discipline, toughness and all of that. I also don't believe the streak was hurtful to the team in any way, even though players like Raffy Palmeiro and Robby Alomar did seem to resent him. It does bother me that he was allowed to stay in a different hotel. Someone should have put a stop to that before it even started. Now, it's in his contract. I don't buy that he had to do it because he's so famous. Michael Jordan stayed where his teammates stayed. So did Nolan Ryan. So, you're not being unfair because there was a double-standard. With great players, there has to be a double-standard on some matters, but not one as basic as that.
Frederick, Md.: I know Bud Selig keeps dodging the bullet, but have you heard anything about a deadline for the Expos future?
Richard Justice: About 12 deadlines have already passed. Now, it appears to be the end of the World Series. The folks in Montreal swear they've got a deal in place. But the key to the deal is the NY art dealer, Jeff Loria, and he still hasn't signed on. There are some doubts whether he really intends to sign, so stay tuned.
Fairfax, Va.: I worry that a new manager means Eddie Murray will leave - and I really hope to see him as the head guy one year. Would Don Baylor keep him?
Richard Justice: I don't believe Eddie Murray will leave. I believe the new manager will be urged to keep Eddie and Terry Crowley, the hitting coach. I also believe the Orioles will try to communicate to Eddie that they believe he'll be a manager someday. And I also think Eddie wants to stay.
Richard Justice: It isn't so. Ray is going to be fired next week unless there's a seismic change in thinking. Front runners for the job are Phil Garner, Don Baylor and Tom Trebelhorn.
Washington DC: Does overall won loss records in the minor's equate to the future? When is the last time an O's minor league team won a league championship?
Richard Justice: I don't know when the O's last won a minor league championship. The key to won-loss records in the minors is that it tells you something about how good a job the player development people are doing. The exception are a few teams who are forced to stock their farm teams with veterans.
I have 2 questions.
Richard Justice: Their farm system appears to be terrific. Matt Riley could be in the big leagues next year. There's a catcher, Jayson Werth, a year or two away. Jerry Hairston is great. And there's an array of other kids who finally give the organization some depth. This hasn't been the case with the O's in years and years.
Fairfax, Va.: Can we revisit the idea of Cal Ripken taking over as the O's manager next season? Is it something he would consider? Would the Orioles management consider it?
Richard Justice: Because of the makeup of the club, the Orioles aren't going to gamble. They're going to hire a guy with major league experience, someone who carries a certain stature. I've just described Don Baylor, but he could be headed to Anaheim. But my point is there won't be any longshots. Cal is going to play next season. He can stay with the organization are his playing career, but he's not a candidate for manager right now.
Orioles pitching has really not been all that great this year. any plans to get a new starter?? if so, who do you think they should go after?
Richard Justice: The Orioles feel good about their pitching. They'll open with Mussina, Erickson, Ponson and Jason Johnson, which is pretty good. Matt Riley, Doug Johns and others will compete for the fifth spot, and GM Frank Wren wants to sign a fifth starter/middle reliever type of guy.
Sarasota, FL: Speaking of managers, a Baltimore Sun columnist said today that Peter Angelos is considering keeping Ray Miller, given the recent "surge" by the club. Your thoughts?
Richard Justice: I think Peter may be considering it, but in the end, this team has been a huge disappointment. Ray is gone unless all my sources in the front office are totally surprised next Sunday night.
Hello Richard! Is it time for
Richard Justice: No, I wouldn't think it was time for Cal to call it quits. He has to make that call. He has earned that amount of respect after all he has contributed. He showed this year that he's still capable of playing at a high level. As for Big Mac, it looks as if he'll finish a bit short of 70, but he's had another tremendous season. He's a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock.
Alexandria, Va.: Does Boston's Pedro Martinez deserve the AL MVP as well the AL Cy Young award?
Richard Justice: Peter Gammons made a very persuasive case last week for giving him the MVP. He's twentysomething games over .500 and the team is only about 20 over altogether. If I had a ballot--which I don't--I probably would vote for him. But ask me tomorrow and I might say Manny Ramirez or Raffy Palmeiro. It's a really, really tough year for the MVP vote.
Alexandria, Va.: Will a new manager - the fifth in the last seven years - actually add anything?
Richard Justice: Yes, I think so. If you look at the team now, it's not a bad team. If Hairston is the real deal, if Kingsale can play center, the Orioles can be candidate. The most important thing a manager does is organize the bullpen and be consistent. Ray didn't do a very good job at either. I believe a new manager can make a ton of difference.
Herndon, Va.: What will Mr. Angelos do in the off season? Since none of the O's problems can possibly be his fault - who goes and who stays on the management side? Also, is he still willing to put our more big bucks for free agents?
Richard Justice: He apparently is going to keep GM Frank Wren after leaning otherwise for a large part of the season. The team is pretty much locked in, so I think adding some pitching depth is the one and only priority. They'd like to move 2B Delino DeShields and 1B Will Clark, but they have little value and big money. I think they'll back off the free agents. Wren is big on player development, and the O's finally have some kids almost ready. In Jerry Hairston's case, more than ready.
Damascus, MD: I hope I'm wrong about this, but so far, Matt Riley looks absolutely lost out there. The thought of him in the O's rotation next year without better command of a major league strike zone is not thrilling...your comments?
Richard Justice: Matt looks nervous, which he did when I saw him during a squad game in spring training. Remember he's still just 19. He'll have a chance to get over the flutters during spring training. If he can, he'll make the team. Otherwise, he'll go back to Rochester. Having said all of that, I don't think I'd trade him for any other pitching prospect in the minors.
Fairfax, Va.: What has happened to the Chicago Cubs this season? That June swoon really overstayed its welcome. How can Sammy Sosa have almost as many home runs as the team has victories?
Richard Justice: The Cubs had some injuries, the pitching wasn't too good to begin with and then they just went into an absolutely lifeless period in the middle part of the season. They need a lot of pitching help to get competitive again.
Md.: Notable by omission from your discussion of Oriole prospects is Ryan Minor. Is his time up?
Richard Justice: Ryan will be 26 years old by the start of spring training. He hasn't played as much baseball as others his age because of his basketball career at OU. I still think he'll have a nice major league career, and could even play third when Cal retires. But there are questions. He's got a big, big swing that pitchers are really taking advantage of.
When he was healthy, Cal hit the cover off the ball. Should all go well during his rehab and he comes to Spring training healthy, do you think 2000 will be Cal's last year?
Richard Justice: I think Cal loves baseball and will play as long as he can play at a high level. He's going to get all he can from his career. Cal would prefer to play the field, but he wouldn't rule out anything. If he's strictly a DH, he probably would retire, but again, he looked good at third this season.
Columbia, MD: Richard: Which of the current eight starters do you expect not to be with the team next April?
Richard Justice: Because they're all signed for next season--at least, I think they are--I believe they might all be back. CF Brady Anderson may be moved out of center, perhaps to DH, and 2B Delino DeShields and 1B Will Clark will be offered in trades. I doubt either has much value. Hairston will start at second next season, and first is up for grabs. Otherwise, it'll probably be the same club you see now.
Arlington, VA: Hairston really impressed me this year. Any chance of him being the starting 2nd baseman next year and getting rid or DeShields?
Richard Justice: He's definitely the starting second baseman. Delino has two years and about $9 million left on his contract. He'll be offered in trades or brought back as a backup to Hairston.
Damascus, MD: Is Ken Griffey Sr a lock to get the Reds managerial job next year? And does that portend anything about where Junior will go?
Richard Justice: That's the gossip, that GM Jim Bowden would like to make a double-Griffey switch, hiring one, then trading for another. The problem is that the money for Griffey is so huge--maybe $15 million or $20 million per season--that it's going to be hard to pay that kind of money. Of course, it's going to be hard for anyone other than maybe the Yanks to pay that money.
washington dc: Richard- The bottom line is your winning record, but what type of blame does Miller deserve? was a major mistake committed? do you think the team needs a managerial change in order to win next year?
Richard Justice: That's a good question. Ray had a terrible bullpen at the start of the season, and some of the starters, especially Erickson, were terrible. At the same time, he didn't do a good job. He didn't handle the bullpen well, he allowed Brady Anderson and Albert Belle to sit their own schedules, stuff like that. I don't know that he did a bad job, but he has lot the confidence of the players. And the Orioles can do better.
Richard Justice: The owners just believe a team in Washington would hurt the Orioles. The problem is not could two teams survive in this area. I believe a team in Washington would flourish, drawing on the District, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia. The problem is what happens to the Orioles. A team in Washington clearly would take some of their fans away, but how many? That's what owners are arguing? What we have going for us is that no other competing city--Charlotte, Las Vegas or Portland--is even close to Washington in terms of spendable income, population, etc.
MD: In spring training, Kerry Wood's arm injury was said to be serious enough to cost him two seasons...recently I heard he was starting to throw, way ahead of schedule. Will he be ready next spring?
Richard Justice: Guys recover from the Tommy John surgery more quickly than ever. Kerry may not have been working as hard as he should have for awhile this summer, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't throwing 95 mph by the all-star break--or sooner. Some of these guys have come back and thrown harder than before.
potomac, Md: What are the chances the O's might get Phil Garner this offseason? Also, does Angelos let his son basically run the team?
Richard Justice: Phil has already been interviewed by the Angels, and if Larry Dierker leaves the Astros, he'd probably prefer to go there. But if the Orioles are aggressive next week, I don't see why they couldn't get it done. Even after all that has happened, it's a very attractive franchise.
Olympia, WA: What's with Ray Miller taking off on Pedro Martinez last night? Pedro has always owned both sides of the plate and that is one of the reasons he is successful. Ray's outburst sounded an awful lot like a manager who knows he is going to be out of a job soon, but who desperately wants to go out at .500. Thoughts?
Richard Justice: Ray's temper got the best of him. On the one hand, Ray loves pitchers who'll establish the inside portion of the plate. In this case, he apparently was defending his player. I'm sure the frustration level of this terrible season played a role.
MD: I disagree with Herndon, VA that none of the Orioles' problems can be traced to Mr. Angelos. He could have had Jose Canseco for a song this spring and passed, he messed around in negotiating with Palmeiro and Alomar, both of whom left, leaving the team with lesser personnel. These are just two examples. If I'm wrong here about these being his fault, then 1. whose fault was it, and 2. where, in your view, does an owner affect the on-field performance of his team?
Richard Justice: I think he was joking or being sarcastic. Of course, the problems are directly traceable to Peter Angelos. At the same time, give him credit for being willing to spend the money to put a winner on the field. Because he'll spend the bucks, the Orioles will have a chance to contend every season.
Annandale, VA: Can you explain something basic about the O's manager position? Why would they let go of a proven winner? When Davey Johnson was manager they won and made the play-offs. Without him, they've struggled. Do you think Angelos is sorry about letting Johnson go?
Richard Justice: Davey left because of a conflict with Peter Angelos. I don't think Peter is the type to regret that type of decision. I think he wants to go out and hire the best guy he can. He's very aggressive in that way. He looks ahead, not back. In his heart, he may know it was a mistake, but he's not going to admit it publicly.
Alex VA: Do you really think the O's are going to go with youth next year - or will the post season see Angelos chasing more free agents?
Richard Justice: I think they're going to go with what they have. The core of their team is signed for next season. They'd like to get Jerry Hairston and Eugene Kingsale into the mix, Jesse Garcia on the team, etc. They've got youth in the rotation in Johnson and Ponson and perhaps Riley and Molina. But just having that little change in the mix can make a world of difference. Just having Hairston provided a huge spark of energy.
Rockville : Do you think Ryan Minor should consider giving professional basketball a shot? Is Hairston in good shape to start next year?
Richard Justice: Hairston should start next year. I think Ryan finally has put basketball behind him. He's focusing on baseball. He hasn't played that much, so don't give up on him yet.
washingtonpost.com: Who are your favorites to go deep into the playoffs this year? And which games will you have the opportunity to see?
Richard Justice: It's a jumbled year. The Red Sox are going to be tough to beat with Pedro pitching twice and if Bret Saberhagen can pitch one good game. It's the same situation with Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks. And if Clemens gets hot, the Yankees are easily the favorite. Having said all of that, I like Atlanta. Greaet pitching, great character, they've already overcome a lot.
Alexandria, Va.: What was the most compelling story line of the regular season for you to cover?
Richard Justice: For me, it was watching how the Indians, Braves and Astros survived despite being decimated by injuries. And it was seeing how good GMs in Cincinnati and Oakland put together terrific teams without spending a lot of money.
Bethesda, Md.: Saw an item earlier quoting Oakland's GM debunking the notion that small market teams can compete after all. He said that it would be impossible for the A's or Reds to do this year after year because of the problems affording their top players. Comments?
Richard Justice: I think he's exactly right. The A's are filled with guys who are either 22 or 42. They got John Jaha for $400,000 because no one else wanted him. Matt Stairs and Jason Giambi signed for below market value. And their young kids--Grieve, Hudson, Tejada--have been terrific. As Oakland GM Billy Beane said: ``I'm not this good.'' It just can't be done very often when you consider all the restrictions.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Which team wins the award for biggest stinker of the year? My vote, of course, would be the dodgers. Who would you pick?
Richard Justice: Your Dodger have to share that award with our Orioles. No one else is even close.
Annandale, Va.: Who are your picks for the major awards this year? -MVP, Cy young, ect-
Richard Justice: I'd give the Cy Young Awards to Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, the MVPs to Manny Ramirez and Chipper Jones and the Manager of the year awards to Jimy Williams and Bobby Cox.
Gaithersburg: Richard, how hard will the O's try to keep Jeff Conine? If he leaves then we have a broken-down Will Clark or a not-ready-for-prime-time Calvin Pickering at 1B. You have to have more production from 1B than either of those options would allow, so who would be available in trade or as a FA? And will the Orioles try to upgrade that position?
Richard Justice: The Orioles are funny in these matters. The contacted his agent and said they'd like to talk, then never called back. I love the guy. He's a good person and a terrific player. But this is his best shot at big money, so he's going to see what the market will pay. My guess is he won't be back with the Orioles. Because Will Clark is signed, he will be either the 1B or DH. That leaves Pickering or perhaps Conine to play first.
Alexandria, VA: You keep asserting that "the owners -I guess you mean all since you don't qualify it] just believe a team in Washington would hurt the Orioles;" however, other local media such as Phil Wood who also talk to ownership have indicated -referring to published reports in Phil's case this past weekend- that many owners would like the Expos relocated here. So plase clarify how many owners would vote to keep a team out of here if DC-VA had a viable ownership gorup and stadium plan.
Richard Justice: I don't know of a single owner who believes the Expos ought to be playing in Washington next season. I know owners who think they ought to stay and who think they ought to be disbanded. The bottom line is that Commissioner Bud Selig believes a team in Washington would hurt an existing franchise--the Orioles. That's a large hurdle to clear.
Falls Church, VA: I know that this is a baseball discussion, but maybe you could expand the scope a little and answer a question about sport team names. When a team changes cities, why is it that ML-Baseball has been much better at changing team names to reflect their new home city better than the other major leagues. After all having a team in Utah called the Jazz is a bit like having a team in Boston called the Confederates.
Richard Justice: I'd like to come up with a clever answer for your question, but the truth is I just don't know.
Damascus MD: Jimy Williams? No way, in my book. It's hard to be manager of the year when you already have some horses. Howe had little that he could count on at the beginning of the year. I think it's his credit that the A's did what they did this year. Put Pedro on Oakland and the A's are dominant. Pedro makes Jimy look better than I think he is.
Richard Justice: I agree with you about Art Howe. The difference is Jimy got a team to the playoffs with a lineup that's less than what the A's put out there everyday. And he juggled Pedro and a bunch of guys into 90 wins. Can he split the vote on Jimy and Art?
Closing question for you Richard -- your best guess on Mac and Sammy's final home run total this year?
Richard Justice: I don't discount either of those guys going crazy the last few days. My guess is both will finish with 65. As for the World Series winner, I have a hunch it's going to be Atlanta or the Yankees.
We're about out of time for today. Thanks to Richard Justice for joining us and don't forget to join us for the Tony and Mike Show on Friday.
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