Orioles Promote Miller to Manager
By Mark Maske
BALTIMORE, Nov. 11 — The Baltimore Orioles made it official today and announced the promotion of Ray Miller from pitching coach to manager. Miller becomes the 13th manager in franchise history, and on Opening Day 1998 he'll be the fourth Orioles manager in five seasons since Peter Angelos took over as the team's majority owner.
Miller, 52, was given a two-year contract with an option for the 2000 season, team sources said. The deal, if the option is exercised, will be worth about $2 million over the three years, sources said.
"I was very, very concerned that we would turn this over to someone from outside the organization," Miller said during an news conference at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "We were a few pitches away from going to the World Series last season, and I think we can build on that. ... I want to let [the Orioles players] know I'm going to try to continue things as they are [and] let them know the players are the reason we won 98 games last season."
Miller pledged to do his best to maintain continuity in the aftermath of the feud between his predecessor, Davey Johnson, and Angelos that resulted in Johnson's resignation last Wednesday and sent shock waves through the organization.
Miller, as promised, offered the Orioles' pitching coach job to Mike Flanagan, and Flanagan accepted this morning. He also said today that Rick Down, the only other candidate to be considered as Johnson's successor, might serve as the club's bench coach as well as continue as its hitting coach next season.
Third base coach Sam Perlozzo and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks will be retained, Miller said. First base coach John Stearns and bench coach Andy Etchebarren, who are close to Johnson, might be reassigned within the Orioles organization unless they join Johnson should he land another manager's job. Miller said it's likely that Orioles scout Carlos Bernhardt will fill one of the two openings on his coaching staff, and he acknowledged that he's considering offering a coaching job to Eddie Murray. Club sources said they believe it's a longshot that the former Orioles first baseman will be on Miller's '98 coaching staff, however.
Angelos did not attend Miller's news conference but said today from his Baltimore law office: "Ray Miller's qualifications speak for themselves, and that's all that needs to be said."
Kevin Malone, the Orioles' assistant general manager, said: "We felt like Ray is the right man for the job. Ray is a proven winner. We feel like Ray will take the team to the next level, and that's a world championship in 1998."
Orioles players applauded Miller's promotion.
"I think it's a good thing for the club," pitcher Jimmy Key said from his Florida home. "Ray's been a manager before. He knows our pitching staff and our ballclub very well. I was shocked by Davey resigning [but] this keeps the stability in the club. ... I think it'll be a smooth transition."
Shortstop Mike Bordick said from his home in Maine: "I think Ray has a great feel for working with all the players on the team, not just pitchers. He's obviously very knowledgeable. I know this year he didn't hold back from communicating with the position players, especially the infielders, about things that related to the pitching staff. ... It's tough losing Davey, but I think Ray will do a good job."
Miller, who guided the Minnesota Twins to a record of 109-130 in 1985 and '86 in his previous stint as a major league manager, steps into a difficult situation. The Orioles are retooling for what may be one final run at a World Series title with this core group of players. Johnson led the club to consecutive appearances in the AL Championship Series during his two-year tenure. But he never had a positive working relationship with Angelos, who became increasingly disenchanted with Johnson after the manager directed second baseman Roberto Alomar in July to pay a $10,500 fine to a charity for which Johnson's wife, Susan, works as a paid fund-raiser.
"I think stability in this organization comes with communication," said Miller, who spoke to Angelos for about three hours Monday. "I think I have the ability to communicate with Mr. Angelos and the club. In my conversations with Mr. Angelos, he said he won't tell me who to play. He just wants to know what's going on. And I plan to do that."
Miller, who was born in Takoma Park and graduated from Suitland High School, is perhaps the game's most accomplished pitching coach. Last winter, Angelos was the catalyst behind the Orioles firing Pat Dobson and hiring Miller for his second go-around as the club's pitching coach. Miller says that he had contemplated retirement last winter, but was one telephone call away from accepting a job with the Seattle Mariners before he heard from the Orioles. In his 18 seasons as a big league pitching coach, Miller has had three Cy Young Award winners (including Flanagan) and seven different 20-game winners. His '97 Orioles staff yielded the fewest hits and runs in the league.
Miller said he hopes to repair the organization's relationship with Alomar but will deal with that matter "in house," not publicly. And he said he's not uncomfortable with being the manager of Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken and his record consecutive games streak.
"In my own mind, I think Cal was within a few hours last year of [ending his streak] himself," Miller said, referring to Ripken's midseason struggles with a sore back. "Cal is a consummate professional, and Cal is not going to do anything to hurt the ballclub. When the time comes, it will be an injury and if Cal can't go to the post, Cal will be the first one to come to me and tell me."
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company