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Angelos-Johnson Saga

Orioles Memories

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  Players Stunned by Johnson's Move

By Amy Shipley and Athelia Knight
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 6, 1997; Page E6

Disbelief, disappointment and sadness were expressed by Baltimore Orioles players yesterday afternoon as they received word that Davey Johnson had resigned as manager after a long and bitter dispute with team owner Peter Angelos.

Orioles players reached by phone said the team functioned well under Johnson, who led the team to two straight American League Championship Series appearances. Johnson offered to forfeit his salary for the final year of his contract in the resignation he faxed to Angelos's office.

"I'm disappointed," pitcher Mike Mussina said. "It's unfortunate the way the situation happened. It's unfortunate that Davey resigned because he felt he had to resign. I think everyone on the team felt he did an excellent job this year. Everyone was very comfortable with him.

"Now we are in a situation where we have to start over with somebody new. I've been in the league eight years and this is my fifth or sixth manager. It's difficult when there is that much changeover. But we're going to do the best we can, and hopefully we'll play well again next year."

Johnson's decision to fine Roberto Alomar $10,500 for missing an exhibition game and banquet, then directing the fine money into a charity in which Johnson's wife is involved, proved the breaking point for Angelos. But several players Mussina, pitcher Jimmy Key and shortstop Mike Bordick said the discord never spilled into the clubhouse. Alomar could not be reached to comment yesterday.

"I've been in clubhouses in New York where there is a little discontent," Key said of his days with the Yankees. "This place here, it was a pleasure to be a part of. You always have problems here or there, and I'm sure some guys probably had problems with Davey, but if those problems did arise, it wasn't something talked about in the clubhouse. If it was, I would have heard about it, so I felt things were handled in the right way.

"I had a great relationship with him. I thought he did a good job to get the club in a position to go to the World Series. We just didn't get the job done, and that's no reflection on him."

Former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, now an Orioles television announcer, defended Johnson for his fine of Alomar.

"I supported him to the hilt," Palmer said. "The guy [Alomar] didn't show up. Everyone else did. I thought Davey handled it exactly the right way he should to preserve the respect, dignity and authority a manager should have."

Palmer also defended Johnson for the team's failure to advance beyond the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, who lost to the Florida Marlins in the World Series. Palmer cited the three game-winning hits surrendered by Armando Benitez during the series against the Indians.

"Davey's a great friend, a former teammate, a successful manager, excellent strategist and all that," Palmer said. "He's a great baseball man."

Added Palmer: "Maybe Armando should resign."

"I think he will regret that he didn't get to finish what he started," bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said, "which is bringing a world championship back to Baltimore."

Johnson, who managed the Cincinnati Reds (1993-95) and led the New York Mets to a world championship in 1986, clearly gained the support of many of the Orioles players, who spent the entire season in first place in the American League East.

"I can't believe it," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro told WBAL radio in Baltimore. "I really hate to see him go."

"Davey's used to controversial times with players and owners," Bordick said. "I think he was pretty good about keeping things between the parties concerned. I don't think the players got swept up in that at all. It wasn't a distraction. I know I didn't hear about it.

"We have got a group of veteran players that know how to win. Hopefully things will get worked out. Hopefully. It's tough to lose a manager."

Key, who had just returned from a vacation in Canada when reached by telephone, wasn't aware that Johnson had resigned. So he was hardly prepared to suggest a possible successor.

"Whoever it is," Key said, "he's going to get a very good ballclub. I'm sure they will do what they can to bring someone in to give us a chance to win. Hopefully, he will be as easy to work for as Davey, because I thought Davey was really easy to work for."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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