Eddie Murray is like a living bridge between Baltimore Orioles eras: old enough to have shared an infield with Brooks Robinson, young enough to have played in the infamous Jeffrey Maier playoff game. He is accomplished enough to be one of only three players in major league history to get 500 homers and 3,000 hits, and old-school enough to believe the Oriole Way still means something.
Murray would make a great major league manager, say former teammates, contemporaries and current Orioles. He is knowledgeable, selfless and fiercely loyal -- the consummate clubhouse leader. This fall, Murray, 43, will get his first chance to prove himself as manager of the Scottsdale Scorpions in the developmental Arizona Fall League, an experience Murray hopes will put him in line for a major league managing job.
Managing "is what I think I want to do from this point on," said Murray, the Orioles' bench coach for the past two seasons. "My playing days are over, and I have seen how helping out all those years makes a difference. I'd just like to give it a go. I think I can do something positive."
At a time when the future of Orioles Manager Ray Miller is uncertain -- Miller is not expected to be retained at the end of this season -- Murray's first foray into managing, at the organization's recommendation, would appear to put him in the running for the Orioles' job in 2000.
However, with Tony La Russa reportedly prepared to remain as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, former Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner apparently is the Orioles' favored candidate. But owner Peter Angelos's reluctance to make a move prior to the end of the season might cost the Orioles a shot at Garner, who was fired last week.
Beyond that, the Orioles are compiling a list of candidates. All of them have managing experience beyond the two months Murray will get in Arizona. Although San Francisco's Dusty Baker and Philadelphia's Terry Francona are managers who got experience in the Arizona Fall League, a two- or three-year apprenticeship in the minors is a more common route.
Murray would not comment on Miller's future. He is loyal to Miller, whom he has known since he was a 17-year-old prospect in the Orioles' minor league system at the time Miller was winding down a 10-year minor league career.
Neither Angelos nor General Manager Frank Wren would discuss their plans for the manager's job. However, sources familiar with their thinking say Murray is far down on the list of possible successors to Miller because of his lack of managerial experience. The Orioles would rather see Murray manage in their minor league system, a prospect that holds little interest to Murray.
"There are not a whole lot of steps left" on the path toward gaining a major league managing job, he said. "I don't want to take forever to get an attempt."
Miller hinted at Murray's need for minor league experience when he told reporters recently: "Eddie's a good teacher, but he's trying to teach at the top level, instead of working with younger guys." Miller, however, had no such experience when he got his first managing job with the Minnesota Twins in 1985.
Experience is the only thing Murray lacks at this point, according to people around baseball.
"It's hard to say how someone will do as a manager until they actually do it," said Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina. "But I know Eddie has the knowledge. He knows baseball more than well enough to do the job. And he has the player experience you look for."
"He would be great," said Hall of Fame second baseman and ESPN television analyst Joe Morgan, one of Murray's contemporaries. "Players know he is for real. They know he was a player's player. He would be a player's manager. That's what a player wants. I just hope he gets the chance."
Murray hopes the fact he was a player as recently as 1997 will bolster his candidacy. "Today's players are a little different," he said. "I hope that can be an advantage for me. I'm watching and seeing how the game is changing. Being removed only two years, I have a little more insight on dealing with the modern player."
Miller said that Murray will have to learn as a manager to be more accepting of players who are not as talented as he was. "Eddie gets fairly frustrated," Miller said. "The first part of , he said, `They won't listen to me. They get mad at me.' The reason is, Eddie as a player could say anything any time, and nobody would say anything back. But [as a coach], there's a little tact involved."
But Murray said he won't get frustrated with less-talented players, "because in my approach to the game, even to the day my career ended, I thought I had something left to learn."
As Miller has pointed out, one thing Murray has left to learn as a manager is how to deal with the media. A major league manager generally spends up to half an hour a day with reporters during the season. Murray rarely spoke to the media during the last few years of his playing career.
"You'd see [writers] going after you, so the best way to defuse it was to go out and play," Murray said, explaining his silence. "It never has been fair and won't ever be fair. But I don't foresee any problems. Hopefully, the media knows how to look at a game, and there should be very few questions."
Data: Orioles vs. Minnesota Twins.
Time: 7:35 p.m.
Radio: WTOP-1500, WBAL-1090, WTOP-FM-107.7, WMJS-FM-92.7.
Records: Orioles 51-66, 20 1/2 games out of first place in AL East ; Twins 50-65, 20 1/2 games out of first place in AL Central.
Orioles RHP Mike Mussina
vs. OPP 1-0
Twins RHP Joe Mays
vs. OPP 0-0