While their pool of potential managerial hires grew by one important name this afternoon, by evening the Baltimore Orioles still did not have an opening to fill. Twenty-four hours into the 72-hour window in which the Orioles must decide on Ray Miller's future, Miller remained the team's manager, however tenuously.
The Orioles have until Wednesday evening to decide whether to exercise the option on Miller's contract.
Although majority owner Peter Angelos could not be reached and General Manager Frank Wren declined to comment, the Orioles are not expected to bring Miller back for a third season.
Miller, reached at his Baltimore home, said he had not heard anything from Angelos or Wren.
In Chicago today, the Cubs fired Manager Jim Riggleman, who immediately became one of the prime candidates for the Orioles' job. Although Wren declined to speak about potential candidates, he has known Riggleman since both were minor league coaches in the early 1980s.
Riggleman, 46, compiled a 374-419 record in five seasons as Cubs manager, including a 67-95 mark this season. In contrast to the Orioles' first-half nose dive, the Cubs were nine games over .500 on June 9, but finished 28 games below .500.
Former Milwaukee manager Phil Garner and former Colorado manager Don Baylor also are high on the Orioles' list, although both are likely to receive other offers.
Among internal candidates, third-base coach Sam Perlozzo and first-base coach Marv Foley likely will be interviewed, although the Orioles intend to hire someone with major league managing experience, something neither Perlozzo nor Foley possesses.
Orioles bench coach Eddie Murray likely will not be interviewed, partly for that same reason. Today, Murray began the first managing job of his career, with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.
Today, the Orioles' clubhouse was mostly silent, as television cameras were on hand to record the obligatory cleaning-out-the-lockers scene.
They outnumbered the players, many of whom had plane tickets out of town after Sunday's season finale, a 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Perhaps tellingly, none of the Orioles jumped to Miller's defense in the season's final days, despite widespread speculation that he would be let go.
"It's everyone's responsibility," Mike Bordick said. "We just didn't do the job as a team. I don't know if you can put your finger on just one thing."
"As a player, I'll play my best for anybody," said first baseman Jeff Conine. Although Conine did not criticize Miller directly, he added, "There are circumstances [a manager has] to answer to."
Numbers do a poor job of defining the Orioles' 1999 season. They ranked first in the American League in fielding, fourth in pitching and sixth in hitting, and set team records for batting average and base hits.
In perhaps his most candid comments about Miller this season, Wren said on Aug. 29 that he has "a difficult time justifying" the Orioles' record given that statistical production.
In recent days, as he defended the job he had done in his two seasons as manager, Miller pointed to a lack of pitching and team speed and an aging roster as reasons for the Orioles' records of 79-83 in 1998 and 78-84 this season.
"I'm not defending myself or anything. I'm just making a statement. But the thing that bothers me, last year we won 20 out of 30 after the all-star break," Miller said last week.
"Everyone was saying, `They'll blow it.' And we did. And all during that time, I'm begging [then-general manager Pat Gillick] to get me a couple of young guys. We're going to die here. We're playing the same 38-year-old guys every day. . . .
"Did I feel real good when this organization gives me Richie Lewis and Bobby Munoz when I lose [Jimmy] Key and [Mike] Mussina in the same week [in 1998]? That's the two guys I get to replace them? And I'm going to get booed when we don't win?"
This year, Miller has been critical of a bullpen that blew 20 saves in the first half of the season. Before Sunday's finale, responding to criticism in a newspaper article about his use of the bullpen this season, Miller said, "Abusing the bullpen? If the starter leaves in the third, and you bring a guy in and he can't get out of the fourth, and you bring a guy in and he can't get out of the fifth, what the [expletive] are you abusing? Are you supposed to let one guy give up 35 runs?"