Baltimore Orioles right fielder Albert Belle said yesterday that former manager Ray Miller, who was fired last week, "dug his own grave" by losing the respect of his players almost from the day he was hired two years ago.
"He had developed some bad relationships with players that caused players to leave the team, that caused players to lose respect for him," said Belle--who spoke to the media only once during his just-completed first season in Baltimore--during a 35-minute interview on John Thompson's radio show on WTEM-980.
"It's hard to play for a manager when the players don't respect him. He doesn't communicate well with players. He just kind of dug his own grave. But I can't say anything bad about the guy because he wrote me in the lineup every day."
Free agents Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar signed elsewhere after the 1998 season. It has been reported that Palmeiro, who signed with the Texas Rangers, left because the Orioles never made him a legitimate offer during the season and the delay angered him. It also has been reported that the Orioles' front office thought Alomar did not give a full effort during the second half of the 1998 season; Alomar, who signed with the Cleveland Indians, felt the team did not support him after he spit on an umpire in 1996.
Miller, who was fired last week when the Orioles paid him $100,000 instead of exercising their option to bring him back for a third season, could not be reached to comment.
Belle said he was surprised that owner Peter Angelos also forced out general manager Frank Wren. He also said that when Wren did not hold a team plane for Cal Ripken last month, Wren was following a season-long policy he had established that players and coaches who miss team buses and planes must make their own travel arrangements to meet up with the team. The Orioles cited the fact that Wren did not hold the plane for Ripken as a reason he was fired after one season.
"He was just in a situation where he was being consistent," Belle said. "I think it showed he had some guts not to issue a double standard. . . . At least he had the guts to stand up and fight for something he believed in."
Belle said he thought Wren was the executive who could have returned the Orioles to their winning ways.
"I felt like Frank Wren was a pretty good baseball man," Belle said. "I know from sitting down and talking to Frank Wren [that] the main thing he wants to do is win ballgames. He kind of got thrust into the situation and he had to piece the team together pretty quickly. I think he did a pretty good job and, had he stayed on board and given a couple of years, he really could have turned the organization around. But him and the front office didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things."
Belle, who has hit 30 home runs and driven in at least 100 runs in each of the past eight seasons, indicated that he was not seeking a trade during his first season with the Orioles, as had been reported. When Thompson asked him if he wanted to remain with the Orioles, Belle said: "Yes, I do. . . . I've approached life where I don't want to take the easy way out."
As for Miller's successor, Belle said: "The sense I get from the Orioles is maybe they want someone to manage from within the organization.
". . . The guy they should strongly consider is [former Orioles star and current coach] Eddie Murray. . . . He's a guy that everybody around baseball respects. He's very knowledgeable. . . . He should be next in line. I think the players on the team are rooting for Eddie to win the job."