BALTIMORE. -- Before the Baltimore Orioles started the press conference yesterday at B&O Warehouse to announce the firing of manager Sam Perlozzo, a public relations executive declared questions should be limited to "on the field performance."
In other words, pay no attention to a report the club was hiring former Cubs president Andy MacPhail as chief operating officer, even though it appears to be a done deal.
"We are not going to comment on anything down the road," Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said.
Shame is a bottomless pit for this organization. It drew a pathetic 20,000 people a night last week at Camden Yards for a three-game series against the Washington Nationals, and it is on pace to draw barely 2 million fans this year — the lowest in the history of the ballpark. Only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals have drawn smaller average crowds this season in the American League.
Yet the Orioles see fit to try to dictate what questions should be asked at a press conference. They should be begging people to care about who manages the club rather than trying to manage the misinformation that flows from the warehouse.
It doesn't matter what kind of assurances have been given to MacPhail. He eventually will find out what everyone who works for owner Peter Angelos does — it is one thing to know and befriend Angelos and another thing entirely to work for him.
Flanagan did all of the talking at yesterday's press conference, which also officially announced that Orioles bench coach Dave Trembley would take over as interim manager. Flanagan wouldn't address the ESPN report that former Marlins manager Joe Girardi was a leading candidate for the job.
Girardi was a one-year wonder in Florida who was fired because he couldn't get along with his owner and bosses. What a great fit he would be in Baltimore.
Or maybe Davey Johnson, who the Baltimore Sun identified as a possible candidate, will take back the reins. Johnson and Angelos have made up since Johnson's departure after the 1997 season, which would make for a wild reunion at Camden Yards. It still would be the same train wreck, but a far more interesting one.
My pick is Dusty Baker — if MacPhail indeed is coming to Baltimore. They were together in Chicago, and it would be a smart choice — somebody with a serious enough resume to look at the malcontents who litter the Orioles' roster and demand they play hard.
Still, it doesn't matter who manages or runs this team, and it hasn't in nearly a decade. The Orioles operate on the petty whims and desires of the owner, who digs a deeper hole for the franchise with every passing year. Baltimore is on its way to matching the infamous loser's legacy of the original franchise, the St. Louis Browns, who suffered through 12 straight losing seasons from 1930 to 1941.
Flanagan has become Syd Thrift (only Syd managed to last longer than Flanagan in the front office operation), an Angelos sycophant who can stand before a crowd with a straight face and say things like: "We do feel like we have a very good team. We do feel like we have a very good organization."
A very good team and a very good organization with a 29-40 record. A very good team and a very good organization that just fired its manager. A very good team and a very good organization that spent $95.1 million on payroll this year. A very good team and organization that has seen attendance drop from a high of 3.7 million in 1997 to perhaps reaching 2 million this season.
This is how you work for Peter Angelos' baseball team for any length of time. You put your capacity for embarrassment in escrow.
It's not a good team, though I admit the Orioles had me fooled going into the season. I thought at least they were a mediocre team. I underestimated what a fraud Miguel Tejada is. I didn't realize how selfish and one dimensional the roster was or the lack of leadership in the clubhouse. And after spending $42 million to strengthen the bullpen, I believed it would be better, not worse, than last year's relief disaster.
But that doesn't fall on Perlozzo's shoulders. The roster was put together by Little Syd and his sidekick, Jim Duquette, vice president of baseball operations, who said nothing during yesterday's press conference. This mess should fall on them. In fact, Little Syd said as much when he declared, "We feel like we are in control of the situation."
Or, as Chip Diller declared in "Animal House" when the crowd rushed him on the street, "Remain calm. All is well."