- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The sun is shining. The air is warm. The grass is green.
For losing managers, the ulcers are about to begin. But not for Mike Hargrove, who has been blessed with a personality that allows him to still notice the sun shining, the warm air, and the green grass even though he has lost more games than any other active manager over the past three seasons.
"It is still a great game," Hargrove said. "It really is."
Yesterday was the first day of workouts for the Baltimore Orioles' pitchers and catchers. They say this is a time when hope springs eternal, but for losing managers it is a time to start warehousing cases of Maalox.
Losing is no fun for anyone, but for the man in charge of the winning and the losing, it can be sickness. It tears the lining out of your stomach. It eats at your soul. It haunts you when you are sleeping, if you can sleep.
"Show me a good loser in professional sports, and I'll show you an idiot." Leo Durocher.
"If there is such a thing as a good loser, then the game is crooked." Billy Martin.
"On my tombstone, just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.'" Earl Weaver.
No one will write that for Mike Hargrove.
"You play baseball every day, so you can't afford to hang onto the losses or the victories, for that matter," Hargrove said. "The pace of the season demands that you always look ahead."
Losing is not something new to Hargrove. He began his career as a losing manager. In his first three seasons with the Cleveland Indians, they had a record of 185-225. But hope sprang eternal for Hargrove then, even in the losing. The Indians were a team full of young, talented players whom everyone knew were on the verge of greatness.
Then Hargrove became a winning manager. From 1994 to 1999, his Cleveland teams were a remarkable 152 games over .500 (471-319). During that time, no manager won more games.
He was rewarded for that record by being fired. He was hired by Peter Angelos in Baltimore and became a losing manager again. Not just any losing manager but the losingest manager in all of baseball over that time 74-88 in 2000; 63-98 in 2001 and 67-95 in 2002. That adds up to 204-281.
That's a lot of nights in the office explaining why your team lost, and you would think that it would take its toll personally. But the Orioles were fortunate to get a manager with the right temperament to handle the losing and not lose control.
"Losing grates on you," Hargrove said. "It hasn't taken a personal toll on me, though. Certainly it hasn't been easy. But it hasn't been easy on anyone. It hasn't been easy on the coaching staff, the players, the fans, the owner. It is terribly frustrating.
"But God has blessed me tremendously with giving me a very short memory. … Once I've gone over the loss and taken out of it what we need to do differently and what we need to do to get better … I've been able to let it go and look forward to the next challenge, the next game."
Hargrove hopes there are still many "next games" left for him as Orioles manager. One of the reasons no other manager in baseball has lost more than Hargrove over the last three years is that no one who loses that much usually stays in a job for three seasons. He is in the final year of his contract, and it is reasonable to assume that the Orioles will have another losing season, even with the anticipated improvement under the new baseball operation headed by Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie.
"I really am very interested in sticking around and seeing it through," Hargrove said. "I was in Cleveland when we went through similar things that we have gone through here. I wanted to see that through and reap the rewards of what we accomplished there. Hopefully, I'll get the chance here to do that.
"I have the faith that it will happen here, too," he said. "If I didn't, then that would take a personal toll, because then I would be backing up just to take a paycheck, and there's got to be more than that. I see us adding a little bit here and there. Has it been apparent as quickly as it was in Cleveland? No, it was a little more apparent there quicker. You had guys there who you know were a core, like [Carlos] Baerga and [Kenny] Lofton and [Sandy] Alomar. But we have some dynamite young pitchers here, and have more coming. We never had that in Cleveland. We had the position players coming, not the pitchers. It was more readily apparent in Cleveland than it is here. But if you have any kind of vision at all, you can see it. That is what makes what Jim and Mike are doing in the organization exciting, because we now have a chance for things to start popping."
Hargrove may know how to handle losing, but he knows what winning is, too, and he believes he can see it in Baltimore. For me, this is like the dog who can hear the whistle that humans can't. I don't have that vision, but then I'm not the guy who has to explain 95 losses a year without overdosing on antacids. If that guy truly believes winning is on the horizon, then maybe the sun will shine again soon for the Orioles.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide