- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

The Baltimore Orioles appear to be on the verge of hiring their fifth manager in 10 years — the span that Peter Angelos has owned the franchise.

The choices, according to published reports, are down from eight candidates to a final four: former Orioles first baseman and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, former Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer, Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo and New York Yankees first base coach Lee Mazzilli. A decision could be announced today.

The Baltimore Sun has reported that the Baltimore front office braintrust — vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan — are favoring Mazzilli for the job, left vacant when the Orioles fired Mike Hargrove on Sept.29.

Angelos will have the final say on the hire, though, and the choice could be a sign as to how much freedom Beattie and Flanagan will have in their effort to restore the reputation of the once-proud franchise. If Murray is the choice, it will be an Angelos hire. If it is someone else — particularly Mazzilli — then the perception will be that the owner let his vice presidents make the hire without the interference that has been the trademark of his ownership.

Also, it is imperative that a decision be made and in place by Monday, when the general managers meetings begin in Phoenix and the free agent market opens as well. The Orioles, relieved of the burden of several high-priced contracts, such as those belonging to Albert Belle and Scott Erickson, are expected to be active in the free agent market, competing with teams for such stars as shortstop Miguel Tejada and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Most observers have believed that Murray, a hitting coach with the Cleveland Indians, has been the favorite all along to get the job. He is an Orioles legend, a fan favorite and has a good relationship with Angelos. Murray was on the cover of the Orioles 2003 media guide — even though he was with the Cleveland organization — and the owner threw a party for Murray during the former Oriole’s Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown last summer. And Murray went out of his way to praise Angelos in his induction speech.

But there have been concerns within the organization about Murray’s strained relationship with the media during his career, and there also has been the fear of being faced with the prospect, down the line, of firing a Baltimore legend like Murray.

Also, the three other candidates made strong cases for themselves. Perlozzo has been on the Orioles coaching staff for eight seasons and was a finalist last winter for the Seattle Mariners managing job. Dauer was a long-time coach for the Kansas City Royals and had one year of minor league managing experience, but had a strong interview. And Mazzilli is considered a rising star after four years on the Yankees coaching staff and three seasons as a successful minor league manager.

Other candidates who were interviewed but are not part of the finalists group are former Oriole Rick Dempsey, who has been on the coaching staff in Baltimore for two years, Tampa Bay Devil Rays coach Tom Foley, former Phillies manager and Oakland Athletics coach Terry Francona, who also has interviewed for the Boston Red Sox job, and fired Red Sox manager Grady Little.

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