- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

The Orioles’ brass interviewed former Red Sox manager Grady Little yesterday as they continue to widen the field of candidates to replace Mike Hargrove.

The big question is, why? Why go through the exercise of bringing in Little and other candidates like Tom Foley and Lee Mazzilli if former Orioles star and current Indians hitting coach Eddie Murray remains the favorite for the job? Who is adding to the pool to pick from and why?

Are Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan making an honest effort to talk to every worthy candidate? Or is one or both of them simply hoping to give the boss, owner Peter Angelos, more options to chose from other than the one he wants so desperately to hire — Murray, the Hall of Famer and favorite son of the Orioles?

Is it an attempt to keep the owner from hiring Eddie Murray as the next manager of the Orioles? It sure appears that way.

Why else bring in Little for an interview? Does anyone really think Angelos is going to hire Forrest Gump to manage his team at this point, when expectations appear as if they are starting to rise? He may have been a great manager in Boston and won 188 games over two seasons, but it would be only slightly less of a public relations snafu for the Orioles to introduce Grady Little as manager of the Orioles on Opening Day next year than it would have been for the Red Sox to keep him.

Does Beatagan think Orioles fans live in caves and don’t know this is the guy who let Pedro Martinez take over as manager of the team in the seventh game of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees? It hardly matters how many games he has won as a major league manager or that he is the most experienced of the candidates. Grady Little has a scarlet letter on his chest now among baseball fans, and this hire will have to do as much with public relations as with managerial ability. Or hasn’t the front office been paying attention to the dwindling attendance at Camden Yards every year since the high of 3.7million in 1997 — Baltimore’s last winning season.

“I made a decision to leave a pitcher in the game, and that decision got bad results,” Little said. “And so there you go.”

Run, Forrest, run.

If it comes to a face-to-face meeting with Angelos, there is no way Little will get the job. He is as far from an Angelos type of guy as you can get. One stimulating conversation in that Norv Turner-like voice of Little’s and the game is over.

The only other candidate with major league managing experience is Terry Francona, the Oakland bench coach. Francona could be a terrific manager. He is smart and articulate and grew up in the game (his father, Tito Francona, had one of the great baseball names of all time and played briefly for the Orioles). But he was a losing manager (285-363) in four years with the Phillies and therefore has the slight tinge of a retread.

It’s difficult to see Little or Francona or any of the other candidates being picked ahead of the Orioles’ own Sam Perlozzo. Their credentials either are not that much better than those of the longtime Orioles coach or carry too much negative baggage.

More importantly, though, it’s hard to see any of the candidates putting Angelos in a position to tell Eddie Murray, “No, we are not going to hire you to manage the Orioles.”

That is the issue here — not whether the Orioles, who could make a decision by late next week or early the week after, would hire Murray but whether they would, after going through the interview process, actually turn him down?

Not likely.

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