But there is something way out of whack about the Orioles' total absence of cohesion and lack of planning. I don't think Hargrove and Thrift like each other much, which wouldn't matter, except that they are supposed to work together toward the best present and future interests of the team. If the Orioles recent call ups are any indication, Thriftgrove is not a reliable combination.
For example, the basic question of who makes decisions about call-ups. The day before Chris Richard was called up last week, Hargrove clearly told the media and the fans that the Orioles were in no rush to bring him up. He said that the club probably would take most of the 20 days they are allowed under the rehab rules before recalling Richard. Then, bingo, we all were shocked when the very next day he was promoted.
Hargrove then said that Thrift decided to bring Richard to Baltimore after he read a newspaper article on Richard that morning in the Sun. One suggestion was that a newspaper reporter should write an article that Thrift was resigning, and that maybe he would take that advice, too. lol. Hargrove and Thrift don't see eye to eye on much.
Even if the Orioles were right to bring Richard up when they were going to (before learning he'd pulled a muscle), because he has one of the team's best bats; there is no way he would have played in the field. Hargrove specifically said Richard would only DH and pinch-hit.
With Cordova's foot still bothering him (and likely to throughout the season), and the Orioles having little faith in Clark's defensive abilities, particularly his arm, that puts quite a pinch on the DH slot.
So who really decided to recall Richard immediately? And why?
As if that question isn't enough for enquiring minds, when Richard strained his glute (too much sitting time?) the Birds decided NOT to call him up, and THEN decided to LET HIM PLAY in Rochester! Apparently, the dirt in the batters box in Rochester is softer than the dirt in Camden Yards?
There's plenty of dirt to go around in the Birds clubhouse. Some mud too. For example, many observers would agree that Chris Singleton should get less playing time. But when Mike Bordick went down, devastating the Orioles infield defense, who decided to recall Luis Matos, instead of Brian Roberts who would have given the manager another infield option?
Did anyone consider moving Batista to SS from third base and Leon to third? Or would that have been too muddy?
Hargrove appears to like his decisions to be crystal clear - but life isn't always crystal clear.
Obviously, the situation becomes even muddier when Conine returns; although Conine said last Wednesday it's probably going to be weeks before he's ready.
And then there is the matter of trades: The Orioles have not been looking to initiate anything, but were open to a trade. Before consummating a deal for Tawny Kitaen's then-husband (see the 1999 S.I. Swimsuit issue for pics of the happy couple), the Cardinals were scouting the Orioles all week, looking at Jason Johnson, Sid Ponson and Scott Erickson in particular. While the Cards reportedly were most impressed by Ponson, the Orioles will not add big salary, and in fact there are indications the team is willing to reduce overall payroll further. There won't be a trade of one of those three pitchers, unless a lot is offered.
Who decides on trades? Here is one certainty: Angelos calls the shots on any big-money deals. He vetoed the March blockbuster trade for Rolen, leaving Thrift dangling in the wind. Rolen, unhappy when the Phils refused to pay for his parents' trip to Philly, finally got to bolt The City of Iverson's Love this week. The Orioles infield is left Rolen along, with one of the tires blown, and no spare.
In certain ways the Orioles are versatile, but with Conine, Segui, Richard, Clark, and Cordova on the DL or limited in what they can do, there are role players being asked to do too much on a full time basis (Mora, Matthews, Clark) and too many players who either can't trusted in the field, or are being used out of position - apparently by the manager, but who knows?
Melvin Mora is a good guy, and he has a huge family to support. I wish him well in those endeavors. But as a shortstop, Melvin Mora leaves a lot to be desired. Gary Matthews, one of the most soft-spoken of the O's, and a fine gentleman, looks like he may be coming back down to earth – after an airborne start in Baltimore. Who is waiting in the wings? Howie Clark.
Clark is a gamer - maybe there's hope after all. He would have been a terrific platoon player under Earl Weaver – and maybe he would be today. But is he an every day starter?
Who decides who to call up, who to trade, who is healthy, who plays where, how much to spend? On this ball club, it is pretty much a mystery. Thrift typically seems to get his way with the "little wheels" – the small trades, acquisitions, and personnel changes. Thrift has made some shrewd reclamations off the scrap heap (Gibbons, Batista) and some deft pickups (Lopez, Gil) and he has traded for a boatload of young arms. He tries to do his job with regards to trading. But he has to have a final approval from the Big Wheel – the man Brooks Robinson refers to as "Peter Angelo".
Day-to-day roster moves involve Hargrove and Thrift. Define involve? Sorry: I haven't finished that lesson yet – see me again in third grade. Other than his daily line-up card, it seems the manager doesn't have much autonomy on this ball club.
Finally, there is this dilemma for O's watchers: Can we believe anything the ball club tells the media?
Hargrove is very unhappy with Jason Johnson of late, and the injury obfuscation mode with Johnson the other day reminded us all of the Chris Richards debacle last season -- the JJ smog included first a categorical denial that anything was wrong, and the next day JJ said he had tendonitis.
Who decides what to tell the media and the fans about player injuries? Usually it's Grover – but where the heck does he get his info? Who knows? A Basebawl wag summed the whole thing up pretty well: The warehouse features the most prominent chapter of the Liar's Club outside the DC beltway.
There's something we can all count on.