Bricks from the Warehouse

April 22
Ray Must Go

Ray Miller must go. We have felt this way for about a year now, but we have tried to avoid ranting and raving about it too much. We figured there was always a chance he had learned something in the offseason -- maybe he picked up one of Earl Weaver's books or something. Alas, it seems that he spent the winter getting embalmed. (Seriously -- watch an interview with him sometime. We think Cal Ripken Sr. appears more lifelike.)

First, let's dispense with the arguments in his favor. (1) Look at the troubles this team has had. Nobody could do a better job. (2) Well, there is no second argument. The only one in his favor that anybody has come up with is "Probably the team wouldn't do better with anybody else." In point of fact, we don't entirely disagree. This team is poorly constructed, from the major league roster down through the farm system, and firing Ray Miller won't change that. But Miller isn't exactly absolved from blame for the roster makeup -- despite what you'd think from listening to his protestations, he was hardly an innocent bystander when the team was put together. So, no, firing Ray Miller won't get the team to the World Series -- this year. But it's a start. He has so many failings we don't know where to begin listing them.

Handling rookies: Miller's disdain for rookies -- hell, for anyone under 30 -- is well known. Last year, there were his vicious attacks on Armando Benitez. What Armando did was unjustifiable; we're not saying Miller should have praised him for it, and we're not saying Miller should have been happy about it. But the appropriate remedy is to yell at Benitez in private. Instead, Miller treated Benitez as if he were a child molester for an action which, while wrong, was hardly beyond the pale in baseball culture. Sometimes pitchers throw at batters. Why single out Benitez? And that's not the only example; his vendetta against Rocky Coppinger is well documented. This year, while many Orioles pitchers have struggled, Ray Miller has made several comments about Sidney Ponson's weight. Why pick on Ponson after one bad start? If you think it's something besides his age, we suspect you're being naive.

Handling veterans: Some managers -- Dallas Green and Lou Pinella, for instance -- have been known for their poor relationships with rookies, and their preference for veterans. But Miller fails even here. Last year, he announced how proud he was never to have criticized a player in public (conveniently forgetting about his treatment of Armando Benitez, by the way). This year, he has been exchanging swipes with Scott Erickson in the media. And since last season ended, Miller's conflicts with other veterans have become public. The story of how he almost came to blows with Roberto Alomar in the clubhouse has been revealed. (Contrast that with Davey Johnson's feuding with Bobby Bonilla, which Johnson never let get in the way of the team's success.) And recently it was reported that Eric Davis has published a new book blasting Miller for his poor managing.

Managing games: So let's talk about that "poor managing." We have already conceded that the roster is poorly constructed. But the problems go beyond that. Miller's in-game tactics (i.e. pitcher usage, bunting, pinch-hitting, etc.) are poor -- but the problems go beyond that. The real problem is that Miller doesn't know who the good and bad players are. We're not merely talking about the Ripken issue. We're talking about Rich Amaral being a primary pinch hitter. We're talking about Rich Amaral being leadoff hitter. We're talking about Mike Bordick batting second. We're talking about Conine being the first choice for a right-handed bat rather than Willis Otanez. We're talking about Mike Bordick being used versus left-handed pitchers. We're talking about pinch hitting with Jeff Reboulet. We're talking about Heathcliff Slocumb, the Man of a Million Baserunners, being named setup man. We're talking about Doug Linton being named as a starter. We want to emphasize that we're not second-guessing any particular move made by Miller after-the-fact. Some of these moves may have even worked out, so far. Rather, these are all decisions which were unjustifiable at the time they're made.

Basically, Miller must go, not because the team is struggling (that's a euphemism for "sucking"), but because he doesn't know what he's doing. He's clearly out of his depth, and while firing him won't turn the team into instant winners, it will enable the team to do what needs to be done. The Orioles need to rebuild. People like Conine and Slocumb and Fetters and Ripken and Reboulet and Webster and Guzman and Linton and such need to be released or traded while they still have some trade value. People like Hairston and Pickering and Coppinger and Otanez need to be full-time players. And these sorts of things will never happen while Miller's managing.

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Last Updated: April 22, 1999