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Orioles Lacking Competitive Fire : Baseball: Manager Regan's tenacity is a fine example, but he can't get his players to follow it.

August 15, 1995|JOHN EISENBERG | THE BALTIMORE SUN

BOSTON — One of baseball's adages is that a team takes on the personality of its manager. The Baltimore Orioles are proof that such is not always the case.

Oriole Manager Phil Regan is intensely competitive. He seethes after losses. He does everything but blow steam out of his ears.

If the Orioles were following his example, they'd be a tough, feisty bunch.

They're anything but.

It's not that they don't care, because they do. It's not that they're not giving an effort, because they are. It's just that they're unemotional, unexciting, almost blase. The manager takes defeats much harder than they do, and that's not right.

Don't call them the O's, call them the "Oh, Well's."

Blame the players if you want, but understand this: Part of Regan's job is to get to them, to unlock the key to motivating them, and he isn't doing it.

His tenacity is a fine example, but he can't get his players to follow it.

Sure, a team can get away with having such a zero personality; the Orioles themselves did when they went 14-7 around the All-Star break. Baseball relies on emotion far less than football and basketball. Pitching and hitting, or the lack of it in this case, decides the course of a team's season.

But when a team is playing as poorly as the Orioles are now, blandness becomes a problem.

"I don't believe in rah-rah stuff," bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said Sunday, "but somewhere along the line you have to show some excitement. Or some emotion, anyway. You have to try something to get going."

The Orioles showed little of that "something" on their 1-6 trip to New York and Boston that ended with Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Red Sox. Regan complained about the players' lack of "intensity" several times, accusing them of "going through the motions" after Thursday night's loss.

What does that say about the players that their season is unraveling and the manager is complaining about their lack of intensity? Shouldn't the opposite be true? Isn't this the time for the players to dig deeper, start fighting and try to keep the season alive?

If they're hurting about their fading fortunes, it's hard to tell. The televisions went on in the clubhouse 20 minutes after Sunday's devastating loss.

That's not to say that there aren't some gamers on the team, those who die a little with every defeat. To identify some is to run the risk of leaving out and maligning others, so let's not resort to that.

In any case, the team's collective character is unmistakably soft.

"It's lively in the clubhouse. I just wish they'd take some of that onto the field," Hendricks said. "Why they don't is a mystery. And it's interesting because Bobby Bonilla is one guy who has come over to the club and brought a lot of life. He's always up, always talking on the field, always pumping up people to gets hits and such. And after Friday night's game he came to me and said he feels like an idiot. Because he's not getting any reaction."

Even if he was, the Orioles would have to change a lot about their play on this trip before they started winning again. They didn't consistently catch the ball, or make intelligent choices when they did catch it, or make the right pitches at the right times, or get the hits they most needed. That's some laundry list.

"There are no alibis," Hendricks said. "We look like a dead ballclub."

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