January 08, 1996

Pat Gillick was on a roll, and he didn't want to stop. So
Gillick, the new general manager of the Baltimore Orioles,
worked the phones from home on Christmas Day. Then, on Dec. 26,
he completed a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for lefthander
David Wells, sending the Oriole public relations staff back to
work early during the holiday week. "Don't you ever leave those
people alone?" Doris Gillick asked her husband. After telling
assistant p.r. director Bill Stetka of the Wells deal, Pat said,
"We might have something else tomorrow. Are you going to be

The public relations people made it to New Year's without having
to announce another major deal, even though Gillick stayed on
the phone. After one month on the job he has already transformed
the Orioles from the major leagues' most disappointing team in
1995 to the winter-book favorite to win the American League East
in '96. Over a stunning two-week period, ending with the trade
for Wells, a 16-game winner last year, Gillick also acquired
second baseman Roberto Alomar, one of the game's best all-around
players; closer Randy Myers, the National League save leader
over the last four years combined; third baseman B.J. Surhoff, a
.320 hitter last year; lefthander Kent Mercker, a solid No. 4
starter; and righthander Roger McDowell, a quality middle
reliever. And Gillick, who at week's end was still shopping for
a leftfielder and a backup catcher, did all this without
overpaying free agents or giving up much in trades (chart, page

After dealing Wells for young centerfielder Curtis Goodwin and a
minor leaguer, Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden said, "The
Orioles just won their division."

At least it looked that way heading into 1996. With the fortunes
of the rest of the East teams sagging--the Toronto Blue Jays are
caught in a death spiral, the Detroit Tigers are rebuilding, the
New York Yankees are once again in chaos created by George
Steinbrenner's roster and front office moves, and the defending
champion Boston Red Sox have seen their pitching staff depleted
by free agency--the time was right for the Orioles to strike.
Fortified by the revenue generated from sellouts most every
night at Camden Yards and by an owner, Peter Angelos, who isn't
afraid to spend that money, Gillick and new Baltimore manager
Davey Johnson hit the ground running. "I feel like I've died and
gone to heaven," says Johnson.

Angelos's Oct. 30 hiring of Johnson, whose .576 winning
percentage is the highest among active managers, was the first
major step in revitalizing the Orioles. Johnson had wanted the
Baltimore job a year ago, but then--Baltimore G.M. Roland Hemond
hired Phil Regan, a rookie manager. Last season Johnson took
Cincinnati to the National League Championship Series, then
stepped down as skipper as Red owner Marge Schott had planned;
Regan, who never gained the respect of his players, ended up
with a 71-73 record. Angelos fired Regan on Oct. 20, and Hemond,
whom Angelos believed was too timid to make major deals,
resigned later that day.

In his search for a new general manager, Angelos kept coming
back to Gillick, who had built the Blue Jays into two-time world
champions before he retired in 1994 and became a consultant with
the club. Several times Gillick refused to interview with
Angelos because he had heard the owner was difficult to work
for, too meddlesome. It was Johnson who convinced Gillick that
Angelos's reputation as a tyrant was unfounded. "Peter wants
smart people working for him," Johnson says. "Pat is the

Gillick took the job on Nov. 27, and now, Angelos says, "every
night I go to bed delighted that I can go back to practicing law
full time and not have to be consulted on anything except
financial matters." Indeed, Gillick has made all the personnel
decisions, while keeping his new boss abreast of contract

Signing a handful of thirtysomething free agents every
year--McDowell is 35; Myers, 33; Wells, 32; and Surhoff,
31--isn't Baltimore's plan. With All-Star-caliber players like
shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., first baseman Rafael Palmeiro,
rightfielder Bobby Bonilla and pitcher Mike Mussina already in
the lineup, the Orioles only had to fill specific holes to
become pennant contenders in '96. In the process they are buying
time until they can rebuild their farm system, which, Angelos
says, "has been long overlooked."

Fact is, most of the prospects the Orioles had counted on to
lead them through the 1990s didn't pan out, and the last
standout every-day player to come up through the Baltimore
system was Ripken, in 1982. To overhaul the farm system the
Orioles hired Kevin Malone, who had interviewed for the general
manager's position but then thought enough of Gillick to sign on
as the assistant G.M. Malone's expertise lies in player
development and scouting, areas in which he excelled for the
Montreal Expos before becoming their G.M. last year.

"We have a championship club, and we expect to win this year,"
Johnson says. "But a true championship club wins, then
replenishes itself with its minor league system." In fact, only
four Orioles are signed beyond 1997--Alomar, Palmeiro and
Surhoff (all through '98) and catcher Chris Hoiles, who signed a
five-year deal before the '95 season. "We're not in a spot we
can't get out of," says Gillick, who also has axed $16 million
from the payroll and might come in below last season's $48.8
million budget--embarrassingly high for a sub-.500 club.

That team had talent but played without fire. "They didn't seem
to be having any fun," says Johnson, who was an All-Star second
baseman for the Oriole teams that dominated the American League
in the late 1960s and early '70s. Said outfielder Andy Van
Slyke, who played briefly for Baltimore last year, "That team
needs a Ping-Pong table more than any team I've ever seen."

Creating healthy clubhouse chemistry is another one of Gillick's
specialties, and the addition of free spirits such as McDowell,
Myers and Wells, and a classy pro such as Surhoff, should
improve the atmosphere immensely. "If we have problems on this
club," Johnson says, "hang me or shoot me between the eyes. I
might get a rocking chair for the dugout."

The signing of Alomar alone makes the Orioles a better team on
the field. At 27 he is the best second baseman in the American
League since World War II. He has hit at least .300 in each of
the last four years, with his best season in 1993, when he hit
.326, drove in 93 runs and stole 55 bases. The only second
baseman in history to reach those numbers was Alomar's idol,
the Reds' Joe Morgan, in 1975.

Another of his idols is Ripken, who is Alomar's new double-play
partner. As impressive as Ripken and Alomar have been
offensively, they are even more highly regarded defensively.
Over the last two years they have combined for only 22 errors,
and Alomar is perhaps the most spectacular fielder at his
position ever. "Some plays just come out of me, just on
instincts," Alomar says. "I'll make a play and wonder, How did I
do that?"

Yet sometimes lost in the dazzle of Alomar's acrobatic play is
the fact that he is equally strong in the fundamentals and is an
avid student of the game--like Ripken. "I watch Cal all the
time, the way he adjusts to hitters, because that's what I do,"
Alomar says. "I don't keep a book on hitters or pitchers, it's
all up here [he points to his head]. Once against the Orioles, I
stole second base twice--almost standing up--against one
pitcher. When I got to second, Cal said to me, 'You've got his
move, don't you?' I said, 'You better believe it.' I'm paying
attention all the time out there."

Alomar was a catalyst for the Blue Jays during their
championship seasons (1992 and '93), but he's a terrible loser,
and some of his teammates, as well as others in the Toronto
organization, wondered if he was giving his all in some games
after the Jays had fallen out of contention the past two years.
"He will do anything to win," says Alomar's father, former major
leaguer Sandy Alomar Sr. "But he has some growing up to do.
Playing with Cal will help."

Still, the Orioles' biggest pickup this off-season was Gillick,
58, as sharp and energetic a general manager as there is in the
game. He has a photographic memory, and friends nicknamed him
Segap Wolley--Yellow Pages spelled backward--because, they say, he
could memorize the book forward and backward.

Even though Gillick's heart has been in Toronto the last 20
years--he became the Blue Jays' first general manager, in
1976--his roots run back to the Orioles. He was a lefthanded
pitcher in the Baltimore organization for five years, and in
1960 his catcher in Class B Fox Cities was Cal Ripken Sr. "That
was the year Cal Jr. was born," Gillick says. "That makes it
special for me coming here."

Gillick is a sensitive man who believes that an organization is
like a family. When he arrived in Baltimore, he found a front
office that was excessively rigid and running scared, with too
many employees afraid to even make suggestions. Assistant
general manager Frank Robinson, who was canned on Dec. 4, lashed
out at the organization during his going-away party, saying the
team would not win again until there was a return to the old
Oriole way, when people smiled at each other in the halls and
cared for each other. Gillick knows that feeling. "It came from
winning," he says. "It has been lost along the way. We have to
recapture that."

The Orioles are off to a great start.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERTO BOREA/AP (GILLICK) Gillick (opposite) had five new Birds in hand before Christmas, and then traded for Wells (right) the day after the holiday. [Pat Gillick] COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE [See caption above--David Wells] COLOR PHOTO: JERRY WACHTER (JERSEYS) [Baltimore Orioles jerseys] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Acrobatics are just the most visible part of Alomar's package. [Roberto Alomar and baseball player]


At first glance, it would appear the Orioles blew the lid off
their payroll with their flurry of recent acquisitions. Not
true. Baltimore cleared the way for these costly roster
additions by cutting loose some overpriced personnel.


Player Roberto Alomar
Position 2B
How Acquired Free agent
Contract Three years
1996 Salary $4.3 million

[Player] Roger McDowell
[Position] RHP
[How Acquired] Free agent
[Contract] One year
[1996 Salary] $750,000

[Player] Kent Mercker
[Position] LHP
[How Acquired] Trade (Braves)
[Contract] Unsigned
[1996 Salary] $2.7 million*

[Player] Randy Myers
[Position] LHP
[How Acquired] Free agent
[Contract] Two years
[1996 Salary] $2.6 million

[Player] B.J. Surhoff
[Position] 3B
[How Acquired] Free agent
[Contract] Three years
[1996 Salary] $1 million

[Player] David Wells
[Position] LHP
[How Acquired] Trade (Reds)
[Contract] One year
[1996 Salary] $3 million

Total $14.4 million*

*Mercker is eligible for arbitration; these figures are estimated.


Player Harold Baines
Position DH
New Team White Sox
1995 Salary $1.9 million

[Player] Bret Barberie
[Position] 2B
[New Team] Free agent
[1995 Salary] $958,750

[Player] Kevin Bass
[Position] OF
[New Team] Free agent
[1995 Salary] $410,000

[Player] Kevin Brown
[Position] RHP
[New Team] Marlins
[1995 Salary] $4.2 million

[Player] Terry Clark
[Position] RHP
[New Team] Free agent
[1995 Salary] $135,000

[Player] Mark Eichhorn
[Position] RHP
[New Team] Free agent
[1995 Salary] $537,500

[Player] Leo Gomez
[Position] 3B
[New Team] Free agent
[1995 Salary] $925,000

[Player] Curtis Goodwin
[Position] OF
[New Team] Reds
[1995 Salary] $109,000

[Player] Doug Jones
[Position] RHP
[New Team] Cubs
[1995 Salary] $1.3 million

[Player] Ben McDonald
[Position] RHP
[New Team] Free agent
[1995 Salary] $4.5 million

[Player] Jamie Moyer
[Position] LHP
[New Team] Red Sox
[1995 Salary] $1.1 million

Total $16.1 million

Payroll at the end of 1995 season: $48.8 million. Projected
payroll for Opening Day 1996: $47 million.