Mike Hargrove, who cried three weeks ago when he was fired as manager of the Cleveland Indians, wore a giddy smile and a Baltimore Orioles jacket on the first day of his new job.
Hargrove signed a three-year contract Wednesday to manage the Orioles. He carried the most impressive credentials of the nine candidates interviewed for the job five straight AL Central titles, 721 career winds and two trips to the World Series.
He was fired on Oct. 15 after Cleveland blew a 2-0 lead in its best-of-5 division playoff against Boston.
The 50-year-old Hargrove had one year left on his contract and stood to receive $600,000 from the Indians in severance pay. But he was seriously interested in the Orioles' job, and his effort was rewarded when owner Peter Angelos selected him as the team's third manager in five seasons.
"I told Mr. Angelos I don't need this job, I want this job," Hargrove said at a news conference, wearing a black and orange Orioles' jacket that looked a bit strange, given that he worn the Indians' blue and red for nearly nine years.
Hargrove inherits a team that carries one of the highest payrolls in baseball yet suffered through two straight losing seasons under Ray Miller, who was fired Oct. 6.
"I wanted the challenge. I think there are good things in store for the Orioles sooner than later, and that's a nice feeling," said Hargrove, who went 721-591 with Cleveland and twice led the Indians to the World Series.
The Indians hadn't been to the World Series in 41 years before Hargrove took them there in 1995, and his 721 wins ranks second on the team's career list. But the Indians cut him loose after Cleveland once again fell short of its goal of winning the world championship.
"I'm a big boy. I can accept that, and I'll move on," he said. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurt by what happened in Cleveland, but I found that when the good Lord closes one door, he opens another one somewhere."
Fortunately for Hargrove, the Orioles' job was there for the taking.
"It's good to be back in the big leagues though I was only gone for a couple of weeks and it's good to be back as a Baltimore Oriole," he said. "I never thought I'd be wearing the orange and black of the Baltimore Orioles, but it's a thought that gives me a lot of pleasure and a lot of excitement. I'm looking forward to making a difference."
Hargrove beat out Orioles' third-base coach Sam Perlozzo and Boston bench coach Grady Little for the job. Orioles executive vice president John Angelos, a member of the search committee that conducted the preliminary interviews, said Hargrove was simply the best man for the post.
John Angelos said. "He really stands out as the best choice for the job."
Under Hargrove, the Indians advanced to the AL championship series in three of the last five years. His 689-538 record over the past eight seasons is best among AL managers, but his 27-25 record in the postseason was evidently cause for concern in Cleveland.
The Orioles, who haven't been to the World Series since 1983 and have been the postseason only twice since then, would love to see Hargrove enjoy similar success in orange and black.
"I don't know very much about him as a person, but I know he has a good track record as a manager," catcher Charles Johnson said. "He's led his teams to the playoffs and the World Series, so I know he's a good manager."
Hargrove plans to leave Thursday on a family vacation. When he returns, he will begin the process of shaping the Orioles into a team that can compete with two-time defending champion New York Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.
Tough work, yes, but preferable to lounging around the house for a year.
"Anyone who is worth their salt wants to compete and see who's best. To be able to have a chance to win, you've got to have talent," he said. "I looked at the job opportunities, and I thought this one in Baltimore was by far the most attractive. I was very, very happy when they contacted me, because the interest on my part was also great."
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