Weaver balks at talk about next season; can Jays handle media?

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Earl Weaver is doing nothing to quiet those who doubt that he will return for another season as manager of the Baltimore Orioles. It's a question Weaver is hearing frequently these days, and his response to me when I asked it recently in Anaheim was: ``I dunno. I couldn't answer something like that right now. Of course we'll talk after the season [he meant himself and owner Edward Bennett Williams], but this isn't the time for stuff like that.''

Obviously disappointed that Baltimore doesn't seem to have even one reliable stopper in its pitching rotation, Earl may no longer have the patience to wait while the young arms in the farm system mature and prosper. Yet surely there must have been things he missed during his 21/2 years away from baseball.

``That's where you're wrong,'' Earl replied. ``I didn't miss anything about the game. You forget that my retirement didn't just happen. My wife and I had it planned very carefully. I don't know what most people think managing is, but I can tell them it's a job. I gave up a 21/2-year vacation to come back here and what I came back to ain't been no vacation.''

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Quizzed about the famous ``little black book,'' in which he always kept detailed records of how his hitters and pitchers fared against individual opponents, Weaver explained:

``I haven't been around, so the book is out of date. You can't keep a book like that just reading box scores, you have to be there and see for yourself. I still don't like asking my coaches if a player I've never seen before is a high-ball or a low-ball hitter. If I'm going to rely on somebody's judgment, I want it to be my own.''

The conversation shifted to third base coach Cal Ripken, a loyal organization man who was passed over as manager in favor of Joe Altobelli when Weaver retired in 1982, and whose son, Cal Jr., is the Orioles' starting shortstop. What kind of manager would Ripken make?

``Cal would make any team a good manager, although he obviously knows a lot more about the American League,'' Earl said. He further indicated that when he quit, exactly nobody in Baltimore's front office ever questioned him about the senior Ripken's dugout credentials.

Later, when Ripken was asked if he had ever applied for the post, Cal said: ``I didn't campaign for the job when Earl retired and I won't if he decides to retire again. I figure the front office knows where I am, and if they were to offer me that position, I'd take it.''

Asked to assess the red-hot American League East race as his second-place Yankees prepared to meet division-leading Toronto in a big four-game series starting tonight in New York, Manager Billy Martin told me: ``Well, I don't buy the general theory that just because Toronto has never been in a tight race before, and we have, that the Yankees should be favored. I'd say the Blue Jays are balanced enough to handle that.

``What their players might not be able to cope with mentally is the constant hassle of so much extra press that such a close fight might generate. They would have reporters poking questions at them constantly. In New York, and especially with us, that's second nature. But if this kind of constant harassment has never happened to you before, after a while it can get you so upset that it breaks your concentration.''

Eddie Haas, the 27-year organization man who was finally given a chance to manage the Atlanta Braves this season, has been fired by owner Ted Turner, who once tried piloting the Braves himself for 24 hours. One of the biggest criticisms of Haas was his failure to get more from super reliever Bruce Sutter, who was sometimes ignored in clutch situations while Eddie relied unsuccessfully on lesser talent. Atlanta coach Bobby Wine, who was named interim manager by Turner, probably gets to keep the j ob only if Ted isn't able to pry former Braves' pitcher Phil Niekro away from the Yankees. San Francisco infielder-outfielder Joel Youngblood believes many of today's players were introduced to cocaine while playing winter ball in Latin American countries. ``I think a lot of it started in Venezuela, which is right next to Colombia,'' Youngblood told the New York Times. ``If you don't speak the language, what else is there to do except play ball and hang out by the pool? A lot of players were probably exposed to cocaine in that way and probably at prices far below what they would pay in the States.''

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