''It ain't easy being a big league manager,'' said Earl Weaver, whose Baltimore Orioles have been underwhelming so far this year in the American League East. ''Every time we lose I take the game home with me and it drives me crazy.''
''People say that a manager is no better or worse than his players, but when the Orioles win I want some of the credit,'' said the man whose teams have finished either first or second in 20 of his last 23 years as a manager. ''I'm human. I got an ego and I like to see my name in the paper.
By the same token, when Baltimore loses he always blames himself.
''It's up to me to have the right people out there at the right time, and if I don't I'm not doing my job,'' Earl explained. ''I'm supposed to notice when a guy is hot and play him. If I send a man up in a bunting situation who can't execute, then it's my fault, not his.''
''You know, this isn't the first time in recent years that the Orioles have gotten away poorly,'' he continued. ''This was on my mind in spring training, to get everybody alert and ready, and then we don't do nothin'
''I'm tired of yelling at people, which is why I'm getting out at the end of the season. Meetings! I hate meetings. But I am having them all the time now with my players because you just can't sit there when you're not winning. Yout gotta do something.
''The other night I kept my pitchers around after the game until past midnight to talk about how important it is to get the ball over the plate. The next day they walked everybody in the ballpark.''
Asked if he had any idea what was wrong, Weaver replied: ''Yeah, that's all I got -- ideas. I guess part of the problem early was the weather. Like how do you maintain any kind of pitching staff when you play only seven games in 14 days?
''I don't think anything upsets a manager more than that. It means he's only able to give two of his pitchers their normal amount of rotation time, while the other seven sit there and rest.
You can send your starters to the bullpen and let 'em throw to a catcher all night and it won't do no good. You can order your pitchers on rainy days to go to a gym or go to the ballpark and throw under the stands, only that don't do no good either. Pitchers gotta work regularly or they lose their rhythm.''
Reminded that the entire left side of Baltimore's starting infield is new this year, meaning shortstop Lenn Sakata and rookie third baseman Cal Ripken , Weaver said: ''Writers tell me, 'Hey, Earl, you gotta be patient anytime you take a second baseman and move him to shortstop.' Let me tell you something: Sakata was a shortstop when Milwaukee brought him up and he got moved to second base because the Brewers already had an established pro there in Robin Yount. So don't tell me Sakata needs time to learn to play shortstop, when that's his natural position.
''I've got a kid at third in Ripken, who has made every rookie mistake in the book this season, and I've been criticized for staying with him so long. Only Ripken by himself ain't what's wrong with us. I'll sit him down at some point and maybe I'll even send him back to the minors like Stengel did with Mickey Mantle. But I can tell you that Ripken is eventually going to be a good one.''
Somehow the conversation drifted into other areas. Asked how a general manager knows when it's time to trade a veteran, Weaver said, ''There is really no answer to a question like that. Branch Rickey, when he was running the Cardinals and later the Dodgers, probably had the best idea. Branch would always get rid of a guy two or three years before he was supposed to go downhill , so he could always get something good for him in return either in the way of cash or young players.
''But at the same time, Rickey almost never did that unless he also had some kid in the minors who he knew was ready to step in and play regularly in the majors. The point is, some guys are done at 29 and some, like Pete Rose, never get old. In fact, we probably got rid of Frank Robinson too soon, only how do you ever really know?''
As for the popular guessing game as to whether Weaver really means it about quitting at the end of this season. . .
''Believe it,'' he told me, ''because it's going to happen. As far as the everyday stuff is concerned, I've had it with managing. Like I said before, you can only yell at people so long before you go nuts. I want to be a normal guy again, who sees his wife, his children, and his grandchildren regularly and who also plays a little golf.''
''I might ask Baltimore to let me do a couple of things for them,'' he added. ''If it looks like the Orioles are going to make the playoffs, I'd like the chance to scout the best National League teams for them over the last six weeks of the season. I'd also like to work with some of the new kids in spring training each year because I think I could help 'em.
''But after this year I ain't yellin at nobody no more.''