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Baseball’s Winter Meetings : Dodgers Still Have Sights Set on Murray

Times Staff Writer

Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ executive vice president, brought his pursuit of Baltimore Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray to this Civil War site Saturday night.

Claire arrived at baseball’s winter meetings in mid-evening and immediately went into a planning session with his staff of top scouts: Mel Didier, Jerry Stephenson, Steve Boros and Phil Regan.

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda is expected to arrive from a trip to the Dominican Winter League today, when the Dodgers are expected to resume negotiations with the Orioles amid an atmosphere that most officials here believe will ultimately bring Murray to his hometown of Los Angeles.

The feeling is that the Orioles remain determined to dump Murray and his $8-million salary over the next 3 years. And Claire’s comment Friday that he has become discouraged about the prospect of a deal was simply a ploy to put more pressure on the Orioles.

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There is also the feeling here, supported by Oriole officials who requested anonymity, that Claire, knowing he is the only bidder for Murray, did indeed make an 11th-hour request for Pete Stanicek or another player in addition to Murray.

Oriole General Manager Roland Hemond refused comment on that Saturday night, but he confirmed that the one hangup is a lack of agreement on players.

“A lot of names have come in and out and that’s what has led to the lengthy conversations,” he said. “There’s been times in the past week when we’ve been relatively close (to a deal), but we haven’t got it done.”

Does he remain encouraged?

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“Well,” he said, “if Fred isn’t, maybe I shouldn’t be.”

Several things are involved from the Orioles’ standpoint, including an attempt to lower the payroll to attract prospective buyers after the recent death of team owner Edward Bennett Williams.

Beyond that, of course, a once proud club is making a legitimate attempt to rebuild from a series of disastrous seasons. In 1988, with the 32-year-old Murray hitting 28 home runs and driving in 84 runs, the Orioles still lost 107 games. Obviously, there is a need to go in a different direction, and the Orioles have been traveling it.

Since the end of spring training, they have traded or released 10 veterans who totaled 106 years of major league experience and earned $8.85 million in 1988.

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Among them are Fred Lynn ($1.54 million), Scott McGregor ($1 million), Tom Niedenfuer ($875,000), Mike Boddicker ($850,000) and Don Aase ($675,000).

If Murray, who is guaranteed $2.5 million, $2.7 million and $2.8 million over the next 3 years, is traded, only Cal Ripken Jr. will remain from the team that won the 1983 World Series.

Murray has reportedly wanted out since Aug. 22, 1986, when he made his first trade request. Agent Michael Maas has said Murray has already given approval to a trade to the Dodgers.

If dissatisfied before, what would Murray’s attitude be if he has to return to Baltimore after getting so close to his hometown this winter? That is one more pressure on the Orioles, one more reason for the feeling here that the Dodgers won’t leave without him.

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Murray, however, is not the Dodgers’ only pursuit. The Dodgers, rebuffed by Steve Sax, Tom Herr and Ron Oester, will also be looking for a second baseman, but the situation isn’t promising.

Only Jim Gantner, expected to re-sign with the Milwaukee Brewers; the New York Yankees’ Willie Randolph, coming off two injury-riddled seasons and now considered brittle at 34; and Glenn Hubbard, released by the Oakland Athletics and of no interest for the Dodgers, a club source said, remain as free agents.

Among the second basemen thought to be available by trade are the New York Mets’ Wally Backman and Tim Teufel, the Cincinnati Reds’ Jeff Treadway, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Manny Lee and, perhaps, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Juan Samuel, though the price for Samuel is likely to be prohibitive.

“I’d have to say that second base looks like a real sore spot,” a Dodger source said. “I’d have to say that it looks like Mariano Duncan by default, and you know how Tommy (Lasorda) feels about Duncan.”

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Duncan, it will be recalled, repeatedly called Lasorda a liar last spring after being promised, Duncan said, a shot at second base with Sax being moved to third, an experiment that never developed. It may be necessary for both Lasorda and Duncan to swallow their distaste for each other.

It is not certain yet that a meeting of National League owners here Monday and Tuesday will produce the election of a president to succeed A. Bartlett Giamatti, who is succeeding Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.

This much seems certain:

The search committee is dedicated to nominating Phyllis Collins, the league’s longtime vice president and secretary, or one of the two leading black candidates:

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--Simon Gourdine, former deputy commissioner of the National Basketball Assn. and now director of labor relations for the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority.

--Gilroye A. Griffin Jr., a lawyer and labor relations expert who is vice president of Bristol-Myers Co.

Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, head of the search committee, said the committee is still interviewing candidates and has followed the same affirmative action process as his own organization now does.

“I’ve said this many times now,” he said. “Before anyone is hired, we will actively seek minority representatives. That doesn’t mean we will fill every position with a minority, but we will follow the process and choose the person best qualified for the position.”

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