CLEVELAND - For eight months, it was the best-kept secret in all of baseball. John Hart decided last August he was going to step down from his post as general manager with the Indians, but an intimate and very tight-lipped circle of Cleveland executives never let word of the impending move leak out.
“It was a very small group who knew - just four people from the organization,” Tribe vice president and public relations director Bob DiBiasio said yesterday. “Many of the people inside the club were just as surprised by the announcement as everyone else was. It was a well-kept secret.”
Many looked for signs of a rift between Hart, who built the Tribe into one of baseball's best, and team owner Larry Dolan. Dolan had described the team's handling of contract negotiations with fan favorite Sandy Alomar, who ended up with rival Chicago as a free agent over the winter, this way: “We blew it.”
But Dolan vehemently denied any trace of bad blood between the two. So after the search for other possible reasons behind Hart's move came up empty, it looks like he just wanted out of his $800,000 a year job.
“There is no burnout,” Hart said. “The passion is still there.”
Hart, who never made a secret of his dislike for the Cleveland winters and his love of Florida's warmth, said he expects to spend more time in the Sunshine State when he moves out of the GM's office and into his role as special advisor to the team following the end of the season.
“I'm sure I'll spend a great deal of the winter in Florida now,” he said. “There will definitely be more sand between my toes.”
“I don't know what happened,” Manuel said. “Something might be wrong. I'm a little worried about him.”
Fryman started the season on the disabled list after suffering a sprained ligament in his elbow in spring training. Manuel originally expected Fryman to make the two rehab starts in Buffalo and return to Cleveland for possible activation for today's game with the Orioles.
Manuel said Fryman will sit out for three or four days, then be re-evaluated.