About five or six years ago, I used to defend Peter Angelos. Why? Because unlike David Glass or Jeffrey Loria, I appreciated that Angelos was willing to spend money on the team. In the late 1990s, the O's payroll was near the top. And in 2004, the O's went on a spending splurge to land Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, and Rafael Palmiero. After (correctly) nixing the David Wells trade in 1996, Angelos has felt justified in viewing his "baseball minds" with a degree of skepticism. As a result, he's been a famously meddlesome owner by overruling moves made by his GM. Whether it was signing Albert Belle or trading away Denny Bautista for Jason Grimsley, Angelos has been viewed as an unnamed assistant GM. His decision to remove several loyal employees is another source of derision. Whether it's Pat Gillick, Jon Miller, or Frank Wren, Angelos drove away good baseball people. I certainly didn't approve of any of this behavior by Angelos, but I thought his meddlesome ways were a bit overwrought. And l can at least understand the impulse to work with people you get along with even if I didn't agree with his personnel moves. After hiring Syd Thrift, concern emerged over whether Angelos could hire anyone of substance. He then hired Mike Flanagan/Jim Beattie/Jim Duquette to make player personnel decisions, and at the time, I wasn't sure if these fine men would make good baseball executives. Unfortunately, they didn't work out so Angelos turned over the reins to Andy MacPhail. Now Jon Heyman, along with a number of other sources, is reporting that Andy MacPhail will step down after the season after unsuccessfully rebuilding the team. Beyond this news, Heyman's column contains some interesting tidbits for conversation. The obvious conclusion regarding the O's GM situation is that Angelos is incapable of hiring and keeping someone of substance. He's hired people of substance in the past. Gillick and Wren were excellent hires. Unfortunately, they couldn't get along with Angelos. Now with another GM getting ready to take over the reins, Heyman's column serves as a good jumping point to discuss the O's current situation.
But the real question now is the interesting one: Will anyone of stature take such a job?
"Who'd want it?'' wonders one high-ranking baseball person.
Despite Angelos, I just wanted to quickly say that the O's job is still a highly sought after job. There are only 30 GM jobs. Besides the top of the top blue chippers like Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman, and Brian Cashman, let's the dispel the notion that a lot of executives with stature in the industry wouldn't jump at the chance to run the O's.
MacPhail, a true pro, is a loss. But he really never had a chance from the start.
Now that I'm off the first page, I can say give me a fucking break. MacPhail has had as much as a fair shot as anyone else. That doesn't mean the economic structure under which he works under is egalitarian. It isn't. But he's had as much as a fair chance as Andrew Friedman and Alex Anthopoulos who have coaxed more wins out of their teams despite about equal or less resources.
Showalter is entrenched, at least for the time being. So the new GM would presumably be caught in the same spot as MacPhail, between the overbearing owner and his current favored son (not to mention Angelos' real two sons, who are sometimes involved, as well).
So it's no surprise that the latest buzz going around Baltimore is that perhaps Angelos, understanding his options may be limited and knowing he trusts Buck, may simply expand Showalter's powers to include the GM duties.
It's amazing the power Showalter has acquired despite accumulating a 66-96 record. In most industries, results play a strong role in dictating promotions and given influence. Showalter's results have been quite poor, but, despite that fact, he's managed to acquire quite a bit of power in the organization through his political skills. His power is so great that, according to Heyman, Angelos may curtail the pool of potential GM candidates to simply accommodate a manager who's been quite poor. This is simply.... FUCKING STUPID. That said, Heyman thankfully says the odds of Buck becoming GM is slim.
But Angelos' respect for his manager is immense, and it has been said by multiple insiders that Showalter was actually the managerial choice of Angelos when MacPhail was said to be leaning toward Eric Wedge, who was also sought by the Pirates and eventually hired by the Mariners.
I haven't heard this before, and this is quite interesting news. Heyman is essentially implying that Angelos overruled Andy in hiring Buck over Eric Wedge. We've heard that MacPhail has had complete authority over baseball decisions, and I think this is mostly true. But it appears Petey is still up to his shitty ass ways.
But among the most qualified GM candidates, it's questionable whether anyone would take the O's job. According to one talent evaluator, "They are fifth in talent in their division in the majors, and fifth in the minors, too.'' The bigger issue, though, may be Angelos, whose reputation for over-involvement seems to be discouraging the most obvious name candidates.
Unfortunately, there are two types of candidates who will take the O's GM job - (1) someone who already has an established relationship with Angelos (e.g., an internal hire, Flanagan, and MacPhail) or (2) a young up and comer who is blocked at his or her organization and who is quite frankly a little desperate, crazy, and/or naive (Frank Wren circa 1998).
So Ripken appears to be out.
Heyman also discounts John Hart and Cashman. Frankly, I'm fine with discounting them except maybe Cashman.
One option could be well-regarded young Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, a Baltimore product. Showalter is expected to have big input in the GM hire, at the very least, and it isn't known how he would react to the appointment of someone from the regime that ousted Showalter in Texas (one person said that Showalter isn't known to have any issues with Levine, though).
If Levine is anything like Jon Daniels, I think he will be a great hire. And perhaps Levine is just hungry and crazy enough to work with Angelos like Wren before him. I don't see this as a likelihood outcome at all. Recently, Robothal wrote the following.
That is Angelos' pattern - he knew MacPhail from their work together in the 2002 and '06 labor negotiations. And, according to one source, Angelos is not especially well-versed with the current crop of GM candidates. When asked about former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes and Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, Angelos essentially replied, "Who?" the source said.
Angelos is essentially unaware of the players in an industry in which he owns a team. That's sad. I predict the O's will promote someone internally for the GM job. Recently, Camden Depot mentioned Matt Klentak as a GM candidate. That's where my money is at right now. As John wrote in that post, who the hell is Klentak is a good question. But he appears a likely fit given the situation. And really, it's the situation that I wanted to write about. Regardless of who Matt Klentak is, it's the process that we used arrive at him that's disturbing as hell and why the Orioles will never field a contender while Peter Angelos is the owner. Petey simply needs to go and go fast. But by playing armchair psychologist, I'm guessing his pride is on the line. If the O's were coming off a playoff appearance, I think Angelos could entertain retirement knowing that he left the team in good shape. Instead, he's well aware that his legacy will read as the person who ruined baseball in Baltimore. He's never going to retire with that tagline. I don't know what to say other than that we're fucked. And it's really frustrating to write that. We're tired of losing. We're tired of watching other teams hire young and smart GM and go on to achieve success like the Rays and Rangers. Needless to say, I'm frustrated. Matt Klentak is hopefully a diamond in the rough. At this point, he's our only hope.