If a press conference can win a World Series title for a team, the Orioles are in good shape with their new general manager, Mike Elias. The fresh hire was as impressive as anyone could have hoped for in his Monday morning introduction to O’s fans and media. It’ll take more than just a good press conference to bring quality baseball back to Baltimore, of course. Elias gave every impression that he is going to be up to the task.
The whole thing was choreographed to present the idea that this is a new era in Baltimore. Even the staging of the chairs was more reminiscent of a coffee shop than anything. The sons of Peter Angelos, John and Louis, were on either side of Elias throughout the conference and in a departure from the usual atmosphere, there was no table between the reporters and the people answering the questions.
John Angelos, who opened the press conference by talking about the local ownership’s continuing hope that a winning Orioles team can make a positive impact in the community of Baltimore, called it “transparent.” There’s no doubt it was different.
Different is music to my ears after the way things have been over the past year, with the team sinking to new lows while stories trickled out of dysfunction in the front office, of backwards thinking, of a wide world of new analytics passing the Orioles by. The number one thing you need after losing 115 games is different, because the only way you lose 115 games is if almost everything goes wrong to begin with.
Though Elias sounded a note of caution that “it’s a process that doesn’t have a lot of shortcuts,” he laid out a simple plan that’s as exciting as you can get after the year we just watched. In his first remarks he set forth this goal: “We’re going to build an elite talent pipeline from the lowest rung, the Dominican Summer League, through Triple-A and on to the MLB roster here in Baltimore.”
As for how to accomplish that, although Elias did not dive very deep into the specifics, he expanded on the structure of his plan in a way that also sounds like music to my ears: “We’re going to embark on a large multi-pronged effort touching on every corner of baseball operations.” This included an increased emphasis on domestic and international scouting, player development, coaching, and analytics, with Elias and the Angeloses both emphasizing that they share that vision for improving the team.
Time will tell for how long it takes and how well it goes. It doesn’t take a very deep reading of Elias’s experience in baseball to realize that he’s been a part of this before, first with the Cardinals and then with the Astros, so his confidence that the process works and that he will be able to pull it off is something that’s easy to believe in.
Some of the responses to specific topics that came up in the media Q&A portion:
It’s not optional in today’s game. It’s a lot of advanced information. The trick is how you incorporate it so there’s not two different approaches going on. There’s going to be a lot of work in that area. (He later mentioned hiring people for positions that have not existed for this franchise previously.)
(specifically about hiring a manager) I think everyone at an upper level of baseball right now is aware of and current with the topic. This is not something that should come from an oblique angle and be separate from baseball decisionmaking. It’s something that all of the individuals need to incorporate in their decisions. There are a lot of good candidates out there today. I’d be surprised if any are not current with that approach.
On international spending
It’s very important. In this day and age of baseball you need to tap into every available avenue. That starts particularly in Latin America. We’ll be making additions to our international operation over the short term. Part of the attraction of (the Angelos family) to me in this job is that I was a sitting international scouting director. I have knowledge of the players out there and the agents and I can hit the ground running and pick up the phone to get us going.
(asked what it looks like to be “all in” on intl. scouting) Having a robust acquisition function in the international space is key. It’s not a matter of how many scouts but who they are and what they’re doing and how they’re equipped. It requires coordination with your player development apparatus in DR. You use the complex heavily as a scouting/recruiting tool. It’s neat how you can get your coaches involved in the up front evaluation. We’re going to do it the way that we know how to do it well.
On players already here
There are players on this team and in the organization right now who are going to be a part of the next playoff team. They’re here right now. On top of acquiring new talent, we’re going to do the best to improve the talent we have here right now.
(on the minors) There are good players here and there are more coming. As a scouting director I’m familiar with a lot of players in the system. There are future stars, really good pitchers. There’s more than enough here to work with.
(asked about Chris Davis specifically) To me, this lineup is at its best with a productive Chris Davis, a dangerous Davis int he middle of the lineup. I want to see that happen. He had a frustrating campaign this year. I think the chances are good of him bouncing back and improving upon that. I’m going to get involved in the work he’s doing this offseason. Any new ideas that we can provide to him to help him out, we’ll do our best to do that.
Use all the information available to us, combine it in a way that yields to the best possible decisions. Scouting information, performance information, medical information, makeup information, information that’s derived from technology, and funnel that into our decisionmaking process. If we adhere to our process, every pick won’t be perfect but over time your process will be better than the competitions.
On Brady Anderson
Neither Elias nor the Angelos brothers mentioned Anderson by name. Elias said that he’s talked to “most, if not all” of the remaining high-level executives and praised them collectively with “good work being done.” He noted in particular that he’d be leaning on the existing expertise to decide who to add to the 40-man roster, and who to remove, in order to set the roster before tomorrow’s deadline to protect Rule 5 eligible players from next month’s draft.
Asked directly about Anderson, John Angelos deflected somewhat, replying that the family and Elias “discussed all aspects of baseball operations in lengthy meetings we had.” He later noted that this ended up being 25-30 hours of meetings. I think it is safe to guess that a lot of specific topics came up in those meetings before Elias agreed to take the job, including Anderson and what he should and shouldn’t do.
As the transition period moves on, Angelos said, Elias will determine how the remaining people will make the best contribution to the franchise. Whether this means Brady is quietly shuffled out of the organization or if he’s placed in a position of more limited influence and reporting directly to Elias remains to be seen.
The entire press conference was about 45 minutes, and if you want to watch it for yourself, it is available on the Orioles YouTube page. (Conference starts at 2:30; h/t to commenter OEutaw)