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August 31, 2011

MacPhail, speculation and a green-cheese moon

There was a little bit of buzz Tuesday night after a story ran on USA Today’s website that Andy MacPhail has made the decision on his future but won’t reveal it until the end of the season.

The story sources two high-ranking Orioles officials that say MacPhail plans to leave after his contract expires Oct. 31.

MacPhail basically told the paper, “We’ll see” when asked about his decision.

Well, here’s my take. It is speculation. And it is also exactly what we all expect – what we have expected (and written) for months. There’s been no real change here.

MacPhail is not showing his hand. But it would be a surprise if he returned to his post. There’s been conjecture that maybe he takes another, less visible role with the Orioles. But I think the safe money has always been on MacPhail leaving altogether. And, remember, this would not be resigning, it would be not re-upping for another contract.

When we approached MacPhail tonight to see if anything had changed, he dismissed the report as speculative – even with two anonymous sources.

“You can get two sources to say the moon is made of green cheese,” MacPhail said.

Classic Andy.

To recap, from today and the last couple of months, MacPhail isn’t expected back. But he won’t make anything official until later this season – or after it. Say what you want about MacPhail’s tenure here, but I’ve always found him true to his word. So he won’t be officially revealing anything until he decides it is appropriate.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 12:41 AM | | Comments (30)


MacPhail will stay as President of Baseball Operations and a new GM will be hired underneth of him

He won't be fired, his contract will just be renegotiated.

MacPhail leaves with a mixed record, but ultimately a big failure.

He made four excellent trades, but that was it.

He failed to turn the club around, mainly because he refused to overhaul the scouting and player development departments.

Drafting Matt Hobgood alerted the whole town as to how pathetic the scouting in this organization is. And Brian Matusz's incredible collapse alerted the whole town as to how pathetic player development is - Matusz, more than anyone else, tanked the season.

Why were these utter disasters allowed to happen? And why did everyone in Baltimore know what these things meant except for Andy? That was when he should have struck quickly and cleaned house.

The fan base reluctantly but faithfully signed on to another rebuilding effort. And now we will be asked to do so again. Truth be told, many of us are simply too tired of - or getting to old to be - playing this game over and over again.

Hey Jeff ... Do you think Klendek is in the mix for GM job??

Jeff Z's reply: I would think he'll be in mix, but I don't know the likelihood of it.

if you're just looking at wins-losses then MacPhail has not been successful.

If you're just looking at minor league player development then MacPhail has not been successful.

If you're just looking at fan confidence and commitment then MacPhail has not been successful.

If you're just looking at professional opinions on the Orioles organization as a whole around the league and among respected evaluators/scouts then MacPhail has not been successful.

If you're looking for a positive attitude on a team that has been a loser for 14 years then MacPhail has not been successful.

Yeah, I think even Angelos can figure this one out. It is time Cal Ripken Jr. stepped up to the plate.

Really, who cares?

Yawn...... next. I can't see Showalter taking this position unless he's in a drunken stuper. I don't think he's qualified anyway, look at the coaching staff he selected to start the year, ineffective pitching coach quits in early season, third base coach without a clue gets pulled and stuck in the dugout to minimize harm, position coaches fail to teach basics leading to many major gaffs. In short, his Texas "good ole boys" network sucked.

Add to the fact Angelos still owns the team and the downward spiral of a once proud franchise goes deep into the abyss.

Hey Angelos, want to save the franchise for Baltimore? Sell it or become a responsible community aware owner who invests in the team, hire a CEO with good people evaluation skills ( the scouting department and farm system need to rebuilt from the ground up) and maybe create a position in the organization to bring in a fan in to gain a perspective of what they are thinking/feeling (I'm available).

Again I ask, why Ripken? He has no experience running a major league baseball team, he's never been in a front office, he's never had to negotiate a player contract or make a trade. Yes, he does bring some cache, there are people around here who think he's God on earth. I'm not one of them.

If the moon were made of barbeque spare ribs, would you eat it? It's a simple question, Dan. A baby could answer it!

Many have given Andy grief because the Os are still not a winning team. He took over a disaster and put us much closer to success. I had thought he wanted to leave for other reasons - son on the west coast.

A good candidate would be Mark Shapiro - currently GM of the Indians. A Baltimore guy who has been successful might be lured back by old bay and a team that is ready to blossom.

Among Andy's biggest failures was failing to ignite any new interest from the fan base, which has been in a steady decline for a decade. This year's attendance is projected to be the lowest since 1979 at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles may slip to 27th overall out of 30 teams before 2011 is in the books. The fans have sensed his lack of urgency to turn things around and apparently the owner is satisfied just banking the MASN earnings. Andy will also leave behind many of the same systemic problems he inherited from a scouting and player development standpoint.

Of course we really don't know what resources he was working with and how much rope he was given. I have a hunch, or more of a hope that he was hired by Angelos as a bridge to the next owner, to try and make chicken salad out of chicken s*** for the last years of PA's ownership.

There could be a lot of changes coming with this franchise in the very near future.

Let's hope.

Hey Jeff,

I read that USA Today Article too and of course I don't believe everything i read or see. But Is Brian Cashman a legitimate candidate to come to Baltimore? I would consider that a coup if he did.

Jeff Z's reply: That would totally surprise me.

Not sure of the hierarchy w/the Os. Does Joe Jordan report to Andy McPhail or does he report to someone else? Basically I want to know if Andy leaves could that mean Jordan leaves too?

One of the issues (again) is the leadership of the farm system. Is it time that they separated the two departments (scouting and player development) and run by two individuals rather than the current one man system (a scouting director)?

I could never figure out if MacPhail was hired by Angelos because MacPhail - like Angelos - tends to do things on the cheap or if MacPhail was in any way restrained by Angelos from spending more freely and going after A-list free agents.

Either way, I doubt that whoever would replace MacPhail would be given carte blanche to spend enough to go after the better free-agent pitchers and hitters, so we'll be left with the same scenario of hoping a trade or two pays off and our young arms won't continue to regress. (Sigh)

Angelos and MacPhail have effectively turned the Orioles into a small-market team. Baltimore was competitive in the 90s, at one point being valued by Forbes as the second most valuable franchise and routinely maintaining high salaries. And that was before Angelos' extortion of MLB to given him majority ownership of a new regional sports network (MASN). Angelos and MacPhail's constant whining about the Orioles inability to spend like a top 10 franchise has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

It will be interesting to see how the O's spin the next GM to try to maintain fan support. We've already had the hometown hero-turned-executive in Flanagan, and MacPhail was (over-) pitched as a genius GM in the Moneyball mold. Fans have gone through numerous "rebuilding" efforts over the past 14 years, when we were told that the team was *now* on the right track and we just had to have patience through a few tough years.

Through it all, Angelos has not delivered and ultimately blame for the organization's continued failure must rest on him. The only way I see him avoiding a revolt is to make substantive commitments about spending levels, accountability/transparency, and meaningful organizational changes (canning everyone in scouting and development, building a real international presence, etc). It also wouldn't hurt to genuinely acknowledge the degree to which he's failed this city and its fans and apologize, and make some kind of gesture to indicate that he views the team's fanbase as more than dollar signs and is sincerely interested in rectifying the broken relationship between this organization and its fans. Lower ticket prices, opening the team's books, more fan access and ways to make the team's new leadership more transparent and accountable to fans would be a good start.

Failing that, I'm done with the Os until Angelos sells them. Let's hope the Sun takes more than a passive role with the Orioles this off-season, if there were ever a time for the Sun's writers to be more aggressive with the team it is now. If you don't ask the tough questions of Angelos/MacPhail and help prod him in the right direction, fan interest in the team will continue to spiral downward and I imagine that would have implications for your careers.

At the very least, I believe Andy McPhail gave the Orioles a much needed reality check and direction. We will never be able to compete with Yankees or Red Sox when it comes to spending. It is impossible.

The emphasis has to be shifted on drafting, player development, and international scouting. I believe Andy did that.

I hope Andy re-ups for another 3 years and sees this thing through.

Does it really matter? Bozo the clown could run the Orioles and get the same results.

Two things need to be done.

First we need to dump the current front office, but keep Showalter.

Secondly the new Gm is going to have to initially overpay potential free agents to get them to come here. We are going to have to bite the bullet the first year. Fielder an Cj
Wilson would be a nice start.

Once these guys sign that will open the gates for future stars to come here.

The philosophy of grown the arms an buy the bats has to go up in flames. Right now we need to buy everything

This all presumes Angelos would have Andy back. I think PA will use AM as a scapegoat for not winning on a shoestring budget. Even a great GM won't turn around the franchise until the purse strings are loosened.


Look at the players that the Red Sox have developed and sent to the bigs in the last 5 years compared to the O's. The Sox are several notches ahead in developing great MLB players AND they can outspend the O's on FA by a wide margin.

The O's are easily the worst team in the division in terms of developing MLB talent. MacPhail and/or his successor need to do much more in that regard for the O's to hope to get to playing .500 ball in the next decade.

The O's problems won't be solved by spending more on big time FA. They can't win that way.

The Rays spend less than the O's (by as much as half in some years) and still field playoff calibre teams.

re: "The philosophy of grow the arms and buy the bats has to go up in flames."

In my opinion, it was a reasonable plan that was just very poorly executed. However, I would hate to see the O's return to the days when they routinely traded their top pitching prospects (I recall the term "surplus") only to see them achieve big-time success elsewhere.

The big problem facing this franchise is to become relevant once again. Only winning will make that happen. Waiting for a miracle is NOT an option....the Nats are making serious noise right now down the road, and some of the DC market is vital to the future finances of the O's.

So, the only option is to go out and buy some current players in their PRIME. Not baseball card names who are done. This will most definitely require significant over-paying, but there is no other option while the team is re-building with prospects. Without some big-name talent, few fans will continue to come out to WAIT for the prospects to pan out. As long as fans are paying money TODAY to see a game, they want to see REAL TALENT TODAY, not just possible future stars.

Ripken for GM scares me.

But Ripken for Director of Player Development... THAT I can get behind.

i too think andy Macphail will not be around for next season. i sometimes wonder where these writers from other papers dream up their articles for the paper that employs them. i too would be quite surprised if he stays. why would he take a lower possiton with the orioles. my money is on andy being the next commission of baseball. on another subject for a moment. the idea of prince fielder comming to baltimore next year. IT AIN'T GOIN G TO HAPPEN. his agenet scott boras is going to want much more than he is worth and i do not see peter the great forking out that kind of money for a free agent.

@The Truth that is just “Crazy Talk”. What is wrong with you?
@ The blogger who thinks Cal Ripken is wrong for this team. I couldn’t agree more. As for me, I think if someone thinks they can do the job of GM, let them make application. The new “GM” should have the ability to clean house and bring in the people he/she wants. Make it like the California election where even Father Guido Sarducci aka Don Novello tried to become the next Governor. If he/she or someone like him/her wants to apply for the job let them do it. The only thing I ask of Peter Angelos or whomever the hiring makes sure the next GM is not only a good judge of talent, but also that person is a people person. We need Fannies in the seats in the worst way. The Orioles need players that can do that for us (Orioles Fans).

Cal Ripken is not the answer. Only an experienced GM with a proven track record and ability to interact with ownership will succeed.

Hey Jeff,

Thanks as always for your tremendous work. A couple quick questions: do you know the team that made the previous hiring decisions? Is there a change in that arena? Any word on the status of the Stockstills and Jordan?

I am not sure who is to blame for the O's failures under Andy MacPhail. I do know this, he has made some good trades and he has made some bad trades. I like Hardy, Reynolds, Adam Jones, Hunter. I do not like most of the relief pitchers he aquired other than Koji. In fact most of his trades have been fairly decent but his free agent acquisitions have been downright deplorable. There is a major flaw with player development. Hardly any of the draft picks have panned out, either they are not being developed properly or the scouting department has some major issues. Seeing as how the players drafted were high on everyone's list I think it is the latter. The fact that it wasn't addressed is another strike against Andy. I agree with most posters that Angelos is the main reason this team is in the condition it is in. I am not confident that any new GM will be able to do more than Andy has. I think more needs to be done with the conditioning of the players. We have had way too many injuries of the muscular type which tells me that conditioning is not being enforced to the degree it should. We have virtually no foreign scouting. I think in order for this team to go anywhere there needs to be some serious changes in the front office philosophy. The Orioles need to go after top free agents, they need a player development overhaul, and the scouting department needs to be overhauled. As stated most of the trades of the past four years have been really good. However a competetive team, let alone championship caliber, needs more than just good trades to achieve success. There is no reason that smaller market teams like the Rays, who are continually in a rebuilding mode, are able to achieve success at a higher rate than us with the amount of money this franchise brings in. In contrast teams like the Yankees and Red Sox who draft much lower in the draft than the Orioles are still able to stock their farm systems with much more talented players. They do spend more on free agents than we ever will, but they still develop their own players effectively and there is no excuse why we can't do the same.

I can't for the life of me understand how the front office can't figure out what is wrong with the organization when clearly most fans can point out the same faults I have just listed. Spending money on over the hill or third tier free agents is not the way to build a competetive team. Another concern of mine is that the manager, whom I like, seems to play players based on their salaries and not their performance. There is no reason that Kevin Gregg should be the closer when Jim Johnson is available to switch roles with him. I have seen many miscues with the third base coach sending players who shouldn't be running to home. Why is Vlad batting cleanup all season when it is clearly evident that he has no power left? This is not how winning teams conduct business. Some of these things have nothing to do with money, they are just poor decision making by the coaching staff. The same applied to Derrick Lee while he was here. Our 3 and 4 hitters shouldn't be hitting less homeruns combined than our number 2 hitter. The fundamentals of the game seem to have disapeared also. The defense has been atrocious most of the season. There are just so many things wrong that somehow it almost looks as if they are done on purpose, because nothing is being done to change the outcome. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, and this club is insane!

As long as Angelos and his family own and operate the team, it doesn't matter who is the GM. Think about Donald Sterling who owns the NBA LA Clippers and Mike Brown who owns the NFL Cincinnati Bengals. Because of these owners tightwad ways, every sports fan knows these 2 teams will NEVER be real competitive. Angelos is in the mold of these 2 guys. McPhail can stay or go, doesn't matter.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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