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October 20, 2011

Thoughts on the GM search and why Dipoto is the favorite

The Orioles have interviewed two candidates so far for the position vacated this month by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

Jerry Dipoto, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ senior vice president of scouting and player development, met with the interviewing committee Tuesday, and Tony LaCava, the Toronto Blue Jays’ assistant general manager and director of player personnel, met with the group Wednesday.

It’s been expected that the Orioles will interview a couple more, but you can basically take Florida Marlins assistant general manager Dan Jennings out of the conversation. The Marlins have pretty much denied permission to talk to him, though perhaps not formally yet.

Thad Levine, the Texas Rangers’ assistant general manager and a Northern Virginia native, could get an interview, but he’s obviously a little busy right now with his Rangers and the World Series.

No matter who else comes in -- if anyone -- I think it will likely come down to Dipoto and LaCava. Both are well-respected and highly coveted options – MLBTradeRumors.com ranked Dipoto as No. 1 and LaCava as No. 6 in its prospective GMs list – and both have interviewed for other GM jobs in the past.

The Orioles couldn’t go wrong with either. Both are originally East Coast guys: Dipoto is from New Jersey, and LaCava is from, and still lives in, Pittsburgh. Both have backgrounds in scouting and development, which the Orioles could desperately use.

And both seemingly want this job, with its warts and all. There are only 30 such positions in baseball, and both of these guys have waited their turns and desire an opportunity to implement their own policies and strategies in hopes of turning around a once-proud franchise.

Dipoto probably gets the edge, though, because he is a former big leaguer and has previously held a GM position, albeit on an interim basis. During his two-month stint last year, he made a couple of gutsy trades that helped Arizona land pitchers Daniel Hudson (for Edwin Jackson) and Joe Saunders and top prospect Tyler Skaggs (in a package for Dan Haren).

Although he’s never worked with Showalter, Dipoto played against Showalter-led teams in New York and Arizona while he was with the Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and Cleveland Indians. They didn’t overlap with the Diamondbacks, but they have mutual friends who did. So each should have a good idea what makes the other tick.

Dipoto also will be interviewed by the Los Angeles Angels for their vacant GM job, but – and this will sound strange to Orioles fans – it’s conceivable that Dipoto would prefer this one. Yes, the Angels are better and aren’t in the American League East.

But they, too, have an owner and a manager with strong personalities and a farm system that has been depleted. They have a larger payroll but also are stuck with some bad contracts. Certainly, they are much closer to winning, but that may not be as appealing to a first-time GM like Dipoto (or LaCava) as you’d imagine. Unlike managers and players, GMs like implementing their own visions – and that’s much easier to do with a club in need of a true rebuild. And, let’s face it, the Orioles need to undergo a fairly extensive rebuilding effort, especially in the minors.

And here is something that can’t be discounted: The Angels are rumored to be interviewing a boatload of top candidates. The process could take a while and, just by sheer numbers, Dipoto has a lesser chance of landing that one. The Orioles right now are at two candidates, likely won’t go much higher than that, and have shown a willingness to get this done sooner than later. So Dipoto, conceivably, could have an offer in hand from the Orioles while waiting on the Angels’ next move. And it’s often better to have an Oriole in hand …

I know you’ve heard that “sooner than later” nonsense before. And the Orioles rarely do anything swiftly. But, remember, when the club hired MacPhail, it was done by Peter Angelos in a clandestine weekend.

Plus, there’s a PR slant to this for a team that could wear bridesmaid uniforms on the field for its legion of near misses. How bad would it look if the Orioles truly want Dipoto, drag their feet and then he goes to the Angels? Have you seen that movie before?

So I wouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles made a move quickly. Maybe even agreeing to a contract with someone before the World Series ends – even if the announcement came later.

And I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that person is Dipoto.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (22)
        

Comments

Dan - You said Dipoto is the clear favorite but the O's would also be fortunate to have Lacava too. Being there won't be too many other interviews, does that mean the Orioles already knew who they wanted to begin with? Anyway, I find Lacava interesting because he's a former scout who is big into using advanced statistics. Kind of a strange paralell.

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Dave, no insight on that. I just think Dipoto is more likely to get the job. When that emerged, I don't know. But, again, I don't want to discount LaCava, who as you point out is an excellent candidate too.

I have never understood why you'd think (as expressed in the past) that someone would be reluctant to take the Orioles GM position. What's to lose? The Orioles are pretty close to the bottom. They can only get better(or stay the same); results can't get much worse. McPhail made some good trades but, for the team, there's so much room for improvement. I would think the Orioles would be appealing, especially for a newly-minted GM.

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Except some look at it as an impossible situation where good baseball men have failed in the past 14 seasons. True, there is nowhere to go but up, unless there is nowhere to go at all. Ultimately, there are 30 GM positions. So, given that, they are all desirable jobs.

No attempted humor. No top ten. This time. But some random thoughts on two men I know nothing about.

What does an assistant GM do during a World Series that makes him "a little busy right now"? I realize asking for permission during the post-season is bad form, but I would almost think there would be a certain degree of down time, too.

Why is being a former major leaguer an advantage? The Orioles had two in their own front office once upon a time -- Frank Robinson and Mike Flanagan -- and that seemed to go nowhere. I'm not sure there would be that long of a list of former major leaguers turned successful GM's.

From your descriptions of the two men, I would give LaCava the edge. Both men have dabbled in farm system development but LaCava has vast experience as a scout. That should give him an edge in knowing what he's looking for from a team of scouts. If he has received kudos for international scouting, that certainly gets my attention.

There are two other elements I have to wonder about. One, an edge seems to be given to Dipoto because he and Showalter may know how each other ticks. Perhaps. But is that really an advantage? I have to think the interviewing process should shed more light on the potential communication process.

Two, while both men may prefer the Oriole job over others for your stated reasons (which make sense, by the way), wouldn't LaCava's dealings within the AL East pose as a built-in advantage?

Dipoto pulling off two trades in two months -- as an interim, no less -- certainly makes him desireable in my book. MacPhail has been discussed to death but I must point out he usually gets his highest marks for his trades. I always thought that was rather short-sighted because there were so few of them. To me, this is his biggest plus.

On the other hand, I like in addition to LaCava's personal experience, his reported affinity for statistics. Mark Twain had no use for it (luckily for all that he was, he didn't need to), but it takes the right person to understand stats and put them into a context. Just saying, "Oh, goody, he's got 38 HR's," isn't actually painting a complete picture.

Both seem like good men. We all know the x-factors involved. But one last thought -- Why is being a so-called bridesmaid such a bad thing? Two examples: The Ravens could be stuck with Jason Garrett ... The Orioles signed Albert Belle as a knee-jerk reaction to Rafael Palmeiro returning to Texas.

Don't get me wrong. This team shouldn't dawdle on hiring. An overlap with the new hire and MacPhail would also be preferred. If one of these guys stands out, toss him the keys. If both do, choose one. Interviewing six or eight people just for the sake of numbers doesn't make sense.

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Wasp: Good post as always. So much here hard to comment on all. But three points.

1. Maybe "busy" is the wrong word. Let's say Levine is a little bit "distracted" right now with the Rangers in the World Series. If they want to talk to him, it'd probably be best to wait a week or so.

2. I'm not saying big-league playing experience is key for a GM, but it is one thing that Buck Showalter dosn't bring to the table. And last year the 6 top members of the club's front office had no big-league playing experience. Being able to add that is not crucial, but it is a nice caveat when no one else has it among the decision-makers.

3. LaCava is an excellent candidate as well. If they hire one of these two, they've landed a good baseball man. Whether he has success here is an unknown.

Not a very good Photoshop job on the picture!

After the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series, they slumped badly for a few years. But as their great performance this year shows, their front office knows how to rebuild. The caveat is that the D-backs rebuilt under competent ownership, which is not a factor in the Os equation

But,will he take the job,if it's offered to him?

Why isn't John Hart in the equation?

Would you want a job riding a bicycle if you knew that someone was riding alongside ready to put a stick in your spokes? Just the knowledge it has happened before and could possibly happen again would deter all except the desperate.

Dan,

What about that asian woman (im blanking on the name) in the Dodgers organization? I hear she's top notch! Why hasn't she gotten any consideration?
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She's actually w MLB now. And I dont know why certain people haven't gotten consideration, I just haven't heard her name in conjunction with the Orioles

Dan,

I respectfully have to say that I believe you're way off in your claim that Dipoto may prefer this job over the Angels job. Your points about their farm system are valid, but its no worse than the situation here. Baseball America has them listed 15, O's at 21. Plus, they have some of their top prospect in the bigs already (i.e. Trout) as opposed to us having Machado, Bundy etc still awhile away.

Yes bad contracts, notably the Wells contract, but so do the O's in Markakis and the Angels are much more capable of swallowing a bad deal like that.

Plus, Arte Moreno a respected owner. Peter, definitely not. Even though Moreno is strong headed, he's shown the willingness to do anything to win. Dipoto wouldn't have to worry about his owner vetoing a trade as Peter has been known to do.

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We'll see. If Dipoto is offered and taks the job -- before the Angels make a decision -- you owe me a soda. Cool?

I appreciate your article, but it seems to be wishful thinking that Dipoto would prefer the O's to the Angels. Over the last eight years the Angels are in a virtual tie with the Red Sox as the second winningest franchise in all of baseball behind the Yankees. The Angels won 86 games and had the best pitching staff in the American league, and that staff looks to be better next year. They get MVP candidate Kendrys Morales back. next season. They have the number one rated prospect in baseball in Mike Trout. And their minor league system is depleted at triple-A, but the lower levels are loaded with high end talent that include power hitting CJ Cron, a left handed pitcher hitting 102MPH, Segura a five tool shortstop, and many more. He would be operating in a large market and easier division than the east. I do believe the Angels will lean toward Oppenheimer from the Yankees and Kin Ng, possibly the first female GM. I think the O's best chance is to make a strong offer now and turn the pressure up on Dipoto. Does he want to risk not being offered the Angel job? As you suggest, he has to battle much more competition. I do wonder why the O's aren't interviewing all the top tier candidates, of which there are many. Any insight in to why they are so sure bout these two individuals?

I agree whole heartedly with pat! My biggest problem with this interview process is that is has apparently turned into a “Match Race”. You ask what a “Match Race” is, well I will tell you. A Match Race is a race between two competitors; typically it happens between two “Outstanding Horses”. The last one I think of was the race between Foolish Pleasure and Ruffian which was a long time ago. I am not going to tell you what happened to “Poor” Ruffian except to say it wasn’t good. Anyway, back to baseball. These two gentlemen could very well be the answer to the Orioles woes! Unfortunately, they are woefully inexperienced and even have less experience in dealing with someone like Angelos. I will end this by saying, they really need to go out and find some more participants in this silly little game that they have created here in “Birdland”. I don’t care what kind of sorcery they can perform; they have one giant road block with Angelos. If Pat Gillick (An Exalted Sorcerer) meaning he had the ability to use the highest of all forms of sorcery and he couldn’t solve Angelos! What makes you think LaCava or Dipoto can? I mean we can't even find a half way decent third base coach for cripes sake!

would signing either as a declared GM mean that angelos no longer disapproves of that label? would it mean that he is really handing over the keys for a major, organization-wide overhaul? if so, i'd be thrilled.

You're on.

As strange as this opinion may seem I believe the Orioles should look strongly at the applicant who is working for the team with the best current minor league players.

Remember how MacPhail kept plucking guys from the Cubs and Twins? I am not necessarily suggesting doing that; I am suggesting that it is a natural phenomenum for a new GM to go where he is most knowledgeable and that would be his current team.

So, which of these teams has the next Jim Palmer stuck down in the minors?

The Os would only be appealing to a prospective GM, if the candidate understands that he has to build his team without money. He can't come in the door believing that he'll be able to do whatever is necessary to improve. Not many trade chips, unless you're looking at Markakis, Reynolds, or maybe Luke Scott.

Won't matter who is GM. When owner does not spend $$$, you don't win in AL East. Plain and simple. I think my kids will grow old before the Orioles are .500.
I feel sorry for what Dipoto is about to experience in Baltimore if he makes the foolish decision to work for PA. PA is a cheapskate. PA, you can't take it with you. Are You just saving it for your kids?

Dan, you're spot on. What other people fail to realize is that, especially for a new GM, guys often want to go where they can make the biggest difference - and by extension, get the most credit. It's not necessarily about ego, but it is about making a name for yourself and earning a respected reputation.

If DiPoto goes to the Angels (which he may), he'll be expected to win - in Baltimore, expectations are low, so if DiPoto turns this team around, he's gonna get HUGE praise and credit for it. And if they don't go anywhere - well, he's got a built in excuse that it's the O's and they've always failed before.

If I was going to be a coach or GM, I'd want to go where the biggest challenge was; where I could make the biggest difference and show people how good I was at my job. That's a big reason why Showalter's here, and that may be enough to sway a top-notch candidate.

Can you please not show Angelos' face anymore? Some of us are either eating, have eaten before, or might eat sometime in the future.

Dan,

Doesn't the idea of being "the guy" who turns around the O's add to the appeal to this job? Jerry Dipoto played ball so he's competitive and so is Buck. They both know that this town is dying and I mean dying to see the O's return to the top. It does sound like both men are capable, but those two trades that Dipoto made were gutsy like you said and make an impact so he's not afraid to gamble. The GM and Buck are going to have to be creative to get this team to the top.

Dan, I was also curious if you think the awful ratings and attendance will prompt P.A. to open up the purse strings? The Yanks are the Yanks, but ARod is not looking too good at 3B and if CC walks, the staff isn't that promising plus the Sox have their own issues and in reality the Sox have some bad contracts too so being competitive isn't a pipe dream in my eyes IF this team can spend some money to fill the gaps.

I feel Dipoto or Lacava would be good but would also love to see Levine interview too if they wait that long. IS there any chance one gets chosen and another given a lucrative contract to help improve the scouting and player developement?? NO big secret we need much more than a one man overhaul especially to replace Jordan and expand our scouting domestic as well as international..

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I cant see those guys leaving their current posts -- or being able to have permission to leave their posts -- for a job other than GM.

hope this dosent last as long as the coaching stafe did last year hire dipoto my nine 4 next year jj nick jones reynolds davis wieters reimold roberts or andino pick up a first or third baseman reynolds or davis dh davis next year 280/25/90

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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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