Flanagan speculation serves no good purpose
Let's not do this. Let's not spend today trying to figure out things that will never be truly ascertained. Let's not trivialize the tragic death of Mike Flanagan by trying to connect some sad dots to the dismal performance of the Orioles before, during and after he was the team's executive vice president/general manager. That's not fair to him and it's shows a lack of awareness of the more complex issues that always accompany this kind of tragedy.
There were multiple unconfirmed reports -- since confirmed by Sun sources -- that Flanagan's death was a suicide, so it didn't take long for the message boards and some commentators to begin speculating about the reasons that he might take his own life. The police have yet to release an official cause of death, but that hasn't kept the public conversation from turning in a seemingly obvious direction. Flanagan supposedly was despondent after losing his dream front office job and failing -- along with everybody else -- to save the deteriorating Orioles organization.
There's no question that Flanagan was devastated when the Orioles hired Andy MacPhail to replace him. Who wouldn't be? Long-time teammate and MASN broadcast colleague Rick Dempsey was the first to articulate that after the horrible news broke on Wednesday night, but Dempsey didn't draw any conclusion. He simply stated the fact that Flanagan had some trouble dealing with his rejection by the organization,
“I know he has gone through some tough times,’’ Dempsey said. “…I think he was very down about the GM job, but it seemed like he rallied when he got the (MASN) color job again.”
Though it's probably natural to try and find some simple explanation for such a horrible event, it doesn't serve any good purpose other than to confirm some preconceived notion that may or may not be valid.
The thing we know is that a good man is dead -- a good man who made the Orioles better as a player and tried to make them better as a front office executive. That should be how we remember him. We need to recognize that there are no easy answers. There are things we will never know and there are assumptions that we have no right to make.
I can't help but be reminded of the night in Toronto in 1989 when I heard the news that Angels relief pitcher Donnie Moore had shot himself. It was three years after he had given up the dramatic ALCS home run to Dave Henderson in 1986 that kept the Angels from locking up their first-ever trip to the World Series.
There was no question that Moore was damaged by that fateful pitch. He was booed loudly by Angels fans the following year and had just been released by the Kansas City Royals when he shot his wife and turned the gun on himself. There were all sorts of issues that contributed to his death -- both professional and personal -- but the media chose to focus on one bad split-finger fastball three years earlier. To this day, most people believe that Moore killed himself because he lost a baseball game.
I remember that night because I went down to the Angels clubhouse to get reactions from the players and veteran Brian Downing waved me and the other reporters off angrily, claiming that it was the media that was responsible for his death.
“You destroyed a man’s life over one pitch,'' Downing said. "The guy was just not the same after that."
No one could deny that Moore's life unraveled after the 1986 playoffs, but there have been plenty of dramatic moments in the history of sports and plenty of athletes who were on the wrong end of them. There were a lot of roads that led to Moore's tragic demise. Not just one.
Similarly, it's not right to look at the disappointing end of Mike Flanagan's front office career and blame it for what happened on Wednesday. We just look for easy answers when we know that we may never know the real ones.
Sun file photo by Gene Sweeney, Jr.