« Faceoff: Debate the state of the Orioles | Main | A run for the bonuses »

Syd Thrift and drafting pitchers

In a post yesterday, I used a throwaway line, mentioning that under Syd Thrift, the Orioles drafted a string forgettable pitching prospects. I got curious later and did a bit of research on Thrift's draft history.

I'd thought Hayden Penn (traded yesterday to the Marlins, in case you forgot) was the last pitcher in the organization drafted by Thrift. Turns out, I was wrong.

Because you're the curious sort: Thrift oversaw the drafting of about 200 pitchers in his eight seasons with the Orioles. The only ones remaining with the organization today are: Jim Johnson (fifth-round pick in 2001) and Kyle Schmidt (who was selected in 29th round in '01 but didn't sign until the Orioles drafted him again in 2004 ... so I'm not sure he counts.)

The impressive list, plus a couple of cool things from the archives are below.

OK, before I get to the list of drafted pitchers, I was delving through our archives and reading up a bit on Thrift, who passed away a couple of years ago.

Thrift joined the Orioles in 1995, charged with player development and the farm system. Here's what John Steadman wrote in the Sun the day Thrift was introduced: "In Thrift, the Baltimore Orioles have made what could be one of their most significant signings in the history of the franchise. As he was introduced as the club's new director of player development, his persona suggested something akin to the second coming of Branch Rickey, who had an impact on baseball that few other executives have ever had."

In that same day's paper, Ken Rosenthal saw things differently. Here's an excerpt from his column:

The banker hired the farm director. That's what happened, and don't anyone deny it. Joe Foss, Orioles vice-chairman of business and finance, just appointed himself minister of baseball.

You should have seen Foss at yesterday's news conference, gazing at Syd Thrift as if he were Marilyn Monroe. No one in the front office wanted Thrift, but what do those silly baseball people know?

"It's our intent to make major strides in improving our farm system," Foss proclaimed, neglecting to mention that the system was progressing just fine under the evil Doug Melvin.

...The issue is not Thrift's ability -- he possesses one of the game's sharpest minds. And it's not his senior-citizen status, though the new front office motto should be, "Don't trust anyone under 55."

The issue is Thrift's train-wreck personality. Club officials know his history. They fear he'll be self-centered, egotistical, and potentially even a back-stabber.


Rosenthal's column prompted a two-page press release the next day from Peter Angelos:

The recent selection of Syd Thrift as Director of Player Development has given rise to uninformed, unfounded, and, in my judgment, malevolent speculation on the part of certain members of the press as to Mr. Thrift's role in the Orioles organization. To suggest that Mr. Thrift is going to usurp the role of the General Manager or Assistant General Manager is both irresponsible and juvenile.

...How can a responsible newspaper allow one of its so-called columnists, who is nothing more than a character assassin and name caller, to write such vitriolic nonsense, hiding behind unnamed 'club officials' for his cover.

...The brickbats thrown at [Foss] were absolutely misdirected and offensive in the extreme. Those particular comments represent the caterwaulings of an insolent twit whose journalistic fulminations vilify and randomly splatter written bile upon those with whom, in his distorted state of mind, he disagrees.

Whew. Deep breath. 

OK, here's a partial list of the pitchers the Orioles selected on Thrift's watch. (Note that my fingers got tired, so 1995-99 is abbreviated.) He was in charge of player development from 1995-1999 and was the team's GM from 1999-2002.

2002: Adam Loewen (first round), Hayden Penn (fifth), John Maine (sixth), Paul Henry (seventh), Trevor Caughey (ninth), Matthew Bolander (10th), Mark McCormick (11th), Matthew Rohr (14th), Carl Makowsky (18th), Michael Patitucci (19th), Stephen Sutton (22nd), Jason Cierlik (23rd), Melvin Spivey (30th), Justin Nash (31st), Ryan Childs (33rd), Nicholas McCurdy (35), Jordan Compton (36th), Russell Petrick (37th), Henry Lozado (39th), Steven Guerra (40th), Barry Roe (42nd), James Cooney (45th), David Mittelberger (46th), Lawrence Ponder (50th).

2001: Christopher Smith (first round), David Crouthers (third), Rommie Lewis (fourth) Jim Johnson (fifth), Joe Coppinger (seventh),  Chris Britton (eighth), Talmadge Mincey (12th), Richard Salazar (13th), Cory Morris (15th), Michael Edwards (16th), Jim Tiller (17th), Trevor Caughey (18th), Andrew Perkins (20th), Adam Larson (22nd), Josh Potter (23rd), Brent Burger (26th), Adam Dunavant (28th), Kyle Schmidt (29th), Evan Seibly (31st), Josh Wilkening (35th), Jeffrey Montani (36th), Dwayne Carter (37th), Sean Letsinger (38th), Eric Blevins (41st), Josh Palm (42nd), Doug Brubaker (44th), Tabor Wooland (45th), Jonathon Fowler (46th), Anthony Cupps (47th), Bryan Johnson (48th), Oscar Serrato (49th).

2000: Beau Hale (first round), Richard Bartlett (third), Jon Skaggs (fourth), Larry Spillers (sixth), Jayme Sperring (eighth), Casey Cahill (10th), Darren Heal (11th), Ryan Keefer (13th), Brian Forystek (14th), Sidney Jones (16th), Joel Crump (17th), Kyle Sleeth (18th), Ryan Mask (20th), Fraser Dizard (21st), Aaron Bouie (22nd), Eric Walsh (23rd), Jeff Petersen (25th), Daniel Marchetti (26th), Scott Koffman (27th), Robert Cheatwood (28th), Davie Morrow (29th), Kurt Birkins (33rd), Josh Banks (34th), Tim Stauffer (36th), Eric Fagan (42nd).

NOTE: This is the point I couldn't type any more. You get the point, though: Lots of pitchers you've either forgotten or never knew. Below or the ones who the Orioles drafted and who saw at least a bit of big-league time.

1999: Erik Bedard (sixth round), Aaron Rakers (23rd), Doug Slaten (34th).

1998: Steve Bechler (third round), Mike MacDougal, (17th), Cliff Lee (20th), Doug Slaten (29th).

1997: Sean Douglass (second round), Matt Riley (third), Rick Bauer (fifth), Jay Spurgeon (eighth), Joe Borchard (20th), D.J. Carrasco (26th).

1996: Brian Falkenborg (second round), Chad Paronto (eighth), Ryan Kohlmeier (14th), Josh Towers (15th), Gabe Molina (21st), Mike MacDougal (22nd), John Parrish (25th).

1995: Luke Hudson (fifth round), John Bale (sixth).

Photo: AP


Cliff Lee? Seriously?

Cliff Lee was drafted by three teams -- Marlins in 97, Orioles in 98 and Expos in 2000. Obviously he opted not to sign with Florida or Baltimore.

"Cliff Lee? Seriously?"

Wrong Cliff Lee. That Cliff Lee was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 4th round of the 2000 amateur draft.

Hey Rick i hope you are still around in say 10 years so you can do the same fine Job of posting the Great Selections of Andy that can't fail. See all i hear about now under andy's watch is if you stock pile enough pitchers some of them have to turn out.Well your list above seems to be very extensive and and one could say that the list consitutes stock piling. Well you can certainly see what that list got us. I hope i am wrong rick but if we make the same mistakes as the last regime we are serious trouble for another 10 years. I still say that it's next to impossible to have 4 or 5 starters all emerge from the minors at the same time and expect all our troubles to just disappear. I will be the first one to say i was wrong. Once Again the fans of this town want to believe in someone like andy but he isn't God and he didn't realize just how bad this team was damaged.

It's not just the pitchers he picked, it's the players he didn't pick because of horrible player evaluation skills. Instead of the forgettable Christopher Smith the O's could have picked Jeremy Bonderman, J.J. Hardy, or Casey Kotchman. In 2000 we passed on Chase Utley, Adam Wainwright, Manny Delcarmen, and Grady Sizemore. It's not just that he picked the wrong pitchers, it's that the talent evaluation was so bad that we had very few players at all, not just pitchers. That doesn't even mention how he decimated the minor league coaching and off-field staffs by hiring unqualified cronies of his.

I'm no Thrift apologist - but there are enough decent names on there that we should have been able to field half of a competitive rotation.

Some of these guys SHOULD have panned out for the O's.

Riley, Bedard, Penn, Loewen, Maine.

STOP THE PRESSES......Bob Lancione has a negative post. Cyberpsace is a wonderful thing....I picture Mr MaGoo in his pj's tapping away at the keyboard all day.

What time's dineer Bob, 3:30?

Hey rick since you don't block posters like Rick k then you can tell him for me to kiss MY $ss.

It should be noted that while Loewen was drafted by Thrift, he was actually signed on the eve of the 2003 draft by Beattie and Flanagan. He never actually pitched in a Thrift-run organization.

Didn't Syd Thrift once sing the praises of minor league prospect Gary Dell'Abate when asked his opinion on a radio call-in show? Of course, Gary wasn't a pitcher he was Bababooey from the Howard Stern show.

Looks like the same Cliff Lee to me Georgie.

I'll give him two quality picks (Bedard, Maine) and one borderline pick (Loewen, who was showing signs before his pitching-career-ending injury).

In other words, ouch.

All hail MacPhail.

i have to ask, who was in the minors to help these young people progress?
it seems that over the year's the O's have had more than their share of sore armed,tired elbowed personnel.
but than i grew up with palmer, cuellar, mcnally, dobson and some others, so i'm a little spoiled

the designated hitter and a significantly reduced strike zone havewoefully reduced the effectiveness
of many an al pitcher
got to keep that as part of the

Yeah so what is that like 3 decent pitchers with no real staying power out of 200!? You'd almost think you'd have to try in order to be that bad just by law of averages. A blind squirrel could have done better.

Rick, babeee! Home run!! You hit the nail on the head!! Score!! Syd "It's like I'm Offering Confederate Money" Thrift was a CANCER in the Orioles front office. Pat Gillick probably did his best to keep him in a quiet corner, muzzled, while all the while he was whispering in Peter Angelos' ear like that rat-like creature does with Jabba the Hut in Star Wars. When Gillick waved bye-bye (along with Jon Miller, Davey Johnson, Alomar, Palmiero and Mussina), the franchise waved bye-bye to respectibility. Syd's time as General Manager hit the gas peddle on the demise of our once proud franchise. He was a back stabber, an ego-maniac, and well past his prime. I grew so tired of hearing what he has done for a Kansas City franchise 20 years earlier. The Orioles drifted under him at best, and lost many of it's strong roots to it's past. Think what you will of their tenure, but at least the triple headed monster of Beattie, Duquette and Flanagan began the process of righting the ship.

To quote Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons", "Worst Orioles Executive EVER." I'm sure Syd is looking up at us and laughing, still pointing the finger at everyone else but himself.

bad scouting, unqualified farm coaches/staff, no south american affiliate (until McPhail established one), thumb on all buttons owner (until McPhail), Syd Thrift, and on top of all that really bad luck = disaster.

Still going to love the Birds for life no matter who is in the front office or on the field. A winner would be nice though!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):


Most Recent Comments
The Burning Question

Buy Sports Tickets from the Baltimore Sun Store

Baltimore Sun blog updates

 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected