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October 2004 Archives

October 1, 2004

Late September surprises

This week has been packed with significant developments for the Orioles. To recap:

  • After being stuck in scoring position for what seemed like an eternity, the nation's capital is now "rounding third and...heading for home," according to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (echoing John Fogerty, who in turn took a page from Chuck Berry) at Wednesday's press conference announcing MLB's intent to move the Montreal Expos to Washington for next season. (At the moment, the brown-eyed, handsome man of song appears to be the bow-tied Mr. Williams.)

    The Sun, Washington Post, and Washington Times have sent out a full-court press to cover the story. Here are links to Thursday's main news stories on the move:

    Obviously, the Expos' move will have a significant drain on the Orioles' revenues. Owner Peter Angelos is negotiating a compensation deal to offset possible losses in media reach and attendance.

  • The Orioles' front office is revamping its scouting and development systems. The contracts of scouting director Tony DeMacio and minor-league director Doc Rodgers will not be renewed after the season.

    From Baseball America: “Orioles Shake Up Scouting Department

  • The rule-interpreters at the MLB offices have determined that the Orioles no longer have rights to negotiate with pitcher Wade Townsend. The Birds' top draft pick in June, Townsend aborted his NCAA eligibility by signing with an agent, then returned to class at Rice in August to finish his bachelor's degree, putting himself in limbo with baseball's negotiating rules. For now, he is off-limits to the Orioles and will probably re-enter next year's draft, giving the Orioles a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. However, there is a slight possibility that MLB will grant Baltimore an opportunity to sign Townsend before the 2005 draft, in the manner of draft-and-follow signees.

    From Baseball America: “MLB Denies Townsend's Gamble

Analysis of these developments will be forthcoming.

October 5, 2004

DeMacio's time runs out

Since taking over in 2002, the Orioles' front office leadership of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan has been cleaning house. Last year the club said sayonara to manager Mike Hargrove, and this year it's arrivederci to scouting director Tony DeMacio and minor-league director Doc Rodgers, whose expiring contracts will not be renewed after the season. Today we'll look at DeMacio's termination and his legacy.

From the Sun: “Orioles fire their scouting director

DeMacio's canning comes as a mild surprise, but not a shock. He was the highest-ranking baseball executive in the organization remaining from the Frank Wren administration. DeMacio's reputation as a member of successful scouting regimes in Atlanta and Cleveland helped him outlast former bosses Wren and Syd Thrift, and Beattie and Flanagan thought enough of DeMacio to keep him on for two more seasons. But in the end, the results just were not there.

Continue reading "DeMacio's time runs out" »

October 7, 2004

Farm director reaches the end of his row

The two-year relationship between the Orioles and their director of minor-league operations, Darrell "Doc" Rodgers, is to end this month. Last week, the team announced that it had decided not to renew Rodgers's contract for next season. The reasons cited by Rodgers and Jim Beattie were differences of opinion on the future direction of the system, particularly regarding staff and personnel.

From the Sun: “Rodgers is second member of front office dismissed

From MLB.com: “Notes: 'Doc' Rodgers dismissed

The Rodgers regime had plenty of positives. Shortly after taking the job in January of 2003, Rodgers implemented a total overhaul of the Orioles' farm system, installing new managers and coaches at every level. Rodgers and his staff emphasized professionalism and discipline, qualities that had been lacking prior to his arrival. Players responded surprisingly well to Rodgers's strict rules, which defined the parameters of a player's sartorial appearance and enforced nightly curfews. A more uniform code of instruction and training also began to pervade the system from the top down. The importance of on-base percentage, among other things, was highlighted to all hitters. Young pitchers received more careful treatment under the Rodgers administration, particularly at the lower levels.

Far from being a distant overlord, Rodgers also improved the communication between management and farmhands by having one-on-one meetings with players to monitor their progress. Under Rodgers, players were promoted based on performance, not hype; a player had to succeed at his current level to earn advancement to the next one. To avoid promoting prospects prematurely, veterans were brought in to plug holes in the upper levels. Perhaps not coincidentally, the combined winning percentage of Baltimore's minor-league affiliates rose markedly from .433 in 2002 to .486 in 2003, Rodgers's first year. The organization's talent level had not changed markedly in one year, but the players' attitude and dedication to the game had improved noticeably.

It was not a perfect two years by any means, though. Pitchers continued to suffer arm injuries—Adam Loewen was the biggest name to fall, but Ryan Hannaman and Don Levinski also were struck down this year. Such injuries happen in every organization, but perhaps better communication and monitoring could have revealed the problems sooner. Another instance hinting at inadequate communication was onetime top prospect Jack Cust's complaint about being ignored by the organization. In 2004, several prospects fell short of expectations, including Cust, and the farm system's winning percentage dropped to .458.

Rodgers leaves Baltimore with his reputation intact and probably enhanced by his work with the Orioles. The Birds' farm system was ranked among the worst in the game by Baseball America for several years before Rodgers's arrival, but it moved up closer to the middle of the pack after his first year with the team. In many ways, 2003 was a 180-degree turn for the Orioles' player development system, and Rodgers deserves the lion's share of the credit for that turnaround. Although the organization's momentum stalled a bit in 2004, Rodgers made a net positive contribution to the Orioles' minor-league system. This came after he helped execute a similar improvement in the Reds' system during six years as their assistant general manager. He should have no shortage of offers for a high-ranking position elsewhere.

Note: I have not abandoned the Greatest O's series of articles; cranking them out is just taking longer than I expected because I have been working on more timely articles like this one. The Greatest O's positional write-ups should be finished by next week.

About October 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Orioles Warehouse in October 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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