Before I get to the day's big news, the bumping of executive vice president Jim Beattie, indulge me for a few paragraphs as I ruminate on the Orioles' ruinous state.
The Baltimore chop, Angelos-style
It happens so regularly that some might mistake it for a ritual. Every October, the O's find themselves out of the playoffs. With seven fourth-place outcomes in the last eight years (they finished third in 2004), Oriole fans might be forgiven if they think Groundhog Day comes in October, rather than in February.
Then the team promptly begins its offseason by throwing one or two of its top baseball decision-makers out of the B&O Warehouse. This year it is their de facto general manager (Beattie); three years ago, the same (Syd Thrift); two years ago, the field manager (Mike Hargrove); last year, the scouting director and the minor-league director (Tony DeMacio and Doc Rodgers).
So each year as Halloween approaches, the Orioles take up their own form of trick-or-treating, knocking on the doors of neighboring baseball clubs to find someone who can fill a bag with fixes for their organization. But so far, none of the changes has turned the operation around enough to bring a winner back to Baltimore.
And all the while, ardent Oriole fans await the next orange-and-black pennant like Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin. Of course, there are more than a few Sallys who have lost the faith and abandoned the watch. And, needless to say, there are zillions of Lucys who ridicule such irrational hoping against hope.
But there are still a great many Linuses out there in Birdland. And for them, disappointment never lasts. The sordid past is soon forgotten and faith is soon reborn. Tomorrow, the thinking goes, the Birds will fly again.
No one wants to be defeated
Back to today. What was long rumored is now coming to pass: Jim Beattie is being nudged off the Orioles' leadership perch, and his understudy, Mike Flanagan, will replace him as the top baseball executive in the organization. The change was to take place on November 1 after Beattie's contract expired, but Beattie apparently let the cat out of the bag while at a charity golf outing yesterday, and the Orioles officially announced the move today. The front-office page on the Orioles' official web site already has been updated to reflect Flanagan's promotion.
Reports from around the Web:
- Baltimore Sun: “Flanagan gets GM job” (Dan Connolly and Roch Kubatko)
- Washington Post: “Flanagan Is Put In Charge Of Orioles” (Jorge Arangure Jr.)
- MLB.com: “Sources: O's dismantle GM duo” (Gary Washburn)
Three and out?
According to those reports, the Orioles invited Beattie to stick around as a consultant, and he has not decided whether to accept. Beattie likely will leave if a better opportunity arises elsewhere, but his exit is not a sure thing. He was not officially fired—the three-year contract he signed in 2002 will be allowed to expire at the end of this month—and he has not burned any bridges with the Orioles. Indeed, majority owner Peter Angelos had several kind words about Beattie in the Sun article.
Also, Beattie has a precedent for returning to a team in a lesser capacity: after resigning as general manager of the Expos in August 2001, he returned to Montreal in 2002 as a special assistant to new GM Omar Minaya.
Changing the flock
The Orioles have started looking for an assistant general manager to serve under Flanagan. Candidates so far include New York Mets assistant GM Jim Duquette (cited by the Sun and the Post); Tim Wilken, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' special assistant to the GM (Sun); and Dick Tidrow, vice president of player personnel for the San Francisco Giants (Post). According to the Sun, “scouting director Joe Jordan isn't considered a possibility because the Orioles prefer to keep him in his current role.”
And there are strong signs that Sam Perlozzo will return as Baltimore's field manager in 2006. “Several industry sources said Perlozzo's rehiring is now a formality that will be completed soon,” the Sun reported. The Post concurred: “The Orioles also started the process of bringing back interim manager Sam Perlozzo, baseball sources said, though a contract may not be finalized for several days.”
I'm working on a comprehensive assessment of the Beattie-Flanagan regime and an analysis of what this partial decapitation could mean for the future of the club. Look for that to unfold over the next couple of days.