Change is on way as Ori­oles be­gin search for new lead­ers

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

from their re­cent re­nais­sance. Are they go­ing to fol­low the re­cent re­build blue­print?

If the Ori­oles’ full tear-down in July is any in­di­ca­tion, they’re set­ting things up for a long-lead re­build that will take years, not months, to come to fruition. The types of peo­ple who have run sim­i­lar plans, with the Hous­ton Astros and Chicago Cubs ear­lier in the decade and the At­lanta Braves and Philadel­phia Phillies more re­cently, fit a sim­i­lar mold.

Save for Theo Ep­stein and his staff in Chicago, the ex­ec­u­tives came from suc­cess­ful teams where they were lieu­tenants to suc­cess­ful gen­eral man­agers and got ex­pe­ri­ence in all facets of team-build­ing, blend­ing the ubiq­ui­tous an­a­lyt­ics revo­lu­tion into tra­di­tional eval­u­a­tion and vig­or­ous ama­teur re­cruit­ment to build win­ners.

Ev­ery suc­cess­ful team has some­one who fits that mold in their direc­tory. Can they get their man this time?

That caveat isn’t unique to Bal­ti­more, though it’s never re­ally gone away here. The team’s an­nounce­ment of their man­age­ment changes em­pha­sized that the out­side hire would have fi­nal say in base­ball de­ci­sions, but that’s only re­ally re­quired when there’s a rep­u­ta­tion for that not be­ing the case.

To that end, the Ori­oles tar­geted many of these young, mod­ern ex­ec­u­tives the last time they needed a base­ball head. They couldn’t land any of them, and in­stead had to bring in Du­quette from a decade in the base­ball wilder­ness to run things.

Such a state­ment in the team’s re­lease about the changes that are com­ing in­di­cates the Ori­oles are go­ing back to that well again, and won’t take no for an an­swer — even if it means peo­ple at the high­est lev­els of the or­ga­ni­za­tion go­ing against their im­pulses and let­ting what might be a lean time for Bal­ti­more base­ball pro­ceed ac­cord­ing to a lead ex­ec­u­tive’s vi­sion. What does Brady An­der­son do?

An­der­son, the Ori­oles vice pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions, was men­tioned as one of three in­di­vid­u­als still un­der con­tract through this, along with ama­teur scout­ing di­rec­tor Gary Ra­jsich and di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment Brian Gra­ham, who is han­dling day-to-day op­er­a­tions on an in­terim ba­sis.

Gra­ham and Ra­jsich have im­por­tant roles in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, but no one has amassed the in­flu­ence An­der­son has with the An­ge­los fam­ily in re­cent years, and it says some­thing that the team stressed it would be an out­side hire, to say noth­ing of the as­sur­ance of fi­nal say. An­der­son was con­sid­ered part of a de­ci­sion-mak­ing trio with Showal­ter and Du­quette, but per­haps the clash­ing per­son­al­i­ties and view­points in that dy­namic changed what he and the or­ga­ni­za­tion see as An­der­son’s role. He has plenty of fresh ideas on player de­vel­op­ment and an elite ath­lete’s per­spec­tive on how things should be run. Does any­one get to stick around?

Ab­sent that, it’s hard to know what any­one else’s role will be un­der new man­age­ment. Gra­ham jumped from a player de­vel­op­ment role to an in­terim gen­eral man­ager role in 2007 with the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates, but once a hire was made, he was let go. He can’t be op­er­at­ing ig­no­rant of that this time. Same goes for the coaches he worked with so closely, though there’s at least some com­fort there in know­ing their con­tracts run out in Oc­to­ber — a change from the Jan­uary-toJan­uary struc­ture they’ve been un­der pre­vi­ously. So, if de­ci­sions aren’t made soon, they can take their fates into their own hands. The ma­jor league coaches are sim­i­larly wait­ing to see if they’ll be re­newed.

As for the scout­ing side, it’s a bit more com­pli­cated. Bring­ing in an en­tirely new scout­ing staff when the team holds the No. 1 over­all draft pick — quite frankly the most sig­nif­i­cant as­set and re­spon­si­bil­ity a new base­ball chief will in­herit — will com­pli­cate things. The Ori­oles’ ama­teur scouts have in­creased their hit rates in re­cent drafts, and there are no sur­prises at the top of the draft board, but it’s an im­por­tant de­ci­sion they can’t get wrong. That both Du­quette and Showal­ter are gone means nei­ther man’s camp has any sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage in stick­ing around, nor has to worry about the other’s play­ing fa­vorites. What are fans sup­posed to think?

Who­ever comes to Bal­ti­more for this un­der­tak­ing should note how wel­come Du­quette’s re­marks af­ter trad­ing Manny Machado were to the fan base. He clearly laid out what the trade meant, and what the Ori­oles would be do­ing go­ing for­ward in cut­ting ma­jor league pay­roll to in­vest in in­ter­na­tional sign­ings, scout­ing, an­a­lyt­ics and player de­vel­op­ment. Sim­i­larly, Showal­ter said the fans in Bal­ti­more won’t abide be­ing mis­led and need to be told what’s hap­pen­ing with their team. A few years of be­low-av­er­age base­ball on the field for an end goal of high draft picks might be tol­er­ated to some ex­tent, and play­ing home­grown play­ers and giv­ing them a crack in the in­terim will mit­i­gate that some, but there will be a fine line be­tween blind ac­cep­tance of a re­build and need­ing to see div­i­dends through­out.

Driver Kevin Har­vick will com­pete to­day in Dover, Del., in the Gan­der Out­doors 400. FIND CUS­TOM­IZ­A­BLE TELE­VI­SION LIST­INGS AT BAL­TI­MORE­SUN.COM/TVLIST­INGS

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