By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
5:34 PM EDT, October 8, 2011
The Orioles' hierarchy is starting to shake out, with one decision-maker officially walking away and another remaining in the same role.
On Saturday afternoon, the Orioles announced that president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail will not seek an extension and is leaving the club after four-plus years in charge.
"On behalf of the Orioles organization, I thank Andy for his service to the club over the last four and a half seasons," Orioles principal owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. "Andy's knowledge and experience have helped lay the groundwork for our future success. I hold Andy in the highest regard and thank him for his commitment and dedication to the Orioles.
"And on a personal level, Andy is a dear friend. He will be greatly missed, and I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."
The Orioles will begin the search for his replacement immediately, but it won't be manager Buck Showalter, who is staying in the dugout, according to a club source.
The source told The Baltimore Sun that Showalter seriously contemplated a move to the president post, but Showalter and Angelos agreed that the club would be best served with Showalter managing the Orioles. Showalter declined to comment.
"I think everybody agrees Buck is a great manager and has made our team much better. It's a positive for all of us players because of the interaction we have with him on a daily basis as a manager," Orioles veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie said. "I was 50-50 on that one. That wouldn't have surprised me either way. I could see him enjoying the role of the front office and having those decisions to make. And, at the same time, I know how much he loves being on the field and helping the ballclub try to win night in and night out."
Showalter is expected to be significantly involved in the process of hiring the new executive, who technically will be Showalter's boss. Although somewhat unusual, that is not an unprecedented move by an Angelos-owned team. In 1995, Orioles manager Davey Johnson was instrumental in getting Hall of Famer Pat Gillick to join the club as the top baseball official.
The Orioles were 34-23 when Showalter took over in August 2010, but finished 69-93 in Showalter's first full season as the club's manager this year, the Orioles' 14th consecutive losing season.
Under MacPhail's leadership, the Orioles compiled a record of 307-432 (.415 winning percentage) and finished last in each of his four full seasons. His tenure was marked by unsuccessful free agent purchases such as first baseman Garrett Atkins, righty Justin Duchscherer, first baseman Derrek Lee and reliever Michael Gonzalez, and shrewd trades that yielded, among others, center fielder Adam Jones, left fielder Luke Scott, shortstop J.J. Hardy, corner infielder Mark Reynolds and pitcher Tommy Hunter.
"I think we made some important improvements, but I also understand our record, and, at the end of the day, that's an appropriate measurement," MacPhail said. "But we're younger, more talented, and I think we made substantial advancements, thanks to ownership, in amateur expenditures, especially the draft. I think we were third most in expenditures [in the amateur draft] during that time."
Perhaps MacPhail's most important asset during his tenure was his relationship with Angelos, an owner with a hands-on reputation. But MacPhail, who had worked with Angelos during previous labor negotiations, seemingly always had support and an open dialogue with the owner.
That's why last week, when MacPhail attempted to walk away, he was persuaded by Angelos to at least listen to an offer to remain team president. Angelos would have liked him to sign another multiyear deal. MacPhail considered one more season, then decided against it — with the process lasting more than a week.
"I have a great deal of respect for the man, and I felt I owed it to him to give it consideration," MacPhail said of Angelos. "But at the end of the day I concluded [re-upping] wouldn't work for me and wouldn't be the best solution for the franchise."
Dealing with some family issues, MacPhail, 58, said it was time to focus on those. But he didn't rule out returning to baseball at some point, somewhere.
"My wife has made it clear that this isn't forever, my being home. I'm too young to [officially] retire," he said. "But I really do need the time, and it's good to get a break. Sometimes you need time for reflection."
Guthrie said he'll remember MacPhail, the son of Lee MacPhail and grandson of Larry MacPhail, both Hall of Fame executives, for his baseball acumen and professionalism.
"I've enjoyed working with him. He is a great baseball man, having been taught well by his father and in carrying that legacy on," Guthrie said. "I have nothing but positive things to say about him as a person. I wish him well in whatever he does, and when he gets back into the game, it will be a good thing for baseball."
The Orioles have not formally asked for permission to talk to potential candidates to replace MacPhail, but that is expected to happen soon. Among those who might get a call are Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava, former Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, Florida Marlins assistant GM Dan Jennings and Texas Rangers player-development director Scott Servais.
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