Ousted Orioles general manager Frank Wren yesterday expressed "a sense of relief and also a sense of sadness" over his Thursday firing because of the unfinished business and the organizational camaraderie left behind.
"I think this organization is set up for a real good run," said Wren hours after cleaning out his warehouse office at Camden Yards. "I'm probably most sorry we won't be able to finish what we started."
His 11-month term over, Wren and the club continue to discuss a formal settlement that could be finalized as soon as today. He said he already has received feelers from several organizations, and industry sources say he might be asked to interview for the Seattle Mariners' general manager vacancy.
Wren will place his Severna Park home on the market today.
Wren had referred to last season as a "transitional" one in which the Orioles would begin weaning themselves from a long-standing addiction to free agency. Instead, through the amateur draft, trades and player development, Wren hoped to help the franchise toward self-sufficiency, much like the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees have done this decade.
"I think there was a sense of camaraderie throughout the organization that was established," said Wren. "I think through the last draft, which will truly go down as one of the finest drafts in all of baseball, people will see the continued replenishment of the club with talent that we now have in instructional league.
"That's what I believe the 11 months I spent here will be remembered for. I hope so. We also acquired a half-dozen players through trades that have a chance to be significant contributors here."
Faced with replacing Wren and deposed manager Ray Miller, the Orioles intend to proceed with organizational meetings beginning tomorrow at the team's instructional league base in Lakeland, Fla.
Scouts and department heads were notified yesterday that they are still to report to what Wren had envisioned as a unity conference between scouting, player development and some major-league personnel.
The setting, instead, will serve as a backdrop for a stunned and demoralized front office.
"No one knows anything except that we're still going," said one employee. "No one's been told what's going on."
However, several key members of the front office apparently were reassured of their status yesterday. Director of player development Tom Trebelhorn, scouting director Tony DeMacio and assistant general manager Bruce Manno were told by chief operating officer Joe Foss and executive vice president John Angelos that they'll remain in their positions, said a club source.
The Orioles will begin their search for Miller's replacement today by interviewing third base coach Sam Perlozzo, according to an industry source. Perlozzo and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks are the only field staff throwbacks to the team that appeared in the American League Championship Series in 1997.
Wren's firing continues to cause ripples within the industry, especially because of the club's stated reasons that included the general manager's refusal to order a team charter to wait for a tardy Cal Ripken on Sept. 17.
Wren ordered the plane to depart while Ripken tried to weave his way through traffic in time to make the 8 a.m. flight.
The Orioles' nine-paragraph release places Ripken squarely in the middle of the issue and, to some, resurrects the uncomfortable appearances of preferential treatment for select players.
Foss referred to Wren's refusal to wait for the third baseman at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as "arbitrary and in flexible," though similar action was taken when catcher Lenny Webster, rookie pitcher Matt Riley and coaches Perlozzo and Bruce Kison were late for charter transportation earlier in the season.
Wren and his attorney signed off on the prepared statement, which quoted him as calling organizational concerns over the matter "silly."
The release chronicled how Ripken was forced to fly commercial from Washington to Anaheim, Calif., with a connection in Las Vegas, arriving four hours after the team.
Calls to Ripken's marketing firm, the Tufton Group, were not returned yesterday.
"I can't believe they fired this man because he made the plane take off without one of his players. It's a lame excuse," said Buzzie Bavasi, former general manager with the San Diego Padres, California Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Two weeks shy of the anniversary of Wren's hiring date, the Orioles now must repair a front office that until Thursday assumed the relationship between Wren and majority owner Peter Angelos had begun to heal. While Wren's arrival last October didn't translate into an organizational purge, many believe the coming transition will be more severe.
Angelos suggested in June that he will become more involved in the team's day-to-day operations. Coincidentally, there have been discussions to replace the title of general manager with director of baseball operations. The position would remain below that of an organizational vice president.
Foss, Angelos and director of player personnel Syd Thrift met yesterday to discuss finding successors for Wren and Miller. The Mariners and Angels already are well into general manager searches and the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and Angels are seeking managers.
Former Brewers manager Phil Garner, believed to be one of the Orioles' top managerial candidates, yesterday interviewed with the Cubs.
Foss said it would take "the next several days" to finalize the process of finding replacements for Wren and Miller, and that no set number of interviews has been determined.
Before Thursday morning's ouster, Wren met several times with Angelos about Miller's successor. Angelos reportedly accepted a "short list" from Wren, including Garner, former Cubs manager Jim Riggleman, Orioles first base coach Marv Foley, Braves hitting coach Don Baylor, Red Sox bullpen coach Grady Little and ex-Tigers manager Buddy Bell.
Club officials have yet to speak with all of Miller's holdover staff, but Foss suggested that wholesale changes are not a given. "We'd like to have the opportunity to talk to the rest of the staff," Foss said Thursday night.
Thrift is believed by many within the organization to be a possible successor to Wren. He served as Pittsburgh Pirates general manager from 1985-88, was briefly the New York Yankees' senior vice president of baseball operations and worked five years with Angelos' Orioles, making him the organization's longest-tenured baseball executive.
Director of player development Trebelhorn is also well-respected by Angelos and Thrift, and might also be offered the promotion.
If the Orioles look outside the warehouse, they'll likely pick from a group that has interviewed with the Mariners -- New York Mets assistant general manager Omar Minaya, Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Dave Stewart, Chicago White Sox assistant general manager Dan Evans, former New York Yankees general manager Bob Watson and Tim Duquette, another Mets assistant GM and brother of Red Sox GM Dan Duquette.