Agent of change

The Baltimore Sun

In his three decades in baseball, Andy MacPhail has built a reputation as an organized, levelheaded leader and the ultimate, buck-stops-here authority within an organization.

That's not going to change now that he is here, MacPhail said during his first day as the Orioles' new president of baseball operations.

"I think it's important to have one voice," MacPhail said after a news conference yesterday morning at Camden Yards.

"You're looking for all the help you can get, all the research you can get. But at the end of the day, it has to be clear who is responsible, who's accountable, for baseball operations."

Although stopping short of calling him a savior, Orioles general counsel Russell Smouse introduced MacPhail to the media by saying: "The fans have been sending a strong message that they want change. The Orioles have heard that message and are responding" and said MacPhail had an "integrity unparalleled in baseball."

MacPhail, 54, won the World Series in 1987 and 1991 as general manager of the Minnesota Twins and nearly got back to the World Series in 2003 as president of the Chicago Cubs.

After a dozen years with the Cubs, he left at the end of last season and stepped away from baseball for eight months. Now, he may be facing his biggest challenge in the place where he spent many of his formative years with the franchise that his father built into prominence.

He'll be taking charge of an organization that includes a two-headed general manager system and a host of other powerful lieutenants that make other clubs' executives wonder who is calling the shots.

And he'll be doing it all for an owner, Peter Angelos, who isn't afraid to use his veto power when it comes to baseball decisions.

But MacPhail isn't worried.

"I wouldn't be here unless I was absolutely confident that I was free to run this franchise ... the way it has to be run," he said.

MacPhail and Angelos have worked closely together before, during the 2002 and 2006 baseball labor negotiations. They met again during the owners meetings in May - while MacPhail was doing some consulting work for commissioner Bud Selig - and that's when their discussion about joining forces surfaced.

"I probably know Peter, in a baseball context, as well as anybody in the game ... " MacPhail said. "I think that's one of the reasons that Peter wanted to talk to me."

Angelos, who did not return calls yesterday, traveled to Chicago last weekend to talk with MacPhail, and they tentatively agreed to a deal on Sunday. Part of their discussion included what authority MacPhail would have.

"Any owner of any team has a prerogative of owning the team, and I outlined to Peter where I think those lines are," MacPhail said. "He's very comfortable with it; I'm very comfortable with it."

MacPhail takes over a last-place club that is heading toward its 10th consecutive losing season - by far the worst elongated stretch in franchise history. His first responsibility will be to hire a manager to replace Sam Perlozzo, who was fired Monday after the Orioles went 29-40 to start the season.

All indications point to Joe Girardi, the 2006 National League Manager of the Year who was fired by the Florida Marlins after a dispute with ownership. MacPhail, Smouse, executive vice president Mike Flanagan and Louis Angelos, an attorney and the son of Peter Angelos, met with Girardi Tuesday in Chicago.

Although he said he was impressed with Girardi - whom he knew as a player with the Cubs earlier this decade - MacPhail called the managerial search "ongoing. I really don't have a time frame."

Once that is resolved, MacPhail said he would get reacquainted with an organization that he grew up cheering for. His father, Lee, a Hall of Fame executive, was the Orioles' GM from 1958 to 1965. (His grandfather, Larry, is also in the Hall of Fame as an executive.) .

"I can remember as a kid, 5 to 13, I loved the Orioles," MacPhail said. "My mother used to fondly tell the story of the time I wouldn't go to kindergarten unless I could wear my Orioles PJs. This is something that has always had a lot of appeal to me."

If he stays true to his past, MacPhail will not make big changes when he begins work here. In his previous jobs, in Minnesota and Chicago, he initially worked with the structure and people already in place.

"When Andy came into Chicago, he gave people the benefit of the doubt and allowed everybody the opportunity to show what they could do," said Ed Lynch, who was MacPhail's GM with the Cubs for six years. "He doesn't believe in making changes for the sake of making changes. He doesn't do anything rash."

He is expected, at least initially, to keep the current hierarchy in place that includes Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette.

Flanagan has been one of the club's chief decision-makers for the past five years. He said he doesn't believe his job responsibilities will change too much.

"I don't think so at this time. I don't know for sure," Flanagan said. "I assume we are going to have another voice in baseball operations, a leading voice, and I think that is a good thing, especially one that has the track record and pedigree that he has. I think it is a great thing for the organization."

Flanagan said he has known MacPhail only from afar, but "he's terrific from what I know about him."

One person who worked fairly closely with MacPhail in the past few years is Dusty Baker, who managed the Cubs from 2003 to 2006.

"The four years I was there, he told me what was going on, good or bad," said Baker, who also said he had not been contacted about the Orioles job as of yesterday afternoon. "I have nothing but good things to say about Andy MacPhail. He is firm but fair. That's about the highest compliment I can give anyone."

Baker said he thinks MacPhail could be the man to help turn around the Orioles - assuming the financial and organizational support is in place.

"If he has free reign, he'll spend money wisely and they will win there pretty soon," Baker said.

Sun reporters Peter Schmuck and Ken Murray contributed to this article.

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