On the same day the Orioles announced Andy MacPhail as their president of baseball operations, they continued their quest to find a long-term replacement for fired manager Sam Perlozzo, with their focus remaining on Joe Girardi.
The club had significant talks yesterday with Girardi's agent, Steve Mandel, the latest indication that Girardi is their runaway choice to be manager.
"There is ongoing communication with Baltimore," Mandel, Girardi's Chicago-based agent, said yesterday afternoon. "There is no done deal, but the dialogue is continuing."
MacPhail cautioned last night that just because the two sides have been talking, it doesn't mean the Orioles have made an offer. As of 9:30 last night, MacPhail said, contract talks hadn't begun. But Girardi knows where the Orioles stand, MacPhail said, implying that an offer could be made soon.
"We have yet to make a formal proposal, and we haven't thrown numbers out," said MacPhail, who returned to Chicago yesterday afternoon after coming to Baltimore for the news conference to announce his hiring. "But you can still have ongoing discussions."
Still, all indications are that the job is Girardi's to accept. Though MacPhail declined to discuss the interview process, one team source said no other interviews were planned. Three other possible candidates - Davey Johnson, Dusty Baker and Rick Dempsey - have told The Sun in the past two days that they have not been contacted about the job.
In a telephone conversation last night, MacPhail made no attempt to temper his interest in Girardi, who played for the Chicago Cubs while MacPhail was club president.
"I don't think there is any secret of our interest, and we haven't tried to hide it," MacPhail said. "We've talked, and I think there is interest from both sides."
Girardi, a broadcaster for the New York Yankees, said Tuesday that he wanted to research the Orioles and then talk to his family about the potential opportunity.
He probably would get his pick of jobs in the coming offseason, leading many baseball commentators to suggest that he shouldn't accept the Orioles' job because of the shape the franchise is in. The Orioles are headed for their 10th straight losing season.
Two team sources said yesterday that they think Girardi's interest is sincere.
It likely will take a strong commitment - in money and in years - to lure Girardi to Baltimore. Perlozzo was fired in the middle of the second season of a three-year contract that paid him about $600,000 a year. Girardi probably would command much more than that.
MacPhail led an Orioles contingent that included executive vice president Mike Flanagan, general counsel Russell Smouse and Louis Angelos, owner Peter Angelos' son, to Chicago to interview Girardi on Tuesday. They did not offer him the job at that point, but they came away impressed with the 2006 National League Manager of the Year, sources said.
Not having interviewed any other candidates fuels the perception that Girardi is the Orioles' man.
Johnson, the last manager to guide the Orioles to a winning season, said Tuesday that he would be interested in the opportunity.
That comment was echoed last night by Dempsey, a popular player, coach and now broadcaster with the organization.
Asked how much he would like the opportunity to manage the Orioles, Dempsey joked, "How much do I like having two legs?"
"It's an opportunity that I've been waiting a long, long time for," said Dempsey, who has interviewed for three Orioles managerial vacancies.
Dempsey said he was hoping to talk to MacPhail before MacPhail went back to Chicago but was disappointed that he didn't get the opportunity.
"He isn't going to find anybody more passionate than I am," Dempsey said. "If he can just give me a listening to and an honest evaluation, I'd be happy with that. But they haven't said anything to me."
At the morning news conference, MacPhail disputed an ESPN report that the club had offered the job to Girardi and indicated that the club doesn't have a schedule for hiring a manager. Bullpen coach Dave Trembley is the interim manager.
"The commissioner has a process in place for interviews," MacPhail said. "It's important to follow it. ... When you're comfortable with a candidate and you think he's the right guy, then you go."
MacPhail described his ideal manager as "passionate and prepared."
That person has to want to be with the Orioles, too. They should find out soon if Girardi fits that mold.
"I don't think I want to do too much selling," he said. "I want to see the interest on their part. I don't think there will be a manager here who doesn't want to be here."