It all sounds so nice.
New general manager Mike Elias and the Orioles have just entered the honeymoon period of his new career in charge of the franchise’s baseball operation.
He’s got big ideas. They’ve got nowhere to go but up. It’s definitely the start of a new era for a team that lost its mojo over the past couple of seasons and Elias appears to be the right guy to modernize the front office and oversee a multi-year rebuilding program that will not be without some serious growing pains.
Managing partners John and Louis Angelos did their homework and brought in a guy who was a big part of a similar rebuilding effort in Houston that carried the Astros from the ashes of three straight 100-loss seasons to the world championship in 2017.
It didn’t happen overnight and it certainly won’t happen quickly here. It might not happen at all, because there are no guarantees in this fickle business, but it would be hard to fault the renewed commitment of ownership and the dynamic decision to hand full authority over the baseball operation to a 35-year-old new-age exec who just might be able to bring some of that Astros magic to Baltimore.
Elias inherits a 40-man roster and a minor league system chock full of unproven talent. He inherits a rebuilding effort that was initiated by Dan Duquette and shaped by the series of midseason deals he made to unload many of the Orioles’ high-dollar players in exchange for a large group of minor league prospects.
And he inherits the albatross that is Chris Davis’ giant contract and a fan base so disillusioned that Orioles attendance dropped to its lowest single-season total since 1978.
There were probably a lot of reasons not to want this job, but Elias said he welcomes the chance to return to his native Mid-Atlantic roots and looks forward to the challenge of digging the Orioles out from under the worst season in the history of the franchise.
“Throughout this entire process, I always felt particularly drawn to the possibility of this job for a number of reasons,” he said. “One of those is I come from this region. I grew up in Northern Virginia, and when you’re a kid growing up in Northern Virginia, Baltimore is a place that you come to to have fun.
“So I grew up coming to Camden Yards, visiting the Inner Harbor, visiting the aquarium … so I already have a lot of positive memories and positive impressions of this city. I already know this city. I already love this city. So I’m very excited to be here for that reason.”
Elias was a young teenager when the brand-new Oriole Park was in full bloom. The Orioles routinely sold out Camden Yards during the mid- and late ’90s and reached the American League Championship Series in 1996 and ’97.
“I got to see Camden Yards at a time when the stadium was filled to the brim and when the city was supporting a championship-caliber team — a playoff-caliber team — so I know that there’s no place better in baseball when that’s the case,” he said.
To make that the case again, it’s going to take every bit of the acumen he brings in the modern methods of player evaluation and development. It’s also going to take all of the financial commitment that the Angelos brothers promised to provide to turn the Orioles back into a team that their fans and the overall community can take pride in.
It’s going to take a string of drafts like the ones that Elias presided over in Houston, starting with the one next June in which the Orioles will have the first overall pick.
It’s also going to take some luck and a lot of patience from both the fan base and ownership.
Elias said Monday that the mountain might not be quite as high as everybody thinks and promised to make the Orioles competitive again “as soon as possible.”
“There are a lot of good players here and there are more coming,” he said. “As an ex-scouting director, I’m familiar with a lot of the players in the minor league system. There are some future stars in the system. There are some really good pitchers and there’s more than enough here to work with. Part of the attraction of this job to me is I know that there are already players here that we’re going to be able to lean on over the next years and watch them grow.”
But no guarantees.
There never are.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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