Sports Outside the Beltway

O say can you start over again?

The firing of Sam Perlozzo on Monday was the first of a number of changes that the Orioles will make.

Tim Marchman of the NY Sun hails the hiring of Andy MacPhail as a savior for the club – come 2009.

Among the contracts they’re paying out this year are $8 million each for starters Kris Benson and Jaret Wright, $3 million each for relievers Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker, $5 million each for outfielders Jay Payton and Jay Gibbons, and $8 million for Melvin Mora. All of these players have their uses, even at these prices, but you can’t build a team around midlevel players making market salaries. This is basic common sense: Two $8 million no. 4 starters are nowhere near as valuable as a $16 million ace and a fringe no. 5 starter.MacPhail, having overseen the building of two very good farm systems, is a good bet to build a third, and the way he’s spent money on stars like Puckett and Sammy Sosa shows that he’s very aware that in baseball, two nickels don’t add up to a dime. Because the Orioles have money and as long as they’re simply run soundly, they’ll be competitive once they’ve flushed the pipes of players like Wright and readied the farm system to start producing some cheap, usable talent.

The other thing that might help the Orioles is finding talent discarded by others. Jeremy Guthrie, the winner of last night’s game is a prime example. Guthrie’s got a WHIP of less that 1 and if not for the bullpen would be something like 6-1. Clearly the Orioles made a good guess here with a talent another team had discarded. But what Marchman is suggesting is that MacPhail understands the value of players, at least in terms of salary. That alone would be an improvement over the current situation. (Hopefully he also understands the value of players in terms of talent.)

While it’s true that the Twins did win two World Championships with MacPhail as GM, the Cubs, Baseball Musings notes, were not so successful with him as club president.

During MacPhail’s twelve seasons running the Cubs (1995-2006), Chicago’s record was 916-1011, a .475 winning percentage, 22nd in the majors. Twenty third were the Orioles at 911-1014, .473. If they’re going to hire someone new, shouldn’t it be someone with a track record that’s different from your team’s own history?

Hardball Times notes that MacPhail in taking the position with the Orioles might be giving up the chance to succeed But Selig as commissioner.

MacPhail, though, will not be Sam Perlozzo’s boss.

Perlozzo seems like a nice guy and I wonder how much his firing will affect the team’s play, it’s not like there’s a lot of talent, though the Orioles have scored 13 runs in two games since his dismissal.

Last night on a radio show, Perlozzo was asked about his best memory with the Orioles. He credits Angelos for hiring him as Davey Johnson’s third base coach, affording him the opportunity to be near his dying father for the last month. He also said that when Flanagan fired him, he had a message from Angelos that if he wished to return to the club in some capacity, he should let the owner know. Perlozzo said that the offer made him feel appreciated. Despite some of the negative things he had to say about the club, he didn’t seem to rule out the possibility of returning to the club in some capacity. Perlozzo also indicated that Leo Mazzone plans to stay on, but that they’ve talked very little since his firing. Mazzone, Perlozzo said, has a professional interest in continuing to overhaul the pitching staff.

Thomas Boswell who celebrated Perlozzo’s hiring wrote in All too familiar

Ten years ago, the Orioles parted ways with a manager, Davey Johnson, who clashed with owner Peter Angelos, then left town on the very day he was voted AL manager of the year.So, let’s get this straight. In ’97, the Orioles didn’t want a smart, cocky manager who made his players bristle (even Cal Ripken) and who didn’t give a fig about his relationship with Angelos. Now, a decade later, Baltimore’s dream candidate is Girardi, who laid down the law to young Marlins players and gave his boss a piece of his mind worthy of Davey.

Being a good manager isn’t just about relationships with others, it’s about knowing how to utilize your resources, and managing the talent you have for the best result. I suspect that that’s a bigger reason for Girardi’s (and Johnson’s) success than the fact that they were strict.

And if you’re interested the Baltimore Sun has quotes from different members of the Orioles’ organization accompanying the hiring and firing of managers since 1994.

“In looking at his background, we felt he was the man. It’s not that we felt Davey Johnson wasn’t the man. We weren’t comparing him against Davey Johnson. We just had the feeling Phil was the right man for this job.”- Assistant GM Frank Robinson, Oct. 16, 1994

And he was the right man, at least until the season started. Regan, a highly regarded pitching coach, lasted one year. (His pitching coach that year is current GM, Mike Flanagan.)

Not everyone thinks that Girardi should take the job if offered. Ken Rosenthal has written that Girardi ought to wait until the end of the season to see what his options are. Former Mets GM Steve Philips was even more emphatic

This morning on the same show, Steve Philips called the Orioles managerial job the “worst in baseball” and said the team is afraid to take a risk — and, if he was Joe Girardi, he’d stay away from that job “with a 10-foot pole” because it might hurt his chances for successful career as a manager. He added that bullpens are where GMs make the biggest mistakes because of the inherent uncertainty with the position.

Still, while it’s uncertain if the O’s have actually made an offer to Girardi (according to the Sun the Orioles are actually in negotiations with him. Other sources have indicated that the O’s have not completed their interview process.

Will the Orioles change? Certainly they’ve changed personnel. But will they adopt a consistent, effective philosophy and long term planning? I’ve been watching them for too long to be convinced that anyone hired this week will be around past 2009.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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