Power Ranking the Baltimore Orioles General Manager Candidates
After four seasons and very few victories, Andy MacPhail will be handing over the reigns to...who?
Let me begin this slideshow with a disclaimer.
Most, if not all, of these guys are way too smart to subject themselves to the kind of torture they would likely endure as the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles.
Whew! Now that that's out of the way...
While it may not necessarily be the best job out there, the Baltimore Orioles happen to be in the market for a general manager. In case you hadn't noticed (and let's be honest, anyone who isn't a die-hard Orioles fan didn't) Andy MacPhail quietly stepped down last week after putting up with the head job as long as he could stomach...four seasons.
In those four-plus years MacPhail, a front-office legend responsible for bringing home two World Series championships to Minnesota, managed to oversee just 268 victories, or an average of 67 wins per season. Under his watch, the Orioles never finished outside of last-place in the A.L. East and blew through three managers, three pitching coaches and numerous washed up veterans.
So, now the unenviable task of replacing MacPhail begins. As if the quest wasn't difficult enough, let's just take a moment to examine all of the tasks awaiting the new hire...
Welcome to the SUCK!
Just off the top of my head, here are the major issues awaiting whoever the Orioles brass (aka Peter Angelos) finds to replace MacPhail
- Replacing the recently departed Joe Jordan, who served as the Director of Amateur Scouting for the past seven years. Jordan was offered a promotion to Director of Player Development with the Phillies and let's be honest, who wouldn't take that job? Jordan was responsible for selecting Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy.
- Bringing in some bona-fide Major League starting pitchers, as in some players who will not just serve as mentors to the numerous "Baby Birds," but who will also challenge for long-term roles with the team. The Orioles pitching staff hasn't compiled a team ERA under 4.60 since 2002 and has gone over 5.00 four of the past six seasons.
- Finding a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat capable of driving in runs. Preferably someone who can hit higher than .220 for an entire season and not strike out over 200 times. Only five players since 2001 (Jay Gibbons, Nick Markakis, Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff and Miguel Tejada) have driven in more than 100 runs for the Orioles since 2001.
- Improving a farm system that ranked 21st among 30 teams in last year's Baseball America Organizational Talent Rankings. After graduating so much talent to the Majors over the past three seasons, there remains little left in the system, and those talented pieces (Machado, Bundy and Schoop) are all playing in the lower levels of the minors, or in Bundy's case, have yet to make their pro debut.
- Figure out what the heck to do with Brian Roberts. The gritty second baseman signed a contract extension back in 2009 that will keep him in an Orioles uniform, or at the very least an Orioles run rehab facility, until 2014.
Unfortunately, since signing that deal, Roberts has only appeared in 257 games for the O's, and he hasn't played in more than 60 since 2009. Along the way, he's been sidelined with back issues, migraines and abdominal strains. The team has several in-house options, including Robert Andino, who hit .263 with 22 doubles and 13 steals in limited playing time, and Ryan Adams, who hit .281 in less than 100 at-bats.
- And last but not least, put a grinding halt to 14 consecutive losing seasons, one of the longest runs in major sports history, while playing in the toughest division in baseball, a division where 81 victories was only good enough for fourth-place, and working under the most difficult owner in the current sports landscape (now that Al Davis has died).
And now...for the candidates.
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Ricciardi is currently a special assistant to the general manager of the New York Mets, Sandy Alderson, but before that he was the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays for eight seasons (2002-09).
During that run, Ricciardi put together four squads with winning records, but due to the difficult nature of the A.L. East, his best year was a second-place finish in 2006. His clubs finished third four times, fourth twice and in dead-last just once.
While his tenure in Toronto was generally considered a successful run, his failures and misfires seemed to garner more attention than his successes. Despite signing both A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan to deals and keeping Roy Halladay in a Blue Jays uniform until his final days, he'll most likely be remembered for ludicrous deals for aging veterans like Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus and Royce Clayton.
One trait that might interest the Orioles is Ricciardi's ability to build a pitching staff. He put together a rag-tag group of guys that ended up winning the team ERA title in 2008, his second-to-last season in charge. He also coaxed tremendous campaigns out of journeymen like Miguel Batista, Ted Lilly, Cory Lidle, Casey Janssen and Gustavo Chacin.
And a few that might not include questions about Ricciardi's trustworthiness, his combative nature, and his failure to see the potential in future staff ace Chris Carpenter, who he let walk after the 2002 season.
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Like Ricciardi, Byrnes is another hot-shot, formerly terminated GM looking to get back into the driver's seat of a franchise.
Byrnes made pit-stops in Cleveland and Colorado before catching on with current Cubs GM Theo Epstein in Boston. He served as Epstein's No. 2 in Boston from 1999 to 2005, when he was hired away by Arizona to replace Bob Gebhard. Byrnes slowly built up the D-Backs farm system and made a few key trades that brought the team to the playoffs in 2007, the first time they made a postseason appearance since their post World Series run in 2002.
They won their divisional series with Chicago, but were swept by the Rockies. The team regressed after the 2007 season and suffered too many losses to overcome. Staff ace Brandon Webb was felled with a near career-ending injury and the Byrnes struggled to find a suitable replacement to lead the team's rotation. He also erred by sending away Carlos Quentin, Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez and Jose Valverde for two-and-a-half seasons of Dan Haren, a couple of months of Adam Dunn and a few middling veterans.
Byrnes was fired midseason in 2009 with the D-Backs sitting in last-place, right back where they were the season before they brought him on board.
The only real appealing feature to Byrnes' resume is that the best of what he has to offer might still lay ahead.
A true dark horse candidate, Ng would be the first female general manager in the history of the game.
She seemed to be on that path a few years ago, holding several high-level positions with the Dodgers, including Assistant General Manager. She interviewed for the head jobs in Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles, all unsuccessfully, before turning her back on the idea of a long-term front office career in exchange for a spot in Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball.
She is currently serving under former Yankees and Dodger manager Joe Torre.
Whether or not she would welcome a return to the front office is likely a moot point, considering that Peter Angelos is the man responsible for finding the next GM.
I'm not saying...I'm just saying.
With the Tigers fighting off the Rangers for one more game, it's becoming more and more likely that Avila will not be seriously considered.
As the team's Assistant GM, a position he's held for nine years now, he's not only a wee bit busy with the team's current series, but he's also got one eye turned towards 2012, and keeping the Tigers intact for another run at the World Series.
Before coming to Detroit, Avila was a special assistant to the GM in Pittsburgh and before that he served a lengthy term in Florida as the team's Director of Scouting and eventually Assistant GM. It was his call to draft Josh Beckett in 1999 and he was instrumental in the signings of international players Miguel Cabrera, Luis Castillo and Edgar Renteria.
Avila would certainly bring some expertise in the international market, an area that the O's are sorely lacking, and having served his time as a GM in several organizations, he's more than ready to take on the top job.
From a former Diamondback to a current member of the organization.
According to MASN Sports, DiPoto will actually be interviewing with Peter Angelos this weekend. Whether he'll survive the interview without having his blood sucked out is one matter. Whether or not he'd be willing to leave Arizona, apparently an up-and-coming organization is another.
DiPoto actually worked under both Epstein and Byrnes in Boston, where all three enjoyed the fruits of the 2004 World Series squad. He returned to Colorado, where he began his front-office career, in 2005 and remained there as the team's Director of Player Personnel until he was called upon by Arizona.
He filled a similar role for the D-Backs and actually interviewed for several open GM positions across baseball before stepping in after Byrnes was fired. He interviewed for the permanent job, but lost out to Kevin Towers.
DiPoto remained with Arizona as the VP of Player Scouting and Development, although it seems as if it's only a matter of time before he leaves for his own GM job.
DiPoto's greatest achievements have been the most recent 2011 draft, in which the team acquired both Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley, as well as trades that sent Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson packing, bringing the D-Backs Tyler Skaggs, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and Daniel Hudson, one of the top young starters.
Jennings is probably the least known of these candidates, but he would be the one to get my vote if I was doing the hiring.
In addition to doing a fine job with the Marlins farm system, which he has overseen as the team's Vice President of Player Personnel/Assistant General Manager for the past nine years, Jennings has consistently been singled out by Baseball America as an up-and-coming star in the GM world.
To make his case even stronger, Jennings knows first hand how hard it is to compete in the American Leage East. He served as the very first Scouting Director in Tampa Bay for seven years, and was solely responsible for drafting some of the core pieces that turned the Rays into an annual contender, including Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff and B.J. Upton.
Jennings' name was floated around last offseason as a potential GM option in New York, but eventually that job went to Sandy Alderson.
Jennings gets my vote because he knows what it's like to work in poverty-stricken organizations. Florida and Tampa Bay spend way less than almost every other team annually, but still manage to field competitive teams and draft well.
Working for Peter Angelos wouldn't be too different.