As the Baltimore Orioles search outside the organization for a new executive to lead the franchise, they will find several possible candidates with direct ties to Baltimore and the club. With that in mind, we'll concentrate for now on four who qualify in that regard.
He is perhaps the most intriguing name on the list, especially given his present position. The architect of the Cleveland Indians team that has dominated the American League's weak Central Division for the last few years, Shapiro has been president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays for the last three years. But there have been whispers throughout the industry that he could be ready for a trip south of the border.
The interesting aspect here is Shapiro made the move to Toronto almost a year after the Blue Jays had flirted with Dan Duquette, the recently deposed executive vice president of baseball operations with the Orioles. The Jays were rebuffed when the Orioles determined they weren't being offered enough in terms of compensation. If compensation would have to be a factor in this case, chances of luring Shapiro would probably be an obstacle too big to overcome.
However, even though they are on the verge of introducing two of the best minor league prospects in the game in outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette, things haven't exactly gone swimmingly the last three years, and the Blue Jays face the same obstacles as the Orioles in the American League's Eastern Division. But if that hurdle can be cleared, there's no doubt Shapiro would qualify.
The son of Baltimore-based lawyer Ron Shapiro, who at one time represented three of the Orioles' most iconic figures -- Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray -- the 51-year old Mark Shapiro started from scratch with the Indians in 1991, having been recommended by former Orioles general manager Hank Peters.
He rose through the player development ranks with Cleveland to become the general manager and eventually president. He was named the Sporting News Executive of the Year in 2005 and 2007. He then put in motion the Indians' current run, which included the hiring of manager Terry Francona.
If he's available, it's a no-brainer that Shapiro would be at the top of the list of candidates -- but he has company.
He served as an assistant general manager and head of player development with the Orioles from 1987-1994 before moving on to Texas and Milwaukee. He was reportedly the first to be interviewed for the New York Mets' vacant general manager's position and is another viable candidate for the Orioles. He was with the Orioles for less than two years under present ownership. He left to become the Texas Rangers' general manager at a time when the Orioles were going through major changes in the front office, which may or may not be a factor going forward.
Another former Orioles executive, though for only a brief but productive two year period, Barr has been a prominent member of the San Francisco Giants' front office for the last 10 years, which included three World Series championships. Barr started his career with the Mets in 1984 and had a brief stint with the Twins and was the Orioles' scouting director during the 1989 and 1990 drafts that produced right-handers Ben McDonald and Mike Mussina.
A resident of Haddonfield, N.J., Barr also worked in the San Diego Padres' front office before joining the Giants, with whom he is the vice president and assistant general manager in charge of scouting and international operations.
The fourth candidate with an Orioles' background is considered to be a rising star for the next wave of young baseball executives. Owens is a highly trusted part of executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane's "Moneyball" operation with the Oakland Athletics. He would probably rank as the most under-the-radar candidate on the Orioles' list, but he is very highly regarded among his peers.
A two-sport star (football and baseball) at Arizona, almost unheard of today, Owens was a third-round draft choice of the Orioles in 1992 and played five years in the organization. He made stops at High-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Rochester, where he topped out in 1995. He played two more years in the minor leagues before embarking on a front office career that has him on the cusp of making his mark.
The cupboard is not bare when it comes to candidates for the kind of job the Orioles have to offer. While they'd like a quick resolution, they'll probably be best served with a cautious process to make sure there aren't any gems left unturned. And since baseball prefers an embargo on breaking news during the World Series, that leaves a couple of weeks to survey the field.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
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