Even before Mike Elias was officially announced as the Baltimore Orioles' new executive vice president and general manager, there was rampant speculation about how many of his former Houston Astros' cohorts would follow.
But most of that attention has centered on an area that will have little immediate impact on a fan base curious about the direction Elias will take in an effort to kick-start what appears to be a major rebuild.
With Elias on board as Dan Duquette's replacement as EVP-GM, attention of the fan base is centered on who will take Buck Showalter's place as manager. Early speculation has already tabbed Astros bench coach Joe Espada as a clear front runner, but it should be a little early to jump to that conclusion. While rebuild was considered a necessity, it doesn't necessarily require a complete teardown of an organization that has shown some recent improvement at the minor league level.
Given the circumstances, the Orioles' next manager will most likely be considered a caretaker -- or sacrificial lamb, depending on your degree of cynicism. Espada is following the footsteps of former Astros coach and current Red Sox manager Alex Cora as the latest rising star, and the chances are he would have to look long and hard before jumping into what most observers will call a no-win situation.
And, it would seem, Elias should look just as long and hard before filling a position that would appear thankless to some, but nonetheless will play a prominent role for the organization. In other words if you're among those looking for a "name" manager like Joe Girardi, John Farrell, Dusty Baker, or even Dave Roberts (amazingly the Dodgers still haven't extended him), you can forget it.
Before going "outside the box," Elias would do well to at least consider going back to the Orioles' roots and think about candidates who have prior experience inside the warehouse. There are a few, and the one with the least amount of "glitz" may be as good a candidate as Elias can find.
Bowie Baysox manager Gary Kendall has never coached or managed in the big leagues. In fact, he has never played a game of professional baseball. What he has done is spend the last 15 of his 19 years in the Orioles' organization as a minor league manager.
Though hardly a determining factor, it doesn't hurt that Kendall is a local native who played at Sparrows Point High and the Community College of Baltimore and is well versed in the history of the organization. His first connection with the team was as a batting practice pitcher, which expanded to part-time scouting duties, which in turn led to a full-time role as Mid-Atlantic scout for the San Diego Padres.
After that brief stint outside the organization, Kendall returned to start his managerial career with Rookie Level Bluefield in 2004. He then spent three years each at Low-A Delmarva (2005-2007) and Short Season Aberdeen (2008-2010) before moving to Bowie and Class AA, which is considered the pivotal developmental stage throughout professional baseball.
He has spent the last eight years in Bowie, where he has made the playoffs three times, won one Eastern League championship and ushered just about all of the Orioles' homegrown products to the big leagues. It is safe to say he has had direct contact with more players, including those acquired during last summer's fire sale, than anybody who will be in uniform for the club's 2019 spring training camp. That's a fact that shouldn't be ignored as the Orioles start perhaps the most critical chapter in the organization's history.
His name might not sell many tickets, stir the fan base or excite the national media, but Kendall very well could be the right man at the right time. In his case, it would be a gross mistake to equate lack of exposure to lack of experience.
He certainly wouldn't be the sexy pick, for sure, but there's an argument to be made that Kendall could be the sensible one.
Since Ron Johnson has already been released from his Triple-A job at Norfolk, Kendall is the only minor league manager who is a logical candidate for a position on the major league staff, as either a coach or manager. At the very least, he figures to be part of the interview process in the warehouse.
Mike Bordick, with an expansive resume with the Orioles as a player, spring training coach, minor league instructor and television analyst, is undaunted by the potential potholes the job offers and has let it be known that he is interested in taking on the task. In addition, third base coach Bobby Dickerson, whose expertise as an infield instructor is widely hailed, is another who could draw some interest.
Another candidate to succeed Showalter, one who might've been even more viable had Ben Cherington gotten Duquette's job, is DeMarlo Hale, who preceded Dickerson as the Orioles' third base coach and most recently served as bench coach for former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who departed at the end of the 2018 season.
Hale was a highly regarded coach while here and, like Espada, has interviewed for a number of major league managing jobs. Cherington is an executive vice president with the Blue Jays, an association that might have bolstered Hale's candidacy. Nevertheless he qualifies as an under the radar possibility as Elias begins his search.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Bill Vaughan/Bowie Baysox