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With Manager Hire, Orioles GM Mike Elias Can Further Establish Chain Of Command

November 27, 2018
Almost lost in the conversation as new Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias combs through his list of managerial candidates is the fact that his next move will complete what amounts to a historic chain of command for the current ownership group.

It has been more than 25 years since the investment group headed by Peter Angelos bought the team at auction from Eli Jacobs. In the quarter of a century since, there has never been a time when ownership, the front office and manager were on the same page when it came to the chain of command. One segment of management always seemed to inherit another -- and sometimes both, as was the case with recently departed executive vice president Dan Duquette.

The broken chain of command has existed almost from the start, when manager Johnny Oates was dismissed after the strike-shortened 1994 season. Roland Hemond and Frank Robinson became lame ducks in the front office while Phil Regan struggled through one year (1995, also strike-shortened) as manager. 

Davey Johnson was a popular hire as manager, and he also was influential in hiring Pat Gillick as general manager -- in effect, his own boss. That ended badly with Johnson's infamous breakup after two highly successful years, and Gillick stayed around for one year in another lame-duck scenario.

The game of musical chairs in the manager and GM offices continued throughout the stretch of 14 straight losing seasons, with one usually inheriting the other and with upper management not happy with either at times. Having been impressed while working together on ownership committees, Angelos brought Andy MacPhail in to take control of the front office in 2007, a move many perceived as ceding control of baseball operations for the first time.

After going through a succession of what amounted to interim managers (ending with Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel), MacPhail brought in Buck Showalter midway through the 2010 season. Even though their first full year together (2011) produced 93 losses, it appeared everybody was not only on the same page but writing a new chapter.

The MacPhail-Showalter partnership, however, ended up lasting just 15 months, ending after the 2011 season when MacPhail resigned, stating he wanted to spend time with his ailing father, Lee, himself a former Orioles GM and Hall of Fame executive. But the groundwork had been laid, leading to three postseason appearances the next five years as Showalter and Duquette teamed as an effective baseball "odd couple," but the chain of command once again had been tangled.

We're not going to find out who Duquette would have hired to manage the Orioles next season -- and we'll never know if Showalter would've taken the job back in 2010 had he known MacPhail would only stick around for another year.

What we do know is that, for the first time under current ownership, with Peter's sons Louis and John now clearly in charge, the Orioles will have a chain of command set up from the top and working through existing channels. The first big decision Elias makes will more than likely not be the most important one he makes of his regime, but it will mean a sense of order has been established in the warehouse.

The nature of the beast says the next manager stands more chance of being a sacrificial lamb than he does of becoming the baseball version of Tom Landry, the legendary football coach who rode the expansion Dallas Cowboys to the Hall of Fame. This isn't the kind of job that will appeal to someone trying to re-establish his managerial career, nor should it be.

"They will need somebody who can exhibit tremendous patience, has the ability to teach and always stay positive," said one anonymous veteran of the major and minor league managerial scene, who himself could be a candidate to join the organization in either capacity.

Elias is almost certainly looking for someone with organizational experience, someone who can motivate players and enhance their growth. In other words, he's most likely looking for "somebody to take the bullets," as Showalter often said about those who preceded him -- and probably said about himself as the 2018 season was winding down.

Unless I miss my guess, the next Orioles manager will be someone with limited, if any, major league managing experience -- and a strong organizational background. Whether that could be Gary Kendall, who has managed 15 of his 19 years in the Orioles' system, or someone Elias is more familiar with -- from either of his two previous organizations, the Astros or Cardinals, remains to be seen.

Either way, it figures to be a signature moment.

Jim Henneman can be reached at 

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox