There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes like this: “May you live in interesting times.”
Some believe its origin was actually intended to be a curse, translating to something like: “May the roads you travel be bumpy and dangerous”.
May you live in interesting times.
These are interesting times for Peter Angelos and the Orioles.
His hand-picked head honcho, Andy MacPhail, has just parted company with a $4.5 million mistake. And no matter what Andy said in the aftermath of the Garrett Atkins departure, I’m sure Peter Angelos doesn’t look down his nose at the $4.5 million the way Andy obviously does — after all, as MacPhail noted, “in today’s economic structure in baseball, $4.5 million isn’t really much to lose”. Well, not when you compare it to the $23 million that Teixeira gets…but what if MacPhail would have used that $4.5 million to sweeten the pie for Adam LaRoche or Adam Dunn or Vlad Guerrero? Suddenly, $4.5 million does matter.
But that’s neither here nor there, now, because Atkins is gone.
How much longer, though, is MacPhail going to hang around?
With Tuesday’s story that Cal Ripken Jr. is still meeting with and talking to both Angelos and MacPhail about a front office position with the club, how much more of this stuff will MacPhail sit through before he packs it in?
He’s already being force-fed a managerial courtesy-interview with Rick Dempsey – by Angelos – and the premise that Andy is in sole control of the organization is starting to look quite wobbly.
And now Ripken is back, sniffing around again about some kind of advisory position that apparently must fit his busy, hectic schedule.
I guess Cal thinks being involved in the front office is like playing tennis on a Wednesday afternoon. It eats up four hours of your day, if you count driving to and from the court, playing for 90 minutes, and then showering afterwards and eating a salad before heading back to the office.
As someone associated with the team said to me about two months ago when the first “Ripken wants to work in the front office” story broke: “The real problem here…is that Cal doesn’t know what he wants to do with the club.”
He doesn’t want to manage. That takes up too much time.
He doesn’t want to run the club: That takes up too much time.
He can’t do anything until his son goes away to college, which is still two years away.
Well, he can do *something*, but it can’t take up much time.
And then you have MacPhail, plugging away at a snail’s pace, trying to rebuild the organization and still make Peter Angelos feel like he’s playing a role in the turn-around.
Say what you will about MacPhail — and there’s an argument whose winter was worse in 2009, his or the St. Louis Rams – but he’s the guy who put “the plan” together and he should be allowed to proceed and inact that plan until it completely succeeds or fails. And even though the team is 23-54 and all they’ve done under MacPhail is lose for three years now, it’s not fair to say “the plan has failed”.
But the plan might fail if Andy’s not allowed to hire HIS manager.
And the plan might fail if Cal Ripken Jr. is given some kind of authoritative role with the club against Andy’s wishes.
Then again, MacPhail retained, re-hired and fired Dave Trembley. That’s a hat trick that Andy surely isn’t proud of, right?
Maybe Peter’s right when he says, “You know Andy, it might be a good idea for me to have the final say on this manager thing…you haven’t exactly knocked the 8-ball in the corner pocket with your previous decisons, you know.” And maybe Angelos looks at Ripken the way he always looked at him before. a pseudo cash-cow, who can help bring people to the ballpark, even if Junior is wearing a collar and tie and doing the meet and greet before the game down by the dugout.
The next three months will tell us a lot about Peter Angelos and his thoughts on the organization.
Is he souring on MacPhail and the plan? He can’t possibly be thrilled about writing Garrett Atkins a free check for the next 14 weeks. Rumors persist – and no one has denied them – that MacPhail wanted Brad Komminsk as the interim manager back on June 10 when he canned Trembley and Angelos wanted to give Rick Dempsey his shot at glory as the temporary guy in the dugout. So they settled – a favorite task in the law industry – on Juan Samuel. Sadly, that wipes away any legitimate chance Samuel might have had to interview for the REAL job after Trembley got the boot. And while the team isn’t any better, really, under Samuel, there have been some signs over the last three weeks that Samuel might actually be competent in the dugout. I know this much, just based on the small sample size. I’ll take Samuel over Trembley.
But running around interviewing managers in mid-June while your team is getting shelled 65% of the time isn’t good. These are the days where MacPhail should be burning up the phone lines trying to unload some expendable pieces like Millwood, Guthrie, Wigginton and, even, perhaps Tejada and Luke Scott. When you’re busy interviewing managerial candidates and such, it’s hard to devote the necessary time to making the roster better. Then again, we have Felix Pie, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez coming back and available for the rest of the season. Let the good times roll, I supppse.
This is what you get when you fire the manager in mid-season.
This is what you get when you spend a grand total of $22 million on baseball players in an off-season that probably mandated you spend five times that amount on three quality players.
And this is what you get when the greatest hometown player in Baltimore baseball history wakes up one morning and says “Hey, I think I might want to work for the Orioles now.”
And, of course, this is what you get when you’ve lost for 13 years straight.
You get ALL of this. You get: a mess.
Oddly, these ARE interesting times, despite all the losing and all the friction and all the question marks.
The next three months won’t lack for storylines, that’s for sure. And the biggest issue of all is this: Is Andy MacPhail going to see this endeavor to its end? Or will the owner lose his patience and scrap the three years of sweat equity for another crack at a quick fix, with a Hall of Fame player in tow who can possibly help both on the field and at the gate.
May they all live in interesting times…Angelos, MacPhail, Ripken, Dempsey…each and every one of them.
After all, they signed up for all of this.
They know what they’re up against.