It takes 20 minutes: Dempsey saga more about MacPhail than Dempsey

June 08, 2010 | Drew Forrester

So Rick Dempsey wants the Orioles managerial job.

We know this.

At nearly every turn over the last 5 days, Dempsey is on the record saying it’s a job he’s always coveted, a job he feels he deserves and a job he could be successful in…if just given the opportunity.

I’ve never really been an advocate of Dempsey’s over the last 7 years when the Orioles had managerial openings and passed over the former catcher.

And at this stage, with another skipper search underway, Dempsey is apparently going to be passed over again if you believe what folks with knowledge of the situation are saying.

“Rick won’t be considered as long as Andy runs the team,” says a source who’s around the team virtually every day.  “Peter (Angelos) would give Rick the job in a heartbeat but Andy has no interest in Dempsey.”

Dempsey has been passed over four times (now).  He was interviewed but not hired when the Birds brought in Lee Mazzilli in 2003.  Naturally, he was offended by that.  When Mazzilli was canned in 2005, Dempsey was again by-passed in lieu of Sam Perlozzo.  And when Perlozzo got the boot in June of 2007, MacPhail went with Trembley over Dempsey, among others.

When the O’s interviewed candidates for the open job in 2003, Dempsey’s interview did not include an appearance from owner Peter Angelos, but Angelos sat in on the other interviews, a sign some took as disrespect for Dempsey’s candicacy.

On the contrary, the source says.  Angelos not sitting in on Dempsey’s interview was Peter’s way of endorsing his candicacy.   “It was as if Peter was saying, ‘I know enough about Rick, I don’t need to grill him’,” says the source.

In the end, Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie sold Mazzilli to Angelos by leaning on Mazzilli’s championship experience with the Yankees.  Angelos gave in on the Mazzilli hire because he didn’t want to trump the authority he had given to his co-General Managers.  But he wanted someone else.  He would have gladly checked off on Rick Dempsey.

One of the blemishes on Dempsey’s resume was a widely-rumored, always-squashed story that he was openly critical of Mazzilli’s managerial style throughout the 2004 season.  Mazzilli evidently learned of the situation and confronted Dempsey about it, eventually asking the O’s to re-assign Dempsey and remove him from the team’s day-of-game bullpen staff.

“That was a mistake Rick made,” says the source.  “It was almost awkward to hear him bash Mazzilli because most of us who heard it knew it was more about Rick not getting the job than it was ‘Maz’ being a bad manager.  But that definitely hurt Rick’s credibility with the organization.”

Dempsey was then overlooked when Perlozzo was hired and wasn’t considered when Trembley was given the job by MacPhail in mid-season 2007.

“Rick was OK with the Perlozzo decision because he really liked Sammy and felt good for him,” the source says.  “But when they didn’t even talk to him after Sammy got fired, that really bothered Rick.”

It bothered him so much that Dempsey made an appointment to see MacPhail in his warehouse office and went in there to set the record straight with the GM.  Dempsey went in and told MacPhail, “I’m here for you.  Anything you want me to do, I’ll do.  I love this franchise and we need to get this thing straightened out.  If you need me, just ask.”

“The meeting lasted six minutes,” says the source.  “Andy was cordial, but not much more than that.  If Rick didn’t know before he went in that he was on the outside looking in, he knew then.”

A former O’s player who’s involved with a major league club now compares Dempsey’s situation to that of Cal Ripken, Sr. in the late 1980′s.

“Senior really wasn’t a big league manager kind of guy,” says the player.  “He was a nuts and bolts baseball guy who could teach the game as well as anyone.  But back then, every single time the team went through a rough patch, people would approach Hank Peters or Roland Hemond (GMs) and tell them, ‘the guy who can fix this is Rip Senior, give him the job and you’ll see’ and then when Senior got the job, we found out he wasn’t a great manager after all.  And that might be what’s happening with Dempsey.  Everywhere Angelos and MacPhail go these days, they’re getting overwhelmed with ‘hire Rick Dempsey’ conversations and that could be hurting him instead of helping him.”

As MacPhail now embarks on yet another managerial search, it’s evident that Dempsey won’t be considered (again).

And as a matter of protocol, that’s wrong.

Personally, I’d campaign for B.J. Surhoff to be strongly considered for manager if, in fact, he were interested and if the club would be willing to offer the position to newcomer on the scene…someone without big league managerial experience.

But back to Dempsey and the protocol issue.  He SHOULD be interviewed for the current opening and if MacPhail can’t professionally give Dempsey a legitimate interview, then we all have the right to question MacPhail’s real motives.

And please save me any rhetoric about how “Dempsey says some dumb stuff on TV” and by that connection alone, he wouldn’t be a good manager.  Hogwash.  He says what he says on TV – a lot of it apologetic in nature – because he is, A) employed by the team – and, B) interested in managing the team someday and doesn’t want to say anything negative that might further alienate him from the owner and/or GM in his quest to be considered for the dugout job.

Something’s fishy when Rick Dempsey can’t get an interview for the manager’s job.  It’s very possible that things have occurred behind the scenes that we DON’T know about that have led to the club’s stand-offish nature with him.  But the more we learn, the more we find out the truth:  Dempsey and MacPhail don’t see eye-to-eye.

In fact, this past spring, MacPhail didn’t extend Dempsey an invitation to spring training.   Throughout the last decade, Dempsey would always spend spring training with the club in an unofficial teaching capacity.  It was a position he relished and enjoyed, as most former players do.

This spring, Dempsey wasn’t invited.  He wasn’t told why.  He just never got the call.

Yet, somehow, Dempsey is still hanging around and despite getting his family jewels kicked by MacPhail (and the organization), he wants to run the ballclub in the dugout.  That tells you something about Dempsey, doesn’t it?

His current gig in the cozy confines of the MASN stadium-studio would be a dream job for a lot of folks.  Do 162 days of work with a big league club and get paid $80,000 or so for doing it.  It’s good work if you can get it.  And safe.

Instead, Dempsey would throw that away and manage this modern day version of The Bad News Bears.  And that’s AFTER the club has spit on him time and time again since 2003.

Blame it on MacPhail, blame it on Dempsey, blame it on some combination of the two…but something’s not right when you have a guy who’s actually insane enough to want to manage this outfit and you’re not willing to even give him the courtesy of a sit-down.  And that, naturally, is on MacPhail and MacPhail alone.

One possible explanation comes from a current O’s source who says MacPhail has distanced himself from the club’s day-to-day doings throughout this season.  “I’ve seen less and less of Andy all season,” the source says.  “He’s not on the road as much as he was in 2008 or 2009 and he’s not nearly as visible as he was in recent years.  I can go an entire 3-game home series and not see him.  Some people wonder how much he really knows about what’s going on with the team in the in-depth fashion you would want from the GM.  I’m sure he’s spending a lot of time in scouting and player development stuff, but there’s no doubt he’s less visible than in the past.”

To wit, MacPhail evidently was told by Trembley and others that Nolan Reimold had some personal issues after the team’s 3rd series of the year (vs. Toronto) and that a trip to Norfolk might do him some good before he did too much damage to his confidence.  MacPhail didn’t move on those suggestions and instead waited around four more weeks before finally shipping Reimold off to Triple-A.

“Everyone in the organization was whispering about Reimold’s personal situation after that Toronto sweep at home the first weekend,” says the team source.  “Andy knew about it, but he didn’t move on it.  That was a real eye-opener for a lot of people.  They were like, ‘What’s Andy waiting for?’”

And this Dempsey oversight – the lack of at least some REAL consideration for yet another job opening – could be Andy not paying enough attention to the reality of the situation which is this:  Dempsey MIGHT just be a good candidate for the managerial job.  He shouldn’t just automatically be dismissed because of some issues from years past.

And that’s coming from me…a guy who, frankly, would rather have someone like B.J. Surhoff manage the team than Dempsey…or Juan Samuel.

I’m not sure Rick Dempsey would make a good manager.  But I am sure that he should be given the courtesy of an interview.  And I’m sure he should be considered for the position.

And I’m also sure that something has happened along the way during Andy MacPhail’s tenure that has led MacPhail to somehow dismiss the heritage of Orioles baseball.

The mere mention of a Ryne Sandberg rumor should clinch that discussion for anyone who thinks MacPhail ISN’T dismissive of Baltimore’s baseball history.

Ryne Sandberg?  Really?  He’s going to be the next manager in Baltimore?

Next thing I know, you’ll tell me Juan Samuel will be running the Birds.

There’s no former Oriole good enough or potentially good enough to hire?

Or is Andy just not concerned enough with the 12,000 per-game home crowds to understand that something is missing with the organization he runs and some of that — how much?…who knows? – has to do with the fact that he hasn’t reached out to former members of the club and used their services on and off the field?

Whatever the case, the Rick Dempsey saga is symbolic of the root-cause of what’s wrong with Orioles baseball.

Losing has poisoned a lot of people, including Dempsey, I assume, and because no one has figured out (yet) how to cure it in Baltimore, bad decisions are made along the way that contribute to the continued downward spiral.

Right now, it’s Andy MacPhail’s job to fix it.

He better start making some progress in that area.

Hiring the right manager would be a great way to start.

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