The Orioles & Andy MacPhail – 5 Mistakes In 3 Years (Part I of V) …..

April 14, 2010 | WNST Interns

I can honestly proclaim my fair and balanced treatment of Andy MacPhail, since the day he seized control of the Orioles’ Baseball Operations.

Okay, I haven’t necessarily been an ORANGE KOOL-AID drinkin’ son of a gun, but I’ve certainly been heavy on the patience and guarded praise, while leveling mild criticism on justified, sporadic occasions. In fact, I absolutely believe I’ve given Mr. MacPhail the benefit of the doubt on many occasions – and, I don’t regret it.

Has he made mistakes? Sure. But, I’ve maintained his decisions were in the best interest of the Orioles franchise – and the greater good of Baltimore’s vulnerable baseball fans.

Yet, I think it’s also fair to say Andy MacPhail and the Orioles, as an organization, have fallen short on numerous decisions and transactions, over these last 3 seasons.

I’m not beating them up. That’s not productive. However, I can think of 5 distinguishing events, moves or directives that have resulted in a LOSS for the Orioles. Of course, I’ll qualify my opinions by asserting my FAN CARD …..

I have absolutely no working knowledge or experience concerning the inner-sanctum of a professional baseball organization. I’ve never stuck my hands inside a baseball product ABOVE the college level. And, I think this disclosure is important, because nearly everyone who stands in my shoes (from a media perspective) is also standing on the “same ground.”

That said, I’d like to believe I’m an educated guy and open-minded regarding most topics.

Baseball is one such topic. I love the science of baseball ….. the history of baseball ….. the modern day culture of baseball ….. and, the game as a whole.

Agree with me. Disagree with me. I understand – and, I don’t take it personally.

My first observed/recalled “MacPhail Mistake” can be found below. I’ll write 5 such blogs over the next 5 days. Of course, I reserve judgement to include a 6th mistake if this losing streak doesn’t end soon …..

Mistake #1  –  Letting Joe Girardi Get Away

One of Andy MacPhail’s first decisions was finding a successor to Sam Perlozzo, who was dismissed in the same window that allowed MacPhail’s entrance as the new President of Baseball Operations. While Dave Trembley was named as the interim skipper, MacPhail conducted a thorough search and even levied a firm three year offer to his most coveted candidate.

Of course, EVERYONE knew Andy MacPhail had a solid relationship with Joe Girardi. And, Girardi, who owned the distinction of winning “NL Manager Of The Year” and being fired after the same season was readily available …..

No, Joe Girardi didn’t get fired for legal or character reasons. He’s a SOLID CHARACTER guy. He was fired by an owner who didn’t like being told to “SHUT UP.” While most employees would get fired for saying such a thing to their boss, lets remember, Jeffrey Luria was heckling the umpire when it happened. And, Joe Girardi does things the right way.

Never mind the task of taking a young, disorganized group of kids and instilling discipline and a WINNING attitude, in less than six months. That’s not important to Jeffrey Luria. Hmmm …. I wonder if he feels good about firing Girardi – TODAY.

Nevertheless, Joe Girardi was Andy MacPhail’s GUY.

In fact, MacPhail and others flew to Girardi’s neck of the woods, near Chicago, to woo and tempt the hottest managerial free agent. When is the last time a TEAM went to the CANDIDATE to conduct an interview?

Days later – on June 21st of 2007 – Joe Girardi told Andy and the O’s “uhh, thanks …. but, no thanks.”

That’s a day I’ll never forget. Why? It’s this girl’s birthday …..

And, regardless of Joe Girardi falling thru the holes of the Orioles crab net, I’d better never forget the significance of June 21st – ANY YEAR.

Why did Joe Girardi decline the Orioles offer to become the next manager? Of course, I’ll rely on my earlier disclosure – I have no working knowledge of the Orioles inner circle. But, I can imagine or make an educated guess of some possible reasons.

Maybe, he talked with some baseball friends, who have intimate knowledge of the Orioles dysfunction, prior to MacPhail’s arrival. Who? Perhaps, he had coffee with Davey Johnson. Maybe, he had dinner with his former coach, Lee Mazilli. Better yet, I guess he could’ve just had a very long phone conversation with George, Hank or Hal Steinbrenner.

But, something made Joe Girardi reject the Orioles 3 year/$3 million offer. Heck, maybe that’s it.

I realize most managers aren’t breaking the bank with contracts in the same neighborhood as many players. Yet, if a manager with any resume’ of success is going to soil his career with a stint on the Orioles bench, I’ll assume the money will have to do the talking – not a bunch of bigwigs flying into the guy’s hometown.

If Andy MacPhail was serious about hiring Joe Girardi as the next skipper, and he flew 750 miles to meet with him, I’d like to think he had the company checkbook in hand.

What’s the one thing we know about today’s world of pro sports and signing free agents? If you want the guy, don’t let him leave the room without a deal. Do you doubt me? This philosophy brought the Baltimore Ravens a Super Bowl winning head coach …..

It also landed the Chicago White Sox one of the hottest managerial prospects, following the Florida Marlins 2003 World Championship …..

And, as the we know, he skippered the team to a World Championship, just a couple seasons later.

Andy MacPhail should’ve never let Joe Girardi leave that meeting – not if he was the guy. And, how does an offer like $3 million, in 3 years, inspire a guy of Girardi’s caliber to take this job? I’m not talking about the Joe Girardi who manages the New York Yankees. I’m talking about the Joe Girardi who broke the disruptive spirit of players who initially balked at his managerial powers, in the Marlins clubhouse.

As many know, I’m a devout listener of the Comcast Morning Show. I was listening to Drew before I knew where the WNST station was located. He makes sense ….. and he’s right on many occasions.

Recently, Drew has pointed out the lackluster and non-chalant attitude of Adam Jones. Whether it’s blowing bubbles on dropped flyballs or stupid baserunning blunders, Jones doesn’t seem to be busting his hump or devoting maximum concentration to the game itself.

And, as Drew has also suggested …. what can Dave Trembley do about it? Counsel Jones? Bench him? Fine him?

Adam Jones has every hunch to assume his manager is just one banana peel OR LOSS away from being a former employee. If such exchanges or relationships exist, would any of us be surprised?

Now, put Joe Girardi in that clubhouse and dugout.

Does Adam Jones or anyone challenge him? If they do, they’ll lose. Just ask Miguel Cabrera. He balked at Girardi’s policies regarding junk food in the clubhouse and locker room. Girardi didn’t bend his rules – and Cabrera didn’t bring skittles to the ballpark.

Marlins players had every reason to dismiss Jor Girardi, as the season neared an end. Everyone knew the manager was getting fired and the team had a losing record. That said, those players respected him and they played hard. The Marlins opened the 2006 season with SIX ROOKIES in the lineup and a $14 million payroll. Okay, some sources have the payroll as high as $21 million – but, I’m certain you get the point.

Joe Girardi was fired, because the owner didn’t like him.

You gotta have that guy, right? He doesn’t tolerate off-field distractions. He doesn’t permit lackluster performances. And, he always protects him team …..

But, if MacPhail wanted the guy, why offer a measly 3 million bucks? I’ve always wondered if things would’ve turned out differently if Andy slid a blank check across the table, in Chicago. My gut says YES. My head says YES.

I’ll imagine Joe Girardi had enough time to look at the $3 million offer and consider the Orioles plight, as well as the recent history regarding managers. I’ll conclude that he probably thought …. “in a few seasons, OR LESS, I’ll have a few million bucks in my pocket, but I’ll also be that guy who’s possibly been fired from two jobs, in less than 5 years.” “I don’t mind the risk, but it’s not enough money – not near enough money.”

He probably reasoned the Orioles job could ruin him, as far as future managerial prospects go. If that’s the case, the reward had to be greater.

In case “Franchise” is reading this, I don’t see Joe Girardi as a “what if” kinda guy. He rejected the Orioles halfway thru the 2007 season. He had no reason to believe he was going to be the Yankees new manager, just a few months later.

Yeah, we all heard that Girardi or Don Mattingly would eventually succeed Joe Torre, as Yankees skipper. But, if the Yankees would’ve beaten the Cleveland Indians and BUGS, in the 2007 ALDS, we might’ve never seen a managerial change.

After all, Joe Torre turned down a one year extension.

Joe Girardi rejected the Orioles, because it wasn’t enough money for such a risky gamble. Who wants to hire a former Orioles manager?

Maybe Joe Girardi would’ve taken the O’s job for 3 years/$10 million. But, that’s an extra $7 million – which means the Orioles couldn’t afford Aubrey Huff. Umm …. make that TWO Aubrey Huffs.

A note to Andy ….. Ozzie Guillen is a free agent, following the 2012 season. If you’re gonna offer 3 years/$3 million, don’t waste his time or yours.