November 2011

Duquette up next

The Orioles will interview former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette for their GM/president vacancy on Friday in Baltimore, according to an industry source. The 53-year-old Duquette–who is currently out of baseball – will be the sixth candidate to take a turn in the interview room, coming on the heels of Thursday’s interview with Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock.

The news was first reported by the Baltimore Sun on Thursday evening, and confirms the notion that Baltimore –the only organization without a GM for the start of free agency – is trying to move quickly in setting up things the second time around.

With Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava declining the Orioles’ offer on Tuesday, Baltimore was forced to go back to the drawing board and bring in more candidates to go along with the only two left standing from the first round: Dodgers assistant GM DeJon Watson and Baltimore’s director of player development John Stockstill. Neither Watson or Stockstill appear likely to get the position based on the Orioles’ willingness to open the search back up, and a separate source indicated that the organization is aggressively going after more interviewees, with the expectance that Duquette will not be the final candidate.

Duquette served as farm director for the Montreal Expos from 1987-1991 and served as GM after that until ’94, when he was hired by the Red Sox. After being dismissed under Boston’s new ownership in 2002, Duquette opened a sports academy for children in Hinsdale, Mass. He has more than 25 years of experience in baseball, and is the cousin of former Orioles Jim Duquette. Friday’s interview will be the Orioles’ sixth, with Jerry Dipoto –their top choice before withdrawing to take the Angels GM job – the club’s first interview last month.

Os start to expand interviews w. Proefrock

A day removed from the news that Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava would be staying in Toronto, the Orioles have expanded their list of initial candidates and will bring in Phillies executive Scott Proefrock to interview for their general manager vacancy.

The news, first reported by FOXSports.com Wednesday night, was confirmed by an industry source to MLB.com. Proefrock — who is current Philadelphia’s assistant GM –was a name that came up for the Orioles job before the interview process began, and it makes sense given that he is familiar with the organization, having spent three seasons as Baltimore’s director of baseball administration.

The 51-year-old Proefrock served as director of baseball administration with the Tampa Bay Rays from 1995-96 and assistant GM from 1997-2005. He also worked in scouting and player development for Pittsburgh and Atlanta before that and was hired on to join the Phillies front office in November 2008.

However, Proefrock doesn’t have the extensive background in scouting and player development as some of the Orioles other candidates  — which are down to Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson and Baltimore’s director of player development John Stockstill – an area which the organization cited early on as being very desirable given their farm system’s struggles. But he does have ties to the area,  residing in Maryland with his family in the offseason, and he served his time in Baltimore under the tutelage of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, whose job is essentially what he would be interviewing for.

With LaCava declining the Orioles’ offer on Tuesday, Baltimore will open the free agency period as the only organization without a GM/president-type, meaning the process of bringing in new candidates for interviews should be expedited. Watson remains a candidate after a favorable first interview, while Stockstill is seen as more of a wild card given the way the organization’s player development has come under fire.

The Orioles’ other two candidates –LaCava and Jerry Dipoto, who accepted the Angels’ GM position – are out of play, and it’s very possible they bring in a few more names to go along with Proefrock, who will interview sometime this week.

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My personal take on the situation is that –while Watson and Stockstill remain in play — if the Orioles were particularly high on either one of them, they would have offered them the GM job already. It’s obvious that LaCava, as classy as he is, thought long and hard about taking the job –otherwise it wouldn’t have gotten that far — before ultimately deciding it wasn’t in his best interest long-term.

It’s important to note that LaCava didn’t seek out the Orioles job: they came to him. And while clearly manager Buck Showalter’s choice, and a good one at that, he elected to bide his time in Toronto and wait for a better situation. A lot of the rumors that LaCava was worried about future autonomy and personnel moves are true  to some extent. To exactly what extent, we won’t ever really know.

I’ve gotten asked a lot who will take this Orioles job, particularly with rumors that Dipoto had no plans to take it either, which was reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney on Twitter today.  Someone very capable will take the position –it’s one of only 30 GM jobs in baseball — but the problem for the Orioles now is the perception. Forget being the team’s second or third candidate, the news with LaCava now has the Orioles’ GM job –true or not — looking more like a lame duck position where Andy MacPhail’s successor won’t get total control. That’s not exactly an ideal situation and something that you can bet will be addressed in all of their discussions with potential candidates.

Here are a few names to tentatively cross off your list:  Mets special assistant JP Ricciardi and the Rangers’ A.J. Preller and Thad Levine. As of Wednesday,  the Orioles haven’t reached out to either organization, although all three of those names have been previously rumored. It’s very possible they go after some of the names you heard at the beginning of this search, such as Tampa Bay’s Gerry Hunsicker or the White Sox Rick Hahn, although both of those guys are content in their current organizations and roles and I can’t see the Orioles GM job –which is already getting a less than desirable rap around baseball — being enticing enough for them to want to leave. Another name to keep tabs on is Twins executive Mike Radcliff, especially considering his very-well respected background in scouting.

UPDATE: According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles have reached out to Radcliff. So there’s another name to add to the list.

Markakis dealing w. bone bruise, at “75 percent”

Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis was dealing with a pelvic issue that worsened the last few weeks of the 2011 season and the 27-year-old said in conference call Wednesday morning that he’s still only about “75 percent”.

Markakis, who isn’t worired that the injury will alter his offseason program, called the injury a bone bruise in his lower abdomen region, said it happened during the team’s last trip to Toronto the second weekend of September.

“I just felt my belt buckle go into my pelvic bone,” Markakis said of one particular play.  “And it knocked me up pretty good just repeatedly diving into it during the season.”
Discussing his first Gold Glove award with reporters, Markakis confessed it felt like a “dagger in his stomach” when he dove for a ball down the line during the Orioles’ second to last game against the Red Sox. He left the team’s final game with the injury and said Wednesday the only thing to do right now is rest and let the area heal.

Owner of a career .992 fielding percentage — which ranks him first among active American League right fielders — Markakis finished the 2011 season with a perfect fielding percentage in 325 chances. The 27-year-old Markakis had 14 assists, including three double plays, in 157 games in right field. He also appeared in three games as a first baseman and one at designated  hitter.

Wieters & Markakis win Gold Gloves

The Orioles took home some hardware from Tuesday night’s Rawlings Gold Glove Award show, with catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis both taking home the honor for the first time in their respective careers.

The Gold Gloves honor the best individual fielding performances at each position in the National and American Leagues — as voted by Major League managers and coaches — and were announced in an hour-long telecast that started around 11 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.

The 25-year-old Wieters was an anchor for the Orioles young pitching staff and –along with fellow nominees Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski and Detroit’s Alex Avila – ended the 2011 season with an AL-best.995 fielding percentage.  Selected to his first career All-Star game, Wieters committed five errors, one passed ball and amassed a .370 percentage throwing out baserunners trying to steal.

A workhorse who also had a strong year offensively, Wieters started 129 games for the Orioles, appearing in 132 total, as he continued to solidify a presence behind the plate that made opposing teams think twice. Manager Buck Showalter, who once said Wieters did something every game that impressed him, has praised the young backstop’s devotion to the game and ability to do the little thing, such as catch foul balls and block the plate. He is the first catcher in Orioles’ history to take home a Gold Glove.

Markakis had an equally impressive season in the field, and takes home an award that many around baseball –including Showalter – have long thought to be well overdue. A career .992 fielding percentage –which ranks him first among active AL right fielders – Markakis finished the 2011 season with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 325 chances. The 27-year-old Markakis had 14 assists, including three double plays, in 157 games in right field. He also appeared in three games as a first baseman and one at designated hitter.

Widely regarded as one of the game’s best outfielders, Markakis’ Gold Glove drought was thought to be, in part because of the way the previous balloting lumped together the outfielders in one category, which led to predominantly a group of centerfielders taking home the honors. The separate balloting for each outfield spot in 2011 helped Markakis take home his first Gold Glove over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s perennial winner Torii Hunter and Kansas City Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur.

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Updated w. LaCava quotes

Earlier on Tuesday, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talked about how difficult it would be to lose assistant GM Tony LaCava, a widely regarded baseball executive who was the Baltimore Orioles’ top choice for their president/GM vacancy. But Anthopoulos no longer has to worry.

A day after meeting with the Orioles’ top decision makers — including principal owner Peter Angelos — LaCava turned down Baltimore’s offer to become GM and will instead remain in Toronto for the 2012 season. The news comes as a surprise, given how far along in the process LaCava was — he had a lengthy first interview on Oct. 19 — and leaves the Orioles sans a GM with free agency set to open on Thursday.

“They were more than fair,” LaCava said in a phone interview Tuesday night in regards to the Orioles offer. “And it’s a great opportunity it just came down to this, and I know it’s hard for people to believe it, that I truly love what I do in Toronto. And I wasn’t looking to leave. But when there’s only 30 GM jobs, when you have a chance to explore them you do it. That was the way I looked at it.”

LaCava said the Orioles offer was on par financially with what a traditional GM job would warrant and refuted the rumors that he wasn’t going to be allowed the freedom to make certain personnel moves and reshape the organization’s infrastructure.

“Truly, it wasn’t like that at all,” said LaCava, who met with the Orioles’ brass on Monday and was officially offered the job on Tuesday. “It really just comes down to, when they called for permission I wasn’t actively looking to leave the Blue Jays, I have a great dynamic with the general manager, he’s a dear friend. I have a desire to see things through with him.

I wanted to explore [the Orioles job]. You need to at least look at it, but I always knew in my heart that I was going to be weighing it with Toronto.”

It’s unknown what the next step will be for the Orioles, who could expand their candidate pool and conduct more interviews, or offer the position to either of the two remaining candidates: Dodgers assistant GM DeJon Watson or Baltimore’s director of player development John Stockstill. As of late Tuesday night, the organization has not asked for permission from Texas to interview any potential candidates, such as the heavily rumored Thad Levine.

Watson, who met with the Orioles several times as well, according to Yahoo! Sports, remains in play, while Stockstill is seen as more of a wild card, particularly given the organization’s struggles in scouting and player development. Watson, who interviewed for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM job last year that went to Kevin Towers, just completed his fifth season in charge of the Dodgers’ Minor League system, which was named the best in baseball in 2010 by Topps. Watson joined the Dodgers from Cleveland, where he was scouting director, and he also was scouting director for Cincinnati.

LaCava, 50, is regarded as one of baseball’s most savvy talent evaluators and served as a scout for the Angels, Atlanta Braves, Montreal Expos and Cleveland Indians before joining Toronto’s organization. He was moved up from assistant to the GM to assistant GM in October 2007 and the duties of director of player development were added in ’09. The Orioles job was the third GM position LaCava has interviewed for — the other two GM jobs openings were in Pittsburgh and Seattle — but this is the first he has turned down an offer.

“I just felt like I couldn’t leave the Blue Jays, and its nothing against the Orioles,” LaCava said. “I know there are some fans out there that don’t want to believe that, but it is the truth.

[The whole interview process] was good.  The baseball conversations were good. The vision and commitment is there by ownership, so hopefully it’s going to be a real good fit for somebody and im sure  they’ll make a great hire.”

LaCava declines Os offer, to stay in Toronto

Earlier on Tuesday, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talked about how difficult it would be to lose assistant GM Tony LaCava, a widely regarded baseball executive who was the Baltimore Orioles’ top choice for their president/GM vacancy.  But Anthopoulos no longer has to worry.

A day after meeting with the Orioles’ top decision makers –including principal owner Peter Angelos – LaCava turned down Baltimore’s offer to become GM and will instead remain in Toronto for the 2012 season, according to  industry souces. The news, first reported by FOXSports.com, comes as a surprise given how far along in the process LaCava was –he had a lengthy first interview on Oct. 19– and leaves the Orioles without a GM with free agency set to begin on Thursday.

It’s unknown what the next immediate step will be for the Orioles, who could expand their candidate pool and conduct more interviews, or offer the position to either of the two remaining candidates: Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson or Baltimore’s director of player development John Stockstill.

Watson, who met with the Orioles several times as well, according to Yahoo! Sports, remains in play, while Stockstill is seen as more of a wild card, particularly given the organization’s struggles in the scouting and player development area. Watson, who interviewed for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM job last year that went to Kevin Towers, just completed his fifth season in charge of the Dodgers’ Minor League system, which was named the best in baseball in 2010 by Topps. Watson joined the Dodgers from Cleveland, where he was scouting director, and he also was scouting director for Cincinnati.

LaCava, 50, is regarded as one of baseball’s most savvy talent evaluators and served as a scout for the Angels, Atlanta Braves, Montreal Expos and Cleveland Indians before joining Toronto’s organization. He was moved up from assistant to the GM to assistant GM in October 2007 and the duties of director of player development were added in ’09. The Orioles job was the third GM position LaCava has interviewed for two other GM jobs previously– Pittsburgh and Seattle – although this is the first he has turned down the job after being offered it.

 

Os still deciding on GM

The Orioles are narrowing their general manager search and –with free agency set to begin on Thursday – the organization appears to be focusing on the small pool of candidates they have already interviewed, including Toronto’s assistant general manager Tony LaCava.

The Orioles have interviewed a total of four candidates, LaCava, Jerry Dipoto –who accepted the Angels’ vacant GM position – Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson and Baltimore’s director of player development John Stockstill, and have no plans to bring in any more candidates, according to a Major League source. A decision — while obviously preferred before Major League Baseball’s free agency period begins– isn’t expected until Wednesday at the earliest.

LaCava met with the Orioles’ decision makers in Baltimore on Monday, including principal owner Peter Angelos, in a meeting –first reported by FoxSports.com – that could signify which way things are leaning. LaCava has emerged as the favorite to land the position vacated by president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and he had a lengthy initial interview in Baltimore on Oct. 19.

Watson, who met with the Orioles several times as well according to Yahoo! Sports, also remains in play and is a strong candidate, while Stockstill is seen as more of a wild card, particularly given the organization’s struggles in the scouting and player development area. LaCava, 50, is regarded as an exceptional communicator and his extensive connections and background in scouting and player development have earned him a reputation as one of baseball’s most savvy talent evaluators.

LaCava started as a scout for the Angels, Atlanta Braves, Montreal Expos and Cleveland Indians before joining Toronto’s organization, and he was moved up from assistant to the GM to assistant GM in October 2007. In 2009, he was also named director of player development and currently serves as the right-hand man to GM Alex Anthopoulos.

By several accounts, Toronto has been preparing for the possibility of life without LaCava for the last few weeks, with a major concern being what personnel LaCava –who is incredibly well respected in the organization — would take with him if he was to get the Orioles’ GM job.

LaCava’s current role in Toronto has him in charge of player personnel and he has had enviable success identifying international talent to add to the Blue Jays already well-regarded Minor League system. A Pittsburgh native, LaCava’s family is still based in the area, making a potential move from Toronto to Baltimore not any kind of hindrance. There’s a school of that that LaCava –who is incredibly well-respected around the league – and his desire to stay close to his family has kept him out of the running for several similar positions in the past.

Watson, who interviewed for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM job last year that went to Kevin Towers, just completed his fifth season in charge of the Dodgers’ Minor League system, which was named the best in baseball in 2010 by Topps. Watson joined the Dodgers from Cleveland, where he was scouting director, and he also was scouting director for Cincinnati.

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