With Elias, Guarded Optimism Comes To Baltimore
The Orioles have done something this week that few of us thought they could or would do…they made the right decision. Yesterday, the Orioles announced that they have hired Mike Elias to replace Dan Duquette and be the teams’ new EVP/GM. Not only have they done that but, according to reports, the brothers Angelos have told him he gets the keys to the car and can do what he wants. It seems like his right-hand man will be Sig Medjal. He will be in charge of building an analytics department that, let’s face it, has basically been non-existent in this organization.
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As a fan of this team, it’s very hard to believe this has actually happened. This organization has watched practically every team in baseball embrace the “new school” thinking. We have watched teams hire young, highly intelligent baseball people to run their organization. We have watched teams use statistics and analytics to build organizations. We have watched team spend in the draft, spend in international talent and build up organizations to the point where they sustain year in and year out.
As we watched this, we watched the Orioles sink further and further away. They hung onto their old school thinking, hung onto their faint hopes of being good and hung onto the notion that they have to keep “hometown heroes” and pay them stupid money. With the hiring of Elias, a Yale graduate who has been instrumental in the building of the Astros, those days are hopefully over. When this process started and we first heard his name, I felt he was the best-case scenario. I thought he was the total package and the best hire they could make. I also didn’t think the Orioles would be smart enough to even interview him, much less actually hire him. He was the anti-candidate from years past. I am glad I was wrong. They pulled it off and now, the organization actually has something they didn’t even have during the 2012-2016 seasons…they have hope. I know people will say, that’s crazy. They won a bunch of games, made the playoffs 3 times and were legitimately good in 2014. I agree with all of that. The thing is, in any of those given seasons, they always could have had the ceiling cave in on them and you never really felt comfortable with the team the next year. Even if you felt they would or could be a playoff team, it was a lot of ifs. Not to mention, we were clinging to the idea that the big dogs in the East, Boston and NY, were down a little then. Some of that was because of the Orioles were better but I think the Orioles were better more because they were down vs the other way around. This is an exciting hire. That can’t be understated. Every single Orioles fan should be ecstatic about this. Every single fan should give kudos to the organization for doing the right thing.
Now, all of that being said, this hire means nothing if John and Lou Angelos don’t live up to their word. When it was essentially announced that they had taken over earlier this year, they came out and said a lot of good things. They said a lot of things fans have wanted to hear for years. However, what they actually did quickly showed those words to be hollow. They sold guys like Gausman for nothing. They promised to spend on international talent, only to see us trade 750K for a 47-year-old in the gulf coast league who wasn’t even that good in that league. (Hyperbole on the age, but he’s a non-prospect.) They set a ceiling on money to spend on the Mesa brothers and Gaston. They have been left with a huge chunk of money, money they claimed was essential in the Gasuman trade, that probably will largely go unused. So, while I think every fan should be excited about this deal, I also believe every fan should be skeptical that the words and the actions won’t match up. We know that Elias has been given assurances. We know he has to be comfortable with those assurances because there would be no reason for him to take this job if he wasn’t comfortable with that. What we don’t know is if John and Lou will truly allow him to do what he wants and not interfere. Their father wasn’t known as a meddler until the 1996 trade deadline when he said to go get Bobby Bonilla. He ended up making one of his few good calls and since then, felt he knew more than the men he hired to run the team. Will a moment like that happen? If it does, will it doom the franchise for another 20-year stretch? For now, we have to hope that what they say is what will happen. We just have to wait and see.
There is a lot that can be done this offseason. They need to hire an analytics department, build up scouting (both foreign and domestic), player development, coaching, etc…the list goes on and on. As for player acquisition, fellow BSL writer Brandon Warne outlined some ideas here. As Brandon points out here, looking for low risk moves is the way to go. Buying guys to hopefully be able to trade them in July is a strategy worth doing. The team has some decent pieces but I don’t think you have much you want to trade right now. Givens and Bundy are coming off subpar years. Bleier is coming back from an injury. Mancini was down last year. Cobb was terrible the first half and is owed a bunch of money and Trumbo is coming off knee surgery. That is just to name a few. They don’t really have anyone you want to build around. They have some potential ML pieces that could be part of a contender but nothing that would likely be a key piece except maybe Givens and Bundy. The minor league system is improving and should be a lot better this time next year. Between Elias being here and likely doing a lot more internationally (not that we will see much from that for a while) and in the draft, I think we could see the system jump into the top 10 quickly. They will also very likely have a poor team in 2019, so they will have a bunch of high picks the following year as well. Having one of the best handful of systems in baseball within 2 years isn’t really impossible to see, especially if some of these ML pieces do well and we can trade them for a lot.
One thing is for sure, Elias has his work cut out for him and this process won’t be short and it won’t be easy. However, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare and if we get good development from the top minor league guys, they could be better than we think in a quicker period of time than many of us believe will occur.
I haven’t written an Oriole article for months. I didn’t watch a complete game in 2018. I didn’t go to Camden Yards for any games, which was a first for me. I only got excited at the trade deadline. The season was a complete disaster and there was nothing to be happy about. This move gets the blood flowing again, assuming The Angelos’s stay true to their word. If they do, I like the organizations chances of building something we haven’t seen here since the days of Brooks, Palmer, Frank, Boog, etc…a year in and year out sustainable winning team. We, as fans, have to be patient. We have to understand this will take time but once they get to where I think they can now go, it will be have been worth the wait.