• Jun

    My 29 Questions for Andy MacPhail

    Hired in June 2007, Andy MacPhail has reached his 4th anniversary as the President of Baseball Operations for the Baltimore Orioles. Prior to being hired with the O’s, MacPhail served as the President / CEO of the Chicago Cubs from September 1994 until October 2006. MacPhail was the General Manager of Minnesota, when the Twins won World Titles in 1987, and 1991.

    MacPhail’s Father (Lee), and Grandfather (Larry) are both members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, with part of Lee’s resume also including time as General Manager of the Orioles.

    MacPhail’s Nephew (Lee IV) is the Orioles Director of Pro Scouting, who we previously interviewed at our Baltimore Sports and Life (http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/?p=1051)

    To the credit of Mr. MacPhail, tomorrow he will take questions from Orioles season ticket holders. While the O's did invite me attend, and take notes on the questions asked - I will not be able to due to a family obligation. Below are the questions I have for Mr. MacPhail and the Orioles organization. In full disclosure, I did provide these to Mr. MacPhail earlier this month, which the O's declined to answer. Mr. MacPhail has previously answered questions from Orioles Hangout, and we hope that opportunity is again presented going forward.

    I have a lot of respect for what Mr. MacPhail and his family have accomplished in the game. While my questions below illustrate a number of things I believe the organization needs to improve, it is my current preference that after this 2011 season that MacPhail is retained. Organizational continuity is a good thing, and I do not believe a change in leadership is required. I gave an expanded look at my current Orioles thoughts here: http://www.orioleshangout.com/blog/chris-corner/286/where-are-the-orioles- .

    My questions:

    1) Orioles Hangout: “Tampa has proven over the past three seasons that a well run franchise can reach the post-season, even with far less resources than the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. That said, if a second Wild Card team is added to each league, are the three largest beneficiaries Tampa, Toronto, and Baltimore? Do you believe this second Wild Card will be approved?”

    2) Orioles Hangout: “The Amateur Draft just held will be the last Draft conducted under the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement. Commissioner Selig has stated that in addition to the proposed second Wild Card, he wants Hard Slotting and an International Draft. Are you also in favor of these changes?”

    3) Orioles Hangout: “Amateur Scouting Director Joe Jordan has previously confirmed that the O’s spent $8.8M on the Draft in ‘09, and a similar amount in ‘10. As this was potentially the last Draft without Hard Slotting, and the O’s lacked the Compensatory picks of their Divisional Rivals - I had hoped to see the O’s go ‘Over-Slot’ with every selection. Did any of the additions to the 2011 Major League roster prevent additional spending on the Draft?”

    4) Orioles Hangout: “During 2005-10 period the O’s have had 17 picks during the first 3 rounds of the Draft. In that same period the Yankees have had 18, Tampa 21, Toronto 27, and Boston has had 30. This disparity only increased in the ‘11 Draft. Is this evidence of a failure of the O’s Front Office to gain (or protect) compensatory draft-picks, or is this evidence of a flawed compensatory system? Do your foresee a change to the Compensatory system in the next CBA?”

    5) Orioles Hangout: “ Last Summer you were interviewed by MASN’s Steve Melewski (http://www.masnsports.com/steve_melewski/2010/07/assessing-the-os-minor-leagues-do-the-os-have-enough-scouts.html). In that interview Mr. Melewski asked you about employing less scouts than your AL East peers, and you made points about diminishing returns, and noting the difference between ceremonial and full-time Scouts. In response, I asked Joe Jordan, “If you had the opportunity to hire 15 Scouts would you decline to do so?” Jordan replied, “I do understand Andy’s point and I agree with him for the most part. Hiring 15 guys would be overkill in my opinion and would in fact confuse the process more than anything. That being said, I believe we should be investing in our baseball operations now more than ever. The number of scouts you have is important as you try to get the most complete coverage possible. You can only be competitive and also prepared by getting your looks at players.” This Winter it was announced that the O’s had hired former Texas Rangers Scouting Director Ron Hopkins as a Cross Checker, a move Jordan recently enthusiastically endorsed. However, Hopkins was the only net-addition to the Department. Why have more resources not been allocated to Scouting?”

    6) Orioles Hangout: “While your contract expires after the end of the 2011 season, Orioles Majority Owner Peter Angelos stated in March you are not going anywhere. Is it important to you personally to stay in this position until at-least tangible progress can be shown in the standings? Every Business 101 Class in the Country talks about Succession Planning, and how it is a trademark of successful organizations to regularly be grooming Executives through increasing responsibilities . Apologies for the morbidness of the question, but if you were to suddenly leave the organization unexpectedly tomorrow; who would be best positioned to assume the leadership which would be required?”

    7) Orioles Hangout: “In an interview with Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal (http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/baltimore-orioles-farm-system-lacking-022911), you were asked about the minimal foreign talent in the system and responded, “Philosophically, I’m not as committed to making the same commitments that we do in the (amateur) draft if it’s just going to be a workout. If you can’t see the guy play in a game, I think that is fraught with peril.”  Can you expand on your thoughts here? With Baltimore lacking the financial resources to go head-to-head for the top talent that hits the Free Agent market, what is the justification for the organization to have a lack of effort in International Scouting through design?”

    8) Orioles Hangout: “In their organizational reviews, Keith Law / ESPN ranked the O’s 24th overall, and Baseball America ranked the O’s 21st. Part of that ranking can be attributed to the players who have graduated from the system to the Major Leagues within the past two years. Part of that ranking can also be attributed to the lack of International talent in the system.The Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulus let go of their Pacific Rim / Asia Scout Rob Ducey in October 2009 stating they would increase their focus on Latin America along with their Amateur and Pro Scouting. Correspondingly they would be decreasing their focus on Europe and Asia. Do the O’s have a similar philosophy?”      

    9) Orioles Hangout: “In March 2010, David Stockstill and his brother John exchanged their leadership positions within the Organization with David becoming the Director of International Scouting, and John taking over Player Development. What changes have been implemented to the International Department since that point?”

    10) Orioles Hangout: “Does the International Department have a budget comparable to what the Amateur Scouting Department has for the Draft?”

    11) Orioles Hangout: “Last year the O’s obtained 16 year-old Dominican 3rd baseman Hector Veloz. Was his signing entirely about his individual talent, or was there also a component of announcing a stronger Oriole presence in the DR?”

    12) Orioles Hangout: “I understand why detailed information is protected and why the O’s would want to limit the proprietary information they let the public become aware of. Still, I would like the O’s to provide a general understanding of where they are as an organization in the following countries outside of Latin America. Beyond that, I would like to hear the leadership state what they feel can reasonably be accomplished in the next year, 3 years, and 5 years out.

    South Africa – It has been estimated that there are 300,000 South African kids playing baseball due to the partnership between Major League Baseball and the South African Government.
    Australia – I know the game suffered after the disbanding of the Australian Baseball League in 1999 (since restarted). Despite that, it is a country which has produced Major League talent before.
    Europe – Particularly Italy, and The Netherlands?
    China – Is the China Baseball League catching-up to the level of play in the Taiwanese League?
    Taiwan – Any presence here?
    Korea – Do the O’s employ a full-time scout to cover the Korean League?
    Japan – You regularly hear analysts say that Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball is somewhere between AAA and the Majors. In addition to Scouting for players, has there ever been any internal thought to Baseball Operation hires? Not necessarily limited to Field Managers, but also towards their Scouts and Player Development types? I realize it is not an apples to apples comparison as their organizations structures differ starting with the corporate structure which is in place in Japan. However, if reports about the NPB having far superior fundamentals are accurate, it might be interesting to bring some of those philosophies to the States.”

    13) Orioles Hangout: “There seems to be some belief that the unsigned amateur talent of Latin America is less polished than they were a generation ago. Do the Orioles agree with the argument that ‘buscones’ (Guides) are getting to players at younger ages, leading to better athletes but players who have played the game less than their predecessors?”

    14) Orioles Hangout: “Are the signing bonuses for Dominican and Venezuelan talent rising faster than the draft-eligible US born talent? If so, and if the average Dominican and Venezuelan signed player is 16/17 vs. drafted 18/19 year old Americans, is the risk considerably larger with the Latin talent?”

    15) Orioles Hangout: “Where can the O’s improve in the Dominican and Venezuela between now and the 2013 All-Star break (roughly 2 years)?”

    16) Orioles Hangout: “Two years ago you offered Teixeira a reported 7 year $145M dollar contract. You said the contract was offered in-part because of the special circumstances surrounding Teixeira. It is my perception that a similar contract to any prospective Free Agent would only be offered if you believed that player was capable of putting the O’s ‘over the top.’ Is that perception accurate?”

    17) Orioles Hangout: “If there was a player who requested to be posted through Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, are the Orioles fundamentally opposed to paying a substantial posting fee?”

    18) Orioles Hangout: “The O’s signed Kevin Gregg to a 2 year $10M deal with a vesting option for 2013. Gregg’s signing did not cost the loss of a compensatory draft-pick.

    In the past 3 years, some of Gregg’s numbers were:
    2008: 72 games, 68.2 ip, 51 hits, 3 hr’s, 37 bb’s, 58 k’s, .203 baa, .585 OPS, 0.88 G/F
    2009: 72 games, 68.2 ip, 60 hits, 13 hr’s, 30 bb’s, 70 k’s, .229 baa, .740 OPS, 0.64 G/F
    2010: 63 games, 59 ip, 52 hits, 4 homers, 30 bb’s, 58 k’s, .237 baa, .712 OPS, 0.76 G/F

    This pretty clearly illustrates what Gregg brings to the table. A guy that is pretty durable, that figures to give up less than a hit per IP, have mediocre control, and good k rates. Did Gregg cost more because of the Saves he had accumulated?”

    19) Orioles Hangout: “The most significant additions the O’s made this off-season were the acquisitions of Mark Reynolds and JJ Hardy because they have the potential of being longer-term options. Reynolds is signed through ‘12, with a team option for ‘13, while Hardy is signed just through ‘11. Hardy would play in just 6 regular-season games before suffering an oblique injury that forced him to the DL for 27 games. This most recent DL trip comes after playing just 115 games in 2009, and 101 games in 2010. It was recently announced that you are pursuing a contract extension with Hardy. As Hardy has not proven to be any healthier during this year, why was an extension not pursued immediately after he was obtained?"

    20) Orioles Hangout: “Fast forwarding to the non-waiver deadline, if the O’s are improved but outside of contention; will the team actively pursue offers for Guthrie? Not asking if you will definitively trade him, but asking if the O’s will seek offers?”

    21) Orioles Hangout: “Adam Jones is arbitration eligible in 2012, and 2013 before becoming a Free Agent for the 2014 season. The O’s CF turns 26 in August, and has a career .329 wOBA. Despite a Gold Glove, and a reputation for his defense, his play in CF the past two years was mediocre at best. So far in 2011, the defense seems improved (Partly due to improved positioning). His positive effort has also been noticeable. Even if his plate-discipline never improves, he can still help a roster. Will the O’s be pursuing a long-term extension with Jones in the near-term?”

    22) Orioles Hangout: “In the FanGraphs organizational rankings, the O’s were ranked 15th overall, and 5th overall in Future Talent. The Future Talent ranking was based mostly on the players at the Major League level whom have yet to reach their prime. If the core of the O’s moving forward is Markakis, Wieters, Jones, Matusz, Britton, and Arrieta; how do you feel that group compares to any similar aged group of players throughout the game?”

    23) Orioles Hangout: “Chris Tillman told MASN that he is purposely pitching with lowered velocity, to gain further control and movement. Pitch F/X is not showing much increase in movement. Prior to being sent down, Tillman was 2-3 with a 4.69 era.
    His K/9 ratio has increased from 5.20 last year, to 6.
    His BB/9 has decreased from 5.20 last year, to 3.75 this year.
    His HR/9 has decreased from 1.51 to 0.38.
    His line-drive rate has decreased from 21.6% to 17.8%.
    His tERA is 3.64. What are your present thoughts on the young-righty? Was he not pitching comparable (or better) than most 5th starters in the American League?”

    24) Orioles Hangout: “Tampa recently signed Wade Davis to a long-term extension (team options for what would be his first two years of free agency), essentially buying their way out of the arbitration process. Should the O’s be aggressively doing the same with their young starters?”

    25) Orioles Hangout: “Like all teams, the Orioles have their proprietary information and reports. What 3rd party sites do you regularly read?”

    26) Orioles Hangout: “Recently, the Nationals broke ground on a Youth Baseball Academy in Fort Dupont Park. Construction is being funded through $10.2M from the District, and the Washington Nationals are donating $3.5M for construction and operating costs and will manage the academy year-round. I know this is past your scope as the President of Baseball Operations, but do you think a similar facility for the O’s in Baltimore would make sense?”

    27) Orioles Hangout: “As you know, the O’s were 37-37 in their last 74 games last season, with a 4.13 ERA. After Showalter took over, the O’s had 36 Quality Starts in 57 games with a 3.16 ERA. In the off-season, I saw a team that had majorly upgraded at 1st, SS, 3rd, and LF.  I went into the season thinking it should be realistic for this team to compile a 4.20 team era, score 115+ more runs, and win 83 games. Did/do you hold similar expectations?”

    28) Orioles Hangout:The Los Angeles Times has reported that the Orioles are one of 9 teams in-violation of MLB debt service rules.Conversely, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler reported that the O’s are telling friends in the game they have significant money to spend this off-season. Is the debt service violation a non-issue?”

    29) Orioles Hangout: “Heading into play 6/24, the O’s are 6 games under .500 at 33-39. In the past 150 games, the O’s are right around .500 overall (74-76). Do you anticipate the Orioles having the personnel in place to legitimately contend for a division title in 2012?”

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Michael Williams

Lifelong. Down by the river.