Orioles expected to hire Thrift to run minors

October 29, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

In a surprise move, the Orioles have picked Syd Thrift, a baseball executive with a colorful and controversial past, as director of player development, club sources said yesterday.

Thrift, 65, a veteran baseball man who has worked in the front offices of five major-league clubs, functioning as general manager of two, will direct the Orioles' minor-league farm system. Thrift signed a one-year contract, the sources said.

In the minor-league post, Thrift takes over for Doug Melvin, who left the Orioles this month to become general manager of the Texas Rangers.

An announcement of Thrift's hiring is expected Monday at a Camden Yards news conference.

Thrift certainly is experienced in almost any front-office post. He brings more than three decades of baseball training to the Orioles, years in which he has developed, and traded for, players who later became big-league stars, including Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek, Rickey Henderson and Frank White.

But many of the jobs have ended badly for Thrift, who frequently has parted company with teams after disagreements with owners and other club officials. In 1987, he resigned after five months as senior vice president of the New York Yankees, reportedly because he failed to back owner George Steinbrenner's decision to fire manager Dallas Green.

It isn't clear exactly how Thrift fits into the revamped Orioles front office. General manag- er Roland Hemond, one of the few baseball officials who can match Thrift's years of baseball experience, apparently will retain control of most baseball matters, and assistant GM Frank Robinson will continue to advise him.

But Thrift's arrival may increase speculation about Hemond's future in the GM job. Robinson has stated publicly that he would like to be the next Orioles general manager, if owner Peter Angelos shifts Hemond to the post of vice chairman for baseball operations.

In any case, the latest moves give the Orioles a distinctively graying look. Thrift joins Hemond, who also is 65, and Robinson, 59, in the front office. New Orioles manager Phil Regan is 57.

Neither Hemond nor Robinson could be reached for comment last night. Thrift, who lives in Locust Hill, Va., was unavailable.

But Joe Foss, Orioles vice chairman, and one of those involved in the selection of Melvin's replacement, said of Thrift: "I think Syd is one of the foremost experts in baseball when it comes to instruction, forward-thinking and innovation."

While not confirming that the Orioles have hired Thrift, Foss said the club did do its homework in looking into Thrift's past. "As in all significant hiring decisions, the Orioles do a considerable amount of discussion within the industry," Foss said.

The Orioles didn't have to dig deep to learn about Thrift -- just buy his book, "The World According to Syd," published four years ago.

For the past three seasons, Thrift worked for the Chicago Cubs as assistant general manager.

He was fired from that job in a shake-up of the front office 11 days ago, and his resume has been circulating among baseball officials since.

He apparently was on the Orioles' list for some time, but became a more serious candidate after club officials discussed the minor-league job with scouting director Gary Nickels, a key member of the player development operation the past four years.

Nickels had much support, and might have gotten the job if he had been willing to move to Baltimore. He lives with his family in Chicago.

Others considered for the job reportedly included Bruce Manno of the Milwaukee Brewers and ex-Houston Astros general manager Bill Wood.

Thrift was at Camden Yards to interview with club officials on Wednesday. He was back to meet with a few employees yesterday.

SYD THRIFT FILE

FRONT-OFFICE BACKGROUND

* Assistant GM Chicago Cubs, 1991-1994

* Senior VP New York Yankees, 1989

* Senior VP and GM Pittsburgh Pirates, 1985-1988

* Oakland Athletics front office, 1975-1976

* Scouting director and founder of Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy, 1967-1972

* Scouting supervisor, Pirates, 1957-1967

PERSONAL

* 65 years old

* He and his wife, Dolly, live in Locust Hill, Va.

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