O's GM search focuses on Wren Marlins assistant gains support

decision may not come by weekend

October 15, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Though the naming of the Orioles' next general manager might now come later than sooner, momentum appears to be building within the warehouse for Florida Marlins assistant general manager Frank Wren to succeed Pat Gillick, according to sources familiar with the process.

Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Dean Taylor, Chicago White Sox assistant GM Dan Evans and Cleveland Indians assistant GM Dan O'Dowd also remain under consideration.

Apparently no longer certain of reaching a decision by this weekend, majority owner Peter Angelos and chief operating officer Joe Foss did not return phone calls yesterday.

Wren, a finalist for similar positions with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays and San Diego Padres, entered last weekend's round of interviews with Angelos considered a second choice to O'Dowd, though club officials have pointedly denied such a characterization. Evans, according to one source, particularly impressed Angelos during Saturday's three-hour interview while O'Dowd's chances dimmed.

Candidates initially were led to believe a final decision could be reached early this week, with any announcement being postponed in deference to the league championship series. Should the process be delayed beyond tomorrow, the same deference to the World Series could delay an announcement until Oct. 26. Eligible players also may begin filing for free agency the day after the World Series ends.

As the Orioles' nine pending free agents would attest, Angelos is not given to hair-trigger decisions. If taken, the additional time could be devoted to further investigation and perhaps even a third round of interviews among two finalists.

Wren's ascent coincides with the seemingly rapid decline of O'Dowd's candidacy. Considered by many the favorite to succeed Gillick once Indians owner Richard Jacobs granted the Orioles permission for an interview, O'Dowd apparently asked more pointed questions of Angelos than any other candidate.

O'Dowd's concerns revolve around control and flexibility, issues that eventually caused disagreements between ownership and the front-office team of Gillick and assistant Kevin Malone.

Gillick, who supported O'Dowd's candidacy, prepped him before his initial interview with Foss, club's general legal counsel Russell Smouse and the owner's son, John Angelos. Foss reported nothing but positive sentiment about O'Dowd following the extensive initial phase, but ownership's view shifted after last weekend's face-to-face meeting.

O'Dowd questioned the role of director of player development Syd Thrift and also voiced misgivings about manager Ray Miller, sources said. Angelos has said publicly that Miller will return as manager next season and denied reports that the club approached Jim Leyland about replacing Miller. Leyland took an offer to manage the Colorado Rockies.

Foss has repeatedly said the next general manager will have the freedom to appoint his own scouting director and director of player development. However, such latitude apparently has its limits. A number of upper-level scouts were contacted by Foss yesterday and assured their positions were secure. The move may help stem what had been an expected mass exodus.

O'Dowd especially questioned how personnel decisions are made, said a source familiar with the process. Upper management, meanwhile, has emphasized a "team approach" to decision-making that allows financial considerations to trump talent evaluation. Such a desire led to the pursuit of younger executives with little or no previous experience as general manager. Cincinnati Reds manager Jim Bowden withdrew from consideration last week after signing a four-year contract extension with the cash-strapped organization.

"Dan's a straight-ahead guy. I can see where that would hurt him," said an industry figure familiar with all four candidates.

O'Dowd enjoys unprecedented security for an assistant general manager. He is under contract with the Indians through 2001 with three additional club options extending through 2004. His graduating compensation package is in the same neighborhood as many small-market general managers, and he is considered the presumptive heir to general manager John Hart whenever Hart assumes the club presidency.

Pub Date: 10/15/98

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