Ex-Marlin Wren named Orioles GM Rapport with Angelos points the pair in common direction

October 24, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Citing a desire for innovation, common direction and greater emphasis on international scouting, the Orioles named Florida Marlins executive Frank Wren yesterday as the ninth general manager in the club's 35-year history.

The selection of Wren, 40, concluded a hectic 36 hours that began Thursday with an early-morning phone call from majority owner Peter Angelos and an agreement on a guaranteed three-year contract reached early yesterday afternoon. Terms were not disclosed.

Angelos was similarly impressed by the qualifications of the four finalists for the job, but chose the former Marlins assistant general manager because of an instant rapport that developed between the two, according to Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss. "We talked to a lot of people in baseball trying to identify the best talent available, and we think we got it in Frank," Foss said.

Angelos did not return calls last night.

Wren appeared at a hastily arranged news conference to offer hope for the immediate future while pledging to carry out a five-year plan designed to buttress the player development system.

Peppered by questions regarding his autonomy in baseball matters, Wren gave assurances that he and Angelos had achieved an understanding that differs little from his previous experiences with the Marlins and Montreal Expos.

"[Angelos] said he would leave the day-to-day running of the ballclub to me," Wren said. "But anything of major importance -- just like the other 29 ballclubs -- you've got to run that by ownership."

Accompanied at the dais by Foss and Angelos' two sons, John and Louis, Wren offered his vision in broad strokes:

The Orioles will become much more aggressive in Latin American scouting and player development.

Wren's background in computer analysis will augment personnel evaluation.

A year after constructing a record $69 million payroll, the club will remain a force within the free-agent market.

And Wren will be allowed to create a front office in his own image.

Angelos and Foss have complained about suggestions from inside and outside the organization that ownership has unduly meddled in personnel decisions, including vetoes of trades and pushing selective free-agent signings.

Disagreements over issues of control led GM Pat Gillick to

announce last month his departure from the organization when his current contract expires Nov. 25. Assistant general manager Kevin Malone -- once considered Gillick's presumptive heir -- left Sept. 11 to accept the post as Los Angeles Dodgers GM. Two days after his departure, Malone cited the club's inability "to strike while the iron is hot" as a chief frustration.

Wren spoke at length with Gillick and Malone before interviewing but refused to share the advice he received. "Peter and I both asked hard questions of each other," Wren said.

The answers were apparently satisfactory to both. In hiring a fresh GM, the Orioles hoped to replace a front office splintered by diverging philosophies with a "unified front" rid of backbiting and palace intrigue.

"I think there was a comfort level in believing he would be a positive team player," said Foss. "That does not suggest a yes-man but rather someone who can speak his mind and participate in a decision-making process."

Wren submitted a preliminary blueprint for the off-season during the interview process. Though he declined to elaborate yesterday, the blueprint included his suggestions regarding which of the club's nine potential free agents should be retained and what other available players should be pursued.

Given assurances he will be free to name his own assistant general manager, director of scouting and director of player development, Wren intends to move rapidly.

"I have a lot of people in mind for assistant GM. As for the other situations in the office, I'd rather wait a week," he said.

Current scouting director Gary Nickels has told others within the organization he intends to submit his resignation. Director of player development Syd Thrift is likely to remain in a different capacity.

As for Ray Miller, anointed by Angelos as successor to Davey Johnson, Wren insisted he will not "pre-evaluate" the manager before next season. The stance is in keeping with Angelos' previous assurance that Miller would return to manage a second season following the club's 79-83 fourth-place finish.

Miller had intended to attend the announcement but wasn't given enough notice to make the five-hour drive from his home in eastern Ohio. It was Miller who forwarded Wren's name to Foss at the urging of then-Marlins manager Jim Leyland.

"I'm glad to hear it," said Miller. "I look forward to getting together with him and getting started on next season."

Faced with as many as nine potential free agents and an obvious need to reinvigorate the game's oldest clubhouse, Wren will begin contacting agents next week after meeting Monday with Miller and Tuesday with the coaching staff.

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