Wren closes O's chasm After house divided, Angelos and Foss find comfort in new GM

'Architect of team's future'

But like in construction, owner has the final say

October 25, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

When Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss described a "gut feeling" by majority owner Peter Angelos as the telling factor in Frank Wren's naming as general manager, he wasn't being flippant.

By establishing an easy rapport with Angelos during the 43-day hiring process, Wren represents the opportunity for a house divided to grow closer. Wren, hired Friday after serving seven years as Florida Marlins assistant general manager, inherits a club dogged by a disappointing fourth-place finish and recent turbulence within its front office.

By the time Angelos and Wren shook hands on a three-year contract 1: 15 p.m. Friday, both felt comfortable with a relationship vital to solving the palace intrigue that festered in the last year.

"The general manager is the architect of the team's future. It's really not much different than being the architect of a building," said Foss.

An architect recommends options. The owner evaluates whether the plan is financially feasible. If changes are requested, the architect adjusts.

Such a relationship was found lacking during the final days of Pat Gillick and Kevin Malone's term as general manager and assistant. Wren, 40, represents an opportunity to reunite the franchise under a structure Foss insists is no different than elsewhere in the industry.

Wren has been granted control of day-to-day operations while accepting the financial blueprint of Angelos, Foss and the owner's adviser sons.

"What the Orioles do is no different than what the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins or Colorado Rockies do," said Foss.

Miller outside looking in

Angelos, Foss and the rest of a tight-lipped inner circle did their utmost to quarantine the process from prodding and leaks. Initially Ray Miller thought he would be part of the second round of interviews, but instead was relegated largely to a spectator's role. Miller found out about Wren's hiring too late to attend Friday's news conference, which the manager had hoped also would serve to introduce his new hitting coach, Terry Crowley.

Because of Wren's scheduled return to Florida late Friday afternoon, a news conference was arranged only two hours before it took place in the designated hitter's lounge in the warehouse.

The seating chart at a makeshift dais held meaning. Wren, Foss and Angelos' sons, Louis and John, sat without any member of the Gillick regime alongside.

Wren spoke of possessing the autonomy to name his own assistant general manager and directors of scouting and player development. Foss heard a barrage of questions regarding the scope of Wren's authority and spoke of Angelos' "comfort level" with Wren.

"The qualifications of those interviewed were very similar," said Foss. "I think in the final analysis it came down to who Peter felt most comfortable with."

Wren made clear he is comfortable with Angelos and is willing to work within the parameters described during three interviews.

"The team in the front office needs to be categorized no differently than the guys in uniform," insisted Foss.

Added Miller: "I think it will be much more open. It won't be waiting for one person to do this and another person to do that. Everybody makes input and a decision will be made. I just want to have a guy to go to with stuff."

Much of the friction that developed between the previous regime and Foss and Angelos concerned the decision-making process. Gillick and Malone thought ownership's involvement too often bogged down moves that demanded swift action. Conversely, ownership believes it merits a strong voice when millions of dollars are involved.

"We've now been in this business for five years," said Foss. "I'm not purporting to be a baseball expert. It's important to have a Frank Wren, a Roland Hemond or a Pat Gillick who have spent their professional lives on that side. But to suggest after five years we know nothing about the business is wrong and inappropriate. When does someone become an expert, when they retire?"

Wren's greatest task may be constructing a "unified front" that Foss and Angelos have long sought but never achieved. Foss says its absence has contributed to the Orioles becoming a pinata for unfair national and local criticism.

"The general manager makes a recommendation to the chief operating officer and the owner. In the majority of cases where there is a disagreement, there needs to be a healthy discussion of the different points of view. If there is no consensus, the chief executive officer [Angelos] makes the ultimate decision," said Foss.

Wren in agreement

Wren seconded the statement and feels the situation here is little different than those he found in Montreal (from 1976-91 as player, minor-league coach and in front office) and Florida.

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