GM-less O's busy at their meeting

Seattle, Yanks among clubs O's group sees

November 09, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

DANA POINT, Calif. -- It is a question of semantics. Several Orioles officials are attending the annual general managers' meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, but no one who is designated as the general manager.

If that is a source of confusion to some of the other baseball officials who have traveled to this scenic cliff-top resort, Orioles director of player personnel Syd Thrift is unapologetic.

"General manager is a bad term," said Thrift, who is the apparent point man for the Orioles' contingent. "It's a term that Peter Angelos does not want to use. He thinks it's obsolete and I agree with him 100 percent."

The Orioles may not get 100 percent agreement on that point in an industry that clings to its old-fashioned conventions. The role of the general manager has changed dramatically over the past generation -- from an all-encompassing position of authority to a more specific baseball operations post.

When the Orioles dismissed Frank Wren last month, they essentially did away with the title he held and replaced him with a committee that includes Thrift, John and Louis Angelos, and scouts Don Welke and Bob Schaeffer. There still is some speculation that the club will hire a new director of baseball operations, but it seems more likely that the club will stay with the current alignment unless it becomes obvious that it is unworkable or ineffective.

"Why not?" Thrift said. "I don't think titles really mean that much anyway, if you have responsibilities and you do the job."

There remains the question of who has the authority to make decisions and conduct trade negotiations, but Thrift obviously is the guy pulling the strings at this precursor to next month's winter meetings. He was the guy setting up meetings with four clubs yesterday afternoon.

"I don't have to put a sign up," he said. "I don't know what the criteria is. Maybe it's just seniority. I've been doing this for a long time. When Pat Gillick was the GM, he had me make the trade for David Wells. No one works for themselves. We have a team of people."

The Orioles are not expected to make any dramatic moves this week. Thrift said that most of the time will be spent building on discussions that were initiated during the World Series.

"We've already had a lot of meetings," he said. "We've been pretty thorough. We've been working right along while everybody is saying we're disorganized. Everybody is in tune with everybody else."

The first meeting yesterday was with former Orioles GM Gillick and the Seattle Mariners, presumably to inquire about the availability of superstars Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez. The Orioles figure to be heavily involved if either player reaches free-agent eligibility after next season, but would likely have to give up one of their front-line starting pitchers, another major-league regular and a couple of top minor-league prospects to get a deal done this winter.

The Mariners announced last week that they had agreed to trade Griffey, but so far have indicated that they will not entertain offers for Rodriguez.

The Orioles also met with the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, according to baseball sources.

"We're just following up on what we did at the World Series," Thrift said, "seeing what teams have anything we want and which ones have anything they want from us."

The big news yesterday was the deal that sent outfielder Shawn Green to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Raul Mondesi and reliever Pedro Borbon, but the emphasis for the Orioles might be on free agents.

Thrift said that he expects to meet with several agents, though teams cannot make financial offers to free agents that played for other clubs in 1999 until Friday.

The Orioles hope to sign another solid veteran starter to deepen the rotation -- and perhaps to free up another for trade -- and are in the market for a late reliever. The club is believed to be interested in veteran starter David Cone and Indians reliever Mike Jackson, but a deal for a premier closer is not out of the question.

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