If it's true one must know where he's been to understand where he's going, then what does that say about the Orioles, a team rumored to be contemplating former vice presidential nominee Adm. James Stockdale - "Who am I? How did I get here?" - as its marketing face.
Those thumping, high-energy videos of Bordy, B.J., C.J. and Sleep now gather dust in some storage room while the club sells "new faces, new attitude." (Wasn't that slogan reserved for the morning after Frank Wren and Ray Miller got it last October? We digress.)
The timeline that has brought the Orioles to their current makeover is both obvious and subtle with firings/resignations a predictable feature.
Current vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, the elder statesman at his position, interjected during last month's announcement of the Surhoff trade to Atlanta that he had no plans of being around when his vision becomes reality, presumably in 2003. But how did Thrift come to sit at the podium that day? At what point did organizational history bend toward the current reconstruction?
Since the reader is holding a newspaper and not a book - what do you want for $1.66? - we condense chapters into paragraphs, soap operas into dates, trends into clauses.
So how did we get here, Adm. Stockdale?
July 1996: General manager Pat Gillick's desire to trade David Wells and Bobby Bonilla before the waiver deadline is overruled by majority owner Peter Angelos.
The Orioles respond with a finishing kick that takes them to their first postseason in 13 years and prefaces a wire-to-wire division championship in 1997. Angelos is emboldened, Gillick disenchanted and a chain of events set in motion that creates a widening rift between owner and executive.
Oct. 9, 1997: Closing instead of Randy Myers, Armando Benitez feeds Marquis Grissom a ninth-inning slider that becomes a game-winning, three-run homer in the Cleveland Indians' 5-4 victory in Game 2 to even the American League Championship Series. The Orioles suffer a six-game upset as all four losses come by one run. Many believe had the Dominican Strongman closed Game 2, the Orioles would have swept the series and manager Davey Johnson would have retained his job.
Nov. 5, 1997: Johnson's demand that Angelos grant him a contract extension is faxed to several news organizations and enflames a firestorm already simmering due to the manager's fine of second baseman Roberto Alomar and the ALCS loss.
Johnson resigns on the same day he is named American League Manager of the Year. Miller is named successor against Gillick's recommendation.
January 1998: Pending free agent Rafael Palmeiro says he is seeking a five-year, $50 million extension. The demand is seen as exorbitant and ill-timed by the warehouse, which has previously refused to consider paying any player $10 million a season.
May 13, 1998: Scott Erickson signs a franchise-record five-year, $32 million contract. The agreement breaks with organizational philosophy that no pitcher receive more than three years, something insisted upon during the previous year's negotiations with Mike Mussina. Suggestions that the club would soon address Mussina's deal go unfulfilled.
Sept. 20, 1998: Two terms of significance ended this night. Cal Ripken sat down after 2,632 games and Gillick made official what many already knew: he was gone as Orioles general manager.
Gillick's preferred successor, Kevin Malone, already had bolted to become Los Angeles Dodgers general manager. The Orioles' attempt to keep Malone, already working without a contract, consisted of a one-year plus an option for 2000. A labored search eventually brings the Orioles to Florida Marlins assistant GM Frank Wren, who is not accorded status as a vice-president.
November 1998: A lavish presentation and five-year, $40 million offer are made to free-agent outfielder and Baltimore native Brian Jordan, whom Wren targets as centerpiece of his plans.
Following a tour of Camden Yards, Jordan said he is concerned about the uncertainty surrounding Palmeiro's status. He signs an identical deal with the Atlanta Braves and sets in motion a turn of events that still haunts the franchise.
Dec. 1, 1998: Spurned by Jordan and reflexively reacting to interest by the New York Yankees, the Orioles sign left fielder Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million contract, establishing Belle as the game's highest-paid position player and infuriating Palmeiro, who rejects a five-year, $50 million bid to sign for less with the Texas Rangers. The Orioles hurriedly replace the most productive free-agent acquisition in franchise history by signing Will Clark to a two-year, $11 million deal.
May 17, 1999: Angelos is poised to move on Wren's recommendation to fire Miller before reconsidering. Before season's end, the job will be discussed with several internal candidates, none of whom are interested. A possible early start on clubhouse restructuring is also postponed.
Nov. 3, 1999: Less than four weeks after his dismissal by the Cleveland Indians, Mike Hargrove is named the Orioles' third manager in four years but a more subtle direction is revealed when executive vice-president John Angelos introduces the new manager, a role last handled by chief operating officer Joe Foss. Thrift is promoted from director of player personnel to vice-president of baseball operations, verifying his longtime role as the owner's most trusted baseball executive.
Wren's name is expunged from the club's media guide.
July 31, 2000: Thrift accomplishes what his two predecessors could not, convincing Angelos to shed the marketing-driven approach to player acquisition for a commitment to younger players and more reliance on player development.
In three years, Thrift promises someone other than himself will look very smart. A fan base hopes he makes the good admiral proud.