The Orioles have quietly put together a list of potential replacements for vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, and though former star Cal Ripken has expressed interest in the position, the club plans to look at several more-experienced candidates, high-ranking Orioles officials said yesterday.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos still has not publicly addressed Thrift's status for next season, but there were indications yesterday that Angelos has done so privately.
Angelos acknowledged Ripken's interest in the position and said former Orioles pitcher and current broadcaster Mike Flanagan is also a candidate. The Boston Red Sox, in fact, plan to interview Flanagan on Monday for their general manager's position.
Orioles officials said they plan to interview former Montreal Expos general manager Jim Beattie. They also are compiling information on other candidates, including former Chicago White Sox GM Ron Schueler, former Anaheim Angels GM Bill Bavasi, Oakland Athletics assistant general manager Paul DePodesta, New York Mets senior assistant GM Jim Duquette, Arizona Diamondbacks assistant GM Sandy Johnson and Detroit Tigers assistant GM Al Avila.
Another potential candidate is Red Sox interim GM Mike Port.
"I certainly would do whatever I could to make everything as good as possible for the next person who comes here," said Thrift, whose contract expires Dec. 31. "I'm in support of anything that's in the best interest of the Baltimore Orioles."
Thrift is still running the baseball operations department and plans to attend next week's GM meetings in Tucson, Ariz., but he will likely pass over the reins soon.
"He's functioning, he's doing the job and any talk of an abrupt dismissal is out of the question," Angelos said with regard to Thrift. "He's performed well and made a positive contribution."
Angelos has told insiders how much he appreciates Thrift's acquisitions, namely the three Orioles named to Baseball Digest's All-Rookie team this year: pitchers Rodrigo Lopez and Jorge Julio and catcher Geronimo Gil. At the same time, Angelos apparently feels it's time for a change.
The Orioles have finished fourth in the American League East in each of Thrift's three seasons as vice president, and this year, their top three minor-league affiliates finished a combined 109 games under .500.
Ripken, who retired as a player after the 2001 season, has been asked repeatedly about his interest in joining a baseball front office. After a charity event Oct. 20, Ripken told Major League Baseball's official Web site, mlb.com: "If there was a job that I could shape a baseball organization or help shape a baseball organization, I certainly would look at that. ... [The Orioles] ultimately would be my first choice. I think before I could consider any other opportunity, I'd have to rule out whether I'd have one here or not."
Angelos said he first heard of Ripken's interest on the radio, and then the two talked about it.
"We've spoken a number of times about his interest in that position," Angelos said. "I've always had a respect and admiration for his accomplishments as a player."
John Maroon, a spokesman for Ripken Baseball, said Ripken was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Around baseball, there have been other cases of former star players moving into the front office. The Kansas City Royals' vice president of baseball operations is George Brett. He works with senior vice president and general manager Allard Baird.
The Minnesota Twins employ Kirby Puckett as their executive vice president for baseball, but Terry Ryan makes most of the baseball decisions as vice president and general manager.
Orioles officials say Ripken wants much more of a hands-on role. He has firm beliefs in the way the minor leagues and major leagues should operate together and is eager to test out his ideas.
Ripken has said he doesn't want to manage or coach because of the time commitment involved. Being a general manager might require just as much time, but it wouldn't require as much travel.
Flanagan, a New Hampshire native who attended the University of Massachusetts, was the Orioles' pitching coach in 1995 and 1998, and he has spent six of the past seven years in the team's broadcast booth. During that time, he has served as a consultant to Angelos, learning the inner workings of the Orioles as well as other clubs.
Asked if Flanagan is a candidate for the job, Angelos said: "Very definitely. He's a man of high intelligence. He has great baseball knowledge and integrity. I have a great deal of respect for him."
Beattie, a Dartmouth graduate, resigned as Expos GM two years ago and has since returned to the team as a special assistant. Schueler was one of the first to interview for the Red Sox GM job.
Bavasi acquired several of the players who just helped the Angels win the World Series. He resigned as Angels GM three years ago and now serves as the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm director.
"I'll do everything I can to help, because it takes time to go through all these teams," Thrift said. "I don't think anybody realizes the complexities of the job."