Nearing an end to their long general manager search, the Orioles are close to handing Mike Flanagan and former Montreal Expos GM Jim Beattie the top two positions in their baseball operations department, sources close to the situation told The Sun yesterday.
Orioles officials plan to meet with Flanagan and Beattie today, and though several issues still need to be ironed out, an announcement could follow tomorrow.
The Orioles have been in the process of replacing vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift since shortly after the World Series. They interviewed seven candidates before narrowing the field to include ex-Orioles pitcher Flanagan, Beattie and former Chicago White Sox GM Ron Schueler.
Speculation around the team has had Orioles owner Peter Angelos turning to Flanagan, his longtime consultant, with Beattie or Schueler assuming another top role.
How those roles and responsibilities will be divided has yet to be determined, but today's meeting with Flanagan and Beattie is expected to address all that.
The Orioles had hoped to bring in Beattie for a second interview this past weekend, but because of heavy travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, they had trouble getting him a flight before today. Beattie is expected to make the one-hour flight from Manchester, N.H., this morning.
"All I can say is we're still in conversation," Beattie said, refusing to confirm the details. "My conversation has been continuing with Mr. Angelos and Mr. [Russell] Smouse."
Smouse, Orioles general legal counsel, also spoke to Schueler yesterday after Schueler returned from vacation.
"He [Smouse] didn't think Mr. Angelos would make a decision until the middle of the week," Schueler said. "I was wondering if they were going to bring me in again [for a second interview], but so far that hasn't happened. ... I was told I should probably hear something [today] or at the least in the next couple days."
Beattie, 48, spent six years running the Seattle Mariners' farm system before serving as Expos general manager from 1995 to 2001. A Dartmouth grad with an MBA from the University of Washington, Beattie possesses an educational background and baseball experience that made a big impression on the Orioles.
Last year, after resigning from his Expos post, Beattie turned down the chance to be Dartmouth's athletic director. He moved his family back to Hanover, N.H., and then returned to the Expos in a scouting capacity.
By pairing Beattie with Flanagan, the Orioles would have two former major-league pitchers -- a right-hander and left-hander, respectively -- with strong East Coast ties attempting to turn around a team that has finished below .500 in each of the past five seasons.
Born in Hampton, Va., and raised in Maine, Beattie pitched for the New York Yankees (1978-79) and Mariners (1980-86), compiling a 52-87 career record.
Flanagan, 50, who was born in Manchester, spent 15 seasons pitching for the Orioles and parts of four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, compiling a 167-143 career record.
Flanagan was the Orioles' pitching coach in 1995 and 1998 and has spent six of the past seven years as a broadcaster, while being groomed by Angelos for a front office role.
With strong support throughout the organization, Flanagan was seen as the favorite to replace Thrift before the Orioles opened the search to outside candidates. Former Orioles great Cal Ripken threw his name in the running and then pulled himself out. The club was denied permission to interview Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane and New York Mets senior assistant GM Jim Duquette.
After going through the interviews -- which included Detroit Tigers assistant GM Al Avila, Arizona Diamondbacks assistant GM Sandy Johnson, Mariners vice president of scouting and player development Roger Jongewaard and Milwaukee Brewers special assignment scout David Wilder, the Orioles decided Beattie had the right qualifications to augment what Flanagan was already bringing to the table.
Flanagan has no experience balancing a budget; Beattie managed to keep the Expos afloat despite the enormous payroll restrictions in Montreal that never let him have a payroll greater than $32 million.
Flanagan has more familiarity with the American League; Beattie has more familiarity with the National League.
And it wasn't just the Orioles who were impressed. The Boston Red Sox are still considering Flanagan and Beattie for their VP of scouting and player development position under new GM Theo Epstein.
In other Orioles news:
The club signed left-hander Bill Pulsipher to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.
Pulsipher, 29, is 13-19 with a 5.13 ERA in 101 career games. He made six appearances with Triple-A Columbus last season but didn't pitch in the majors.
A former second-round draft pick of the New York Mets, Pulsipher made his big-league debut in 1995 but had ligament-transplant surgery in his left elbow the following year and didn't reach the majors again until 1998.