2 on top work as 1 for O's

Baseball: It's been a smooth, productive 11 1/2 months as Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan share the GM's role.

November 15, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - It only rains about 30 days a year here in the Valley of the Sun, which is why Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan was having a good chuckle Wednesday, as he sat beneath the awning at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, watching a downpour.

"We should have known," Flanagan said. "It's the Beattie factor."

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie just shook his head.

The teasing continued as Flanagan began summing up Beattie's first year in Baltimore: two big February snowstorms, a snow delay on Opening Day at Camden Yards, Tropical Storm Isabel.

"He and [his wife] Martha went to Bermuda for their 25th anniversary," Flanagan said. "It rained all week. ... See what I mean? The Beattie factor."

Beattie stretched his long legs and eased back into his chair. The comfort these two have together was obvious.

It's been 11 1/2 months since Orioles owner Peter Angelos went against conventional thinking by picking not one, but two men to run the baseball operations department. So far, from all accounts, it's gone off without a hitch.

"It works on sunny days," Beattie said, refusing to concede anything after taking Flanagan's barbs. "Rainy days, it's questionable."

But to hear team insiders tell it, there has been nary a storm inside the B&O warehouse since Beattie and Flanagan replaced former vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift.

Under their reign, the Orioles have made some significant changes. They fired manager Mike Hargrove, replacing him with Lee Mazzilli. They traded two of their top players - Sidney Ponson and Jeff Conine - adding five young pitchers to the organization.

They bucked the odds by signing 2002 first-round draft pick Adam Loewen after his 11-month holdout. And they hired a new minor league director, Doc Rodgers, to help turn around a sputtering farm system.

Beattie and Flanagan - or "Beatagan" as they are commonly referred to on chat boards such as Orioleshangout.com - insist they have yet to have their first fight.

"They involve everyone, and everything's done with a consensus," said Orioles director of baseball administration Ed Kenney, who serves as their third in command. "I think the morale [in baseball operations] is extremely high. With Jim's years of experience, he brings a little bit of a historical perspective, and with Mike's bright baseball mind, I think it's a great mix."

When Angelos first made the choice to go with two general managers, some major league officials privately bristled, wondering how it could work.

Scrambling start

Flanagan had long ties to the organization, but he had never held a front-office position. Beattie had spent six seasons as the Montreal Expos' GM, but he came in cold with Angelos and the rest of the Orioles' organization.

Already, they have won the owner's approval.

"The Orioles are certainly pleased," Angelos said, "with the performance of the management team and their accomplishments, which have exceeded even our expectations."

Beattie and Flanagan were at a disadvantage from the start. Their first day on the job was Dec. 4, two days after Jim Thome signed his six-year, $85 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

By the time Beattie and Flanagan settled in, there were slim pickings on the free-agent market. Their biggest offseason signing, left-handed pitcher Omar Daal, got a two-year, $7.5 million deal and proceeded to go 4-11 with a 6.34 ERA.

Looking back, last winter was a complete scramble.

For that first week, Flanagan didn't even have a key to the warehouse.

Beattie worked out of a converted office. Were it not for their trusty executive assistant, Ann Lange, the entire operation might have fallen apart.

They had 10 days to prepare for the winter meetings, and when they got there, Beattie steered the ship because he had been there and done that. Beattie has the slightly loftier title - executive vice president - but one common misconception is that he is the one calling the shots.

Insiders insist Beattie and Flanagan still have an equal vote on all decisions.

Praise from peers

Beattie ran the club's organizational meetings in October, but once again, that was a nod to his experience. Flanagan is growing into his role, and Angelos weighs their input equally.

"I think it works if you hire good people and let them do their thing," Beattie said. "It's not just us, it's all the people in the organization. If you care who gets the credit, you might get into some problems. But if people are there working together for the better good of the team, then it works."

Beattie and Flanagan seemed to hit their stride in May, when they signed Loewen. They took some criticism for low-balling Ponson with a three-year, $15 million offer before dealing him to the San Francisco Giants at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but other teams have been impressed with the returns: Kurt Ainsworth, Damian Moss and Ryan Hannaman.

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