Flanagan talks of his tall task

Orioles

Baseball

October 12, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC

On the day the Orioles named Mike Flanagan executive vice president of baseball operations, he sat down for a question-and-answer session with The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec:

As you get acclimated in your new role, what do you see as your main focus in the coming weeks?

I think we'll probably start with the manager, coaching staff, assessment of the team and the season, where do you want to go, staffing the front office. And that's just in the first three days. That's the short answer.

The organization got a lot of criticism for not allowing Lee Mazzilli to pick his own coaches. Will Sam Perlozzo be allowed to hire his own staff?

We think that's in the works. We are going to work our way through Sammy's contract first, and I think, once we finish and finalize that, then we'll have that conversation.

What do you feel are the team's primary needs?

I think it's more like most teams. Most teams are looking for a veteran starter, a big bat for the middle of the lineup and somebody at the end of the game. I think that could probably be quoted by just about any other team's front office in the United States. We'll look for any chance that we can to upgrade in free agency and see what needs are out there, who is available and what the market looks like.

Is it discouraging that this is supposed to be a thin free-agent class?

People that we are going to sign, we want them to be a certain age, someone you are going to have for a while. Especially in competing in [the American League East], to sustain success, you have to have a productive minor league system. You cannot depend on free agency.

Your focus is on next season, but with guys like Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Val Majewski, is it tough not to look ahead?

We feel that when you have the No. 1 or 2 best prospects in three different leagues in the minor leagues, you have to feel excited about it. And then if you can build a wave of these, once you start getting that supply to the big leagues, then you can sustain success and tolerate injuries and anything else that can happen to the club if you have that depth. And if you have a surplus and you need to make a trade, you can get a trade done. That's one thing Jim [Beattie] and I felt when we came on - it was [hard] to make a trade because they didn't like our prospects. I think it was more perception than reality. But that's no longer the case.

A lot of players felt that the clubhouse chemistry wasn't good this year. Did you see enough to agree with that, and are there plans to bring in guys who are known as good clubhouse guys?

I don't know that it was a bad clubhouse. I certainly didn't perceive it that way at all. I thought it was a club that had its energy taken away from it. ... I think when circumstances came about - not your normal circumstances - I think it really did take away the intangible the club had with its energy.

A lot has been made about the role of Dave Ritterpusch [the director of baseball information systems] in the organization. How much stock do you put into the team's psychological testing?

I think it's been a little blown out of proportion. It's always been part of the pie. I think you are not doing your due diligence if you are not using every method to gain information and data on where you are, where you are going, where your players are going. I think you are doing a disservice to the organization if you are just sitting back here throwing a dart at the dartboard. It's a part of the pie, but there's probably eight slices of the pie.

There's a perception out there that you have a great relationship with [Orioles owner Peter] Angelos, and Jim may not have had as good of a relationship. Is that an accurate perception?

I think it's been a business relationship. What we have, in many respects, is that we can be totally honest with each other. We can agree to disagree. In the dealings when Jim and I were here, that was the case. The communication was businesslike. We've had other moments when they are not, but Jim and I felt that we can call him equally. Whatever was going on, we made sure one of us relayed the information. ... I've been with the Orioles since 1973. Thirty-two years in baseball, and I think 29 of those with the Orioles. The bottom line is I live here, I care about the Orioles deeply, and the only thing I want to do is put rings on everybody's finger. I think out of that is that relationship with Mr. Angelos. He understands that's the goal, and that's what he wants to do.

Mr. Angelos gets a lot of criticism for being too hands-on. ... Is that an unfair criticism, and are you at all concerned that you may not have the ultimate say all the time?

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