Ritterpusch out of O's front office

Psychological testing focus was questioned

October 25, 2005|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

Executive vice president Mike Flanagan continued to shake up the Orioles' front office yesterday as he requested and received the resignation of Dave Ritterpusch, the director of baseball information systems who was a lighting rod for controversy within the organization with his emphasis on psychological testing and evaluation.

Flanagan and former Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie hired Ritterpusch in 2003, and under his guidance psychological evaluations became a critical component of the team's personnel decision-making - perhaps too critical in the minds of some front-office members.

Flanagan said the organization will continue to use psychological testing and statistical analysis, but he called Ritterpusch's departure and that of his assistant, Ed Coblentz, "not easy, but necessary."

"Internal information and how we use it, I think it just became an unnecessary distraction," said Flanagan, who said the move was his decision, dismissing the idea that owner Peter G. Angelos was the one who authorized it. "I think it really undermined his effectiveness."

Flanagan declined to offer specifics on how Ritterpusch had become a distraction, but according to team sources, Orioles executives had grown tired of what they perceived as self-promotion. Ritterpusch once proclaimed that he had "cracked the code" for identifying profiles of prospects likely to succeed, and he wasn't shy about talking with reporters.

"We didn't go out and say anything, but the industry knew that we were doing it," Ritterpusch said yesterday. "We didn't need publicity. What we cared about was the Baltimore Orioles. What I wanted to see was the results. I did everything I could to maximize the Orioles."

According to team sources, Ritterpusch was asked to tone it down on a couple of occasions. Many other teams, most notably the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, use psychological testing, but neither received the attention that the Orioles did. Sources said Orioles executives grew tired of being asked about something that they felt should have remained a confidential means of evaluating players.

An article that discussed Ritterpusch and the Orioles' methods was set to run recently in The New Yorker magazine, but it was held because of Hurricane Katrina.

Flanagan and Beattie have denied that Ritterpusch's role and the organization's reliance on his analyses caused a rift among executives. However, it is well-known that several former Orioles executives, such as director of baseball administration Ed Kenney and scouting director Tony DeMacio, were openly opposed to what they perceived as a heavy reliance on Ritterpusch's input.

"This is not a faction situation where Dave was attempting to gain power and Mike sensed that and got rid of him," Coblentz said. "That was not the situation at all."

Flanagan is a proponent of the psychological testing, which measured several different attributes like leadership, mental toughness and coachability, but he said that it is just "another piece of the pie" in evaluating players, and he vehemently denied that it greatly affected the day-to-day operations of the club.

He also has denied that not retaining Kenney and DeMacio had anything to do with them losing a tug-of-war with Ritterpusch, a perception that some around the organization hold.

"Dave brought many positive things to the front office, but I just felt that a change was necessary," Flanagan said.

Flanagan added that the Orioles might not hire a replacement, but may reassign the testing duties to a current member of the front office.

Ritterpusch, a retired colonel in the Army and a former intelligence officer who also had a job in the first Bush administration, was the Orioles' director of scouting from 1973 to 1975. At the time, he was among the first personnel to believe in psychological testing and used the testing in deciding to draft Flanagan, Eddie Murray and Rich Dauer.

He admits that the testing is not foolproof because it doesn't measure athletic talent. Several Orioles acquisitions, like Kurt Ainsworth and Ryan Hannaman, scored high in testing but haven't made on-the-field contributions.

However, the Orioles have put together a couple of highly regarded draft classes and a lot of Ritterpusch's work was directed toward the draft.

"I think it was the best draft in the history of the club," Ritterpusch said of the 2005 draft. "We had a part of it, but [director of scouting] Joe Jordan and his staff did a terrific job. Without them finding players with physical ability, it wouldn't have mattered what the profiles were."

Notes -- The Orioles will introduce Leo Mazzone as pitching coach today at Camden Yards. They are also expected to introduce vice president Jim Duquette and Scott Proefrock, the former Tampa Bay Devils Rays assistant to the GM, whose hiring to a front office position likely will be made official.jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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