FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Saying that he has no desire to talk about last season or the past in general, Orioles owner Peter Angelos said he is optimistic about the 2006 season and believes that his franchise is headed in the right direction.
In a phone interview with The Sun, Angelos touched on several topics, including the structure of the front office, the state of an organization that has suffered through eight straight losing seasons and his feelings on the World Baseball Classic.
"I am not pleased with it, but what are you going to do?" Angelos said about the Classic. "I think the goals [of the tournament] are good ones if they can be achieved, but on the other hand, it shouldn't be required for one team to commit as many members of the team that we did. It's very possible that it could affect our performance early in the season. It may not, but it could. I am not saying that it is an excuse."
Angelos said that it is far too early to gauge the 2006 Orioles, especially with 11 players - nine of them projected to be on the team's 25-man roster and four of them from their pitching rotation - playing in the Classic and away from spring camp.
However, Angelos praised the Orioles' new-look front office, headed by executive vice president Mike Flanagan, who was promoted in October as part of a major front office shake-up. Flanagan replaced Jim Beattie, whose contract was not renewed, and former New York Mets general manager Jim Duquette was hired and assigned Flanagan's old title of vice president.
Scott Proefrock, a high-ranking executive from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization, was named director of baseball operations, replacing Ed Kenney. John Stockstill, the brother of Orioles minor league director David Stockstill, was hired from the Chicago Cubs as an assistant general manager and director of pro scouting, a responsibility that mostly resided with Dave Ritterpusch in past seasons.
Asked about the key to the Orioles ending their losing ways, Angelos said: "You have to get the right professionals in place. You need to get a group that is competent and can work together and, presently, we've been lucky enough to put that group together. We've had good people here before that couldn't develop into a cooperative team. That deficiency is gone with this group."
While heralding the new front-office additions as well as Sam Perlozzo, whom he thinks will become a "special, special manager," Angelos reiterated the front office's plan for the organization. He said the goal is to focus on the continued improvement of the farm system, beef up pro and amateur scouting and build around the organization's young arms with the help of new pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
"The right people are in the right places," he said. "That is when you begin to move forward with the organization. It's demonstrated by the presence of young players that we have that show great promise. That's what we are witnessing now. We have to add to that group, but I think we will be able to do that."
Angelos may visit the team's spring training headquarters here later next week. He said he was mostly pleased with the club's additions this winter and is particularly excited about the young pitching staff. However, he also knows that the Orioles still have a thin and mostly unproven bullpen, and he'd also like to add another powerful bat in the middle of the lineup, to go along with Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Jay Gibbons.
"I think the answer is yes," Angelos said when asked if the front office's work this winter satisfied him. "We didn't get the big [cleanup] hitter, but that is certainly No. 1 on the list for next offseason or this coming season if a trade like that became available."
The Orioles were in first place in the American League East for 62 days last year. But they finished 74-88 and in fourth place, amid a deluge of the off-the-field problems that embarrassed the franchise. Angelos has no desire to relive the tumultuous 2005 campaign, which included the firing of manager Lee Mazzilli, the steroid suspension of Rafael Palmeiro and subsequent fallout with Tejada, and the legal problems of pitcher Sidney Ponson.
"It was very disappointing," Angelos said. "It was a pretty good ballclub, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But that was last year. Let's not think about last year. We want to look forward.
"I am certainly hopeful," he added. "I'd love to see the team be much better. I know the fans are supportive of the team and it's appreciated. Nobody wants to move the team up in the competition any more than I do."