Somebody with options actually opts for Orioles

October 18, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

Here's the first sign that the Orioles might be turning some kind of organizational corner under new president Andy MacPhail and manager Dave Trembley:

They actually signed a guy who had other opportunities.

New pitching coach Rick Kranitz was Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year after getting great results from a youthful Florida Marlins pitching staff in 2006. He interviewed with the Seattle Mariners over the past couple of weeks and was offered a place on Dusty Baker's new coaching staff with the Cincinnati Reds.

He was in demand, and he chose to come to Baltimore.

How about that, sports fans?

Either Peter Angelos finally ran out of Confederate money or Kranitz saw something here that made him willing to roll the dice with this latest attempt to rebuild an Orioles organization that has been in serious disrepair for the past decade.

Maybe it was all the young pitching talent that ended up on the sidelines with injuries this year. Maybe it was the opportunity to turn nothing into something as he did two seasons ago. Maybe the Orioles simply made the best offer.

Or, just maybe, the surprise decision to bring in MacPhail in June is starting to pay real dividends.

The Orioles, for all the efforts of a lot of decent people, have long been viewed throughout Major League Baseball as an administrative train wreck. From the departure of Pat Gillick to the embattled tenure of the late Syd Thrift to the incredible two-headed transplant that combined Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie (and later Flanagan and Jim Duquette) into one general manager, the front office has been a 10-year study in dysfunctional management.

MacPhail was brought in to change all that, and the organization is beginning to smell fresher already.

He retained Trembley as manager and - in a break from recent Orioles tradition - has allowed him to pick the coaching staff.

It is a much more orthodox approach than the franchise has employed for most of the Angelos ownership, and, we hope, it is a sign that MacPhail really does have full authority to make over the ballclub.

During his introductory conference call, Kranitz was asked why anyone would choose to come to Baltimore.

"When I talked to Dave, it was such a comfortable feeling for me," he said. "I know Andy. I know Dave. I know what they can do. I just felt very comfortable. ... This seemed like the perfect fit for me."

Obviously, there are going to be skeptics. How many times have we heard this kind of thing before?

Fair question.

The answer: We've heard a lot of people say a lot of hopeful things about this organization over the years, so it would be naive to think that everything is all hunky dory now that MacPhail and his new lieutenants are saying them. But what choice do you have other than to hope this time is for real?

The only thing we can be confident of at this point is that MacPhail knows what to do. Whether Angelos ultimately allows him the autonomy to get the job done will remain an open question until the job actually gets done ... or doesn't.

In the meantime, there are some positive signs. MacPhail moved decisively to determine Trembley's status for 2008 and Trembley picked a pitching coach who fits the profile of the team.

Kranitz is a mechanics specialist who is known for his ability to communicate with young pitchers. The Orioles needed a mechanics guy to try to salvage Daniel Cabrera and communicate with a lot of other young guys, and they were willing to eat the remaining $500,000 of Leo Mazzone's contract to make room for him.

Now, there's something you don't see every day in the Orioles organization - a series of moves that fits together and appears to make perfect sense.

Feels a little weird.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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