Angelos says MacPhail 'not going anywhere'

March 01, 2011|Peter Schmuck

SARASOTA, Fla. — — It's a risky business reading too much into anything that happens during spring training, but the grand opening of the newly renovated Ed Smith Stadium and an equally grand offensive performance by the Orioles clearly lifted the spirits of everyone in attendance — most notably Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

"If we can only duplicate that up north,'' Angelos said after the Orioles' 12-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, "that will make everyone happy. Hopefully, it's a harbinger of things to come."

Speaking of that, Angelos didn't play it coy when he was asked to predict the future of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the 2011 season.

"I think it's obvious,'' Angelos said. "He's not going anywhere."

That's likely to be viewed as good news by a large segment of the Orioles fan following and bad news by another, but the message Angelos seems to be sending is that he likes what MacPhail has done over the past 3½ years to make the club more competitive, and he believes that he has finally settled on just the right manager and general manager.

"Andy and Buck [Showalter] are a great combination,'' he said.

Of course, he said that on the second day of the Grapefruit League season after the unbelievable fireworks show that was put on by Nick Markakis, Vladimir Guerrero, Adam Jones and Jake Fox. He said it while sitting comfortably in a fancy new VIP suite on the second floor of the impressive spring ballpark that the Orioles have been chasing for the past 20 years.

Why wouldn't he be happy with the way things are going at the moment? MacPhail has managed to upgrade the offense without breaking the bank, though we're still a long way from finding out if it really is good enough to put a serious dent in the American League East standings. Showalter, meanwhile, has engineered a dynamic attitude adjustment in the Orioles' clubhouse. What's not to like?

The setting is significant, however, because it is symbolic of what has happened throughout the organization during the painful rebuilding program that MacPhail instituted when he took over the baseball operation in 2007.

The Orioles used to have the worst spring training situation in the major leagues. Now, the combination of the Ed Smith complex (which still has a new clubhouse and office complex to come) and the dramatically upgraded minor league facility at Twin Lakes Park are as aesthetically pleasing and functional as any in baseball.

MacPhail isn't directly responsible for that, but the organizational transformation that has occurred on his watch is analogous to the architectural renaissance that has taken place in Sarasota over the past year.

His critics may point to the fact that the Orioles didn't turn a competitive corner until Showalter took over last August, but no less an observer than Showalter himself has endorsed the foundation MacPhail has laid, the effective partnership they have forged and the news that MacPhail's contract status is not in doubt.

"I think that's great,'' Showalter said after Tuesday's game. "Consistency is very important, and I think anybody who has spent much time with Andy becomes a fan of his quickly."

Though MacPhail has been reluctant to talk about his contract situation up to now, he said Tuesday that Angelos' vote of confidence is reflective of the positive working relationship that they have developed since he joined the organization. The seeds of that relationship were sown much earlier, while Angelos and MacPhail worked together on Major League Baseball's collective bargaining team.

"I very much enjoy working with Peter and what I believe — and what I essentially gambled on — is that he is a man of his word," MacPhail said. "He's done everything that he said he would do. He hasn't abdicated his ownership but he has lived up to everything he represented, which is frankly what I expected."

It's important to keep in mind, however, that a lot is going to happen between now and the end of the 2011 season, and — considering the competition in the AL East — it's not going to be all good. MacPhail's job security may look pretty solid right now, but it still depends on the continuing improvement in the fortunes of the team.

Angelos was aglow after the skies cleared on Tuesday and the Orioles opened their sparkling ballpark with a bang, but he wasn't taking anything for granted. The team still has a long way to go, and still could go either way.

"Hopefully, it's a good team,'' he said. "I think the fans deserve it."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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