The speculation never stops. It just changes partners.
We can stop guessing whether Andy MacPhail is going to leave the organization. It was assumed for weeks - he told people close to him - but the delay raised a few doubts.
Now it's time to round up the candidates.
Grow the arms, buy the bats, hire a replacement after 4 1/2 seasons.
It's impossible to know every name that's been discussed and debated. I've floated a few, such as Marlins assistant general manager Dan Jennings and Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava.
The Sun's Dan Connolly recently expanded the list to include Jerry Dipoto (Diamondbacks senior VP), Gerry Hunsicker (Rays senior VP), former Orioles executives Wayne Krivsky and Scott Proefrock (Phillies assistant GM), Damon Oppenheimer (Yankees scouting director), A.J. Preller (Rangers senior director of player personnel), former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi (Mets special assistant) and Scott Servais (Rangers senior director of player development.)
Here's what I know: It would take an abrupt change in thinking for manager Buck Showalter to join that list. According to a source, Showalter is deemed too valuable in the dugout to be given an office in the warehouse. There's also some trepidation over his lack of experience working trades and negotiating contracts, though he's viewed as a quick study.
Also, director of baseball operations Matt Klentak is regarded as an executive who will be a valuable asset to MacPhail's replacement. He's not currently seen as a candidate for the position, but his time is approaching.
Also, Cal Ripken Jr. isn't going to suddenly emerge as a candidate. Sorry.
No matter who's hired, he'll work closely with the manager. Showalter has strong opinions about the roster and areas where the team and organization need to improve, which could narrow the field of interested executives.
Showalter has stated publicly that he's happy to stay in the dugout and let others handle the baseball ops side, but his fingerprints will be all over this organization. And I'm not implying that's a bad thing. Not in the least.
It's not known whether MacPhail's departure will be the only change coming to the Orioles. Decisions must be made on scouting director Joe Jordan and director of player development John Stockstill, among others.
I'll close by saying that "The Plan" will look a lot better if the cavalry lives up to expectations. It's always been about the young pitching and it's too soon to issue final grades, but this season was a massive disappointment.
The same is true of the Orioles' success rate in free agency, the lack of international signings and the continuation of a losing streak that's reached 14 seasons. However, you can't argue with the majority of trades or the spring training complex that MacPhail pushed so hard to make a reality. At times, it seemed like he was dragging the Orioles out of Fort Lauderdale.
I'll always appreciate MacPhail's honesty when dealing with the media. He could avoid any topic, but he didn't shower us with lies. And he didn't play favorites with the national reporters. He took care of the beat crew.
MacPhail also was a master at steering us away from false rumors. One of his favorite expressions was, "I wouldn't go too far down the road with that one." He'd occasionally vent about it, trusting that his comments wouldn't appear in print.
I can only hope that the new guy also will refer to me as "kid." That doesn't happen much anymore.
Shameless plug alert: I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be discussing MacPhail on "Wall to Wall Baseball," which airs today from 11 a.m.-noon on MASN.
Update: The Orioles issued a short press release announcing that MacPhail won't return next season. It includes the following statement from majority owner Peter Angelos:
"On behalf of the Orioles organization, I thank Andy for his service to the club over the last four and a half seasons. Andy's knowledge and experience have helped lay the groundwork for our future success. I hold Andy in the highest regard and thank him for his commitment and dedication to the Orioles.
"And on a personal level, Andy is a dear friend. He will be greatly missed, and I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."