Former Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer offered a strong endorsement yesterday of Mike Elias, who’s been chosen to head the baseball operations department. Three seasons in Houston as first base coach and infield instructor gave him a nice perspective while Elias rose to assistant general manager and became a hotter commodity.
Reached on the phone before attending last night’s reunion of the 1983 World Series team, Dauer said the Orioles are “getting a good one.” They just haven’t made it official while John and Louis Angelos are in Atlanta for the owners meetings.
“These young guys, I’ll tell you, they’re non-stop and they can’t let the other person ever get ahead. So, it’s like they’re keeping up with everybody,” Dauer said.
“It’s like David Sterns in Milwaukee. When I got to Houston, he was assistant general manager of the Astros and he went to Milwaukee and he’s turned that thing around quickly.
“(Elias) is 36 (in December), he’s got the background with the Astros and the World Series. You’ve got to remember he’s got scouting knowledge. He’s drafted some very talented players. The Astros went through heck. They were bad for four years or whatever and they kept getting all these good draft picks, and then when you finally get ready to put it together you may only have to add a couple guys. He has the knowledge of how to build a program from the bottom up.”
A young Ivy Leaguer with a solid background in scouting, a deep understanding of analytics and a firm commitment to the international market puts Elias in step with the growing trend in baseball. The Orioles finally became resistant to falling behind.
“He’s got all of that,” Dauer said. “The Astros are the most analytic team in baseball. As a matter of fact, like when I was there, their goal was to make sure, hey, we’re the most analytic team in baseball but we can’t rest on that because everybody’s getting it, everybody’s doing it. So it’s commonplace and you’ve got to stay ahead. You’ve got to set the bar and keep going after it. And he’s got all that experience.
“The Astros have some big-name guys over there who know what they’re doing, and as you can see, they’re all getting jobs somewhere else. They’re all wanted.”
Dauer retired following the 2017 championship season, a decision he made prior to undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot to his brain caused by a fall in his bathroom. He expressed interest yesterday in getting back into baseball and rejoining the team that brought him to the majors in 1976. The only organization he knew as a player.
“I feel great,” said Dauer, who lives in Atlanta. “Back to working out every day and doing way too much yard work and way too much stuff that I don’t want to do. I’m glad winter is coming.
“The one place that I want to come back to is Baltimore. I’ve been trying to get back there since 1986. For 43 years I’ve been fortunate enough to have a job, and nothing’s ever worked either way or whatever.”
Dauer was considered for the managing vacancy that Lee Mazzilli filled in 2004. He failed in his attempts to get an interview for the job of third base coach before the Orioles hired Bobby Dickerson on Dec. 13, 2012.
Managing no longer entices Dauer, who was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I’m not so sure that would be something that I wouid be as interested in,” he said. “I just want to be able to make a difference. I just want to be part of the Orioles because it’s where I grew up and it’s where I started. It would be really neat at this part of my career to be able to make a difference in an organization and in the players’ lives. And I came from a perfect place to learn how to do that.
“Houston was a great stomping ground where I could learn a lot. And A.J. Hinch is the model of managers that people want to have because of the difference between using the analytics and using it to go with your personnel. All of the stuff. It’s more than just looking at a piece of paper and seeing that 81 percent of the time he throws a curveball. There’s a lot more that goes into it, like team chemistry.
“It was a fun three years and I have no doubt that it won’t take that long for the Orioles to get back.”
The ideal role for Dauer would be, in his words, “kind of like a utility coach.”
“I’m a defensive guy,” said Dauer, who set American League single-season records for second basemen in 1978 with 86 consecutive errorless games and 425 straight errorless chances. “The Astros have been the best defensive club in the American League for three years, if not baseball. Now, a lot of that has to do with the fact that they have great fielders in (Alex) Bregman and (Carlos) Correa and (Jose) Altuve, but also a lot of it has to do with the analytics.
“They’re the most shifted team in baseball, but you’ve got to use who’s playing where and what are the odds and percentages, who’s pitching, what the score is, what park it is. You’ve got to put all of that together to give yourself the best possible chance of stopping a ground ball. Whether you make the play or not. My goal was to just make sure that somebody got a glove on it.
“I’m a defensive guy. That would be my first choice, to take care of the defense, the infield defense at least. And if I couldn’t do that, I’d just love to make a difference throughout the organization and just promote how important defense is, because for a long time there it was all about offense. And now it’s getting back to where, you can’t give the other team more than 27 outs because everybody hits home runs now. The extra outs can be three runs. It’s real important to play defense. You win the World Series by making 27 outs.”
While I keep warning against getting too caught up in front office titles, calling someone the general manager raises questions about how it impacts Brady Anderson beyond his job status.
Anderson is listed as the vice president of baseball operations, which would seem to create an awkward situation if Elias is indeed named GM.
Elias is supposed to have full authority and therefore would rank ahead of Anderson despite carrying a lesser title. If Anderson stays in the organization, it would make more sense to give Elias the executive vice president label worn previously by Dan Duquette.
It’s probably just semantics if the roles are clearly defined, but nonetheless, that’s how I’d do it.
Don’t be led to believe that Elias would lose power by settling for the GM title. He’d still be the No. 1 guy. He’d still be calling the shots.
I don’t know how open John and Louis Angelos will be regarding the interview process, given the secrecy that’s come to define it, but I’d like to know how much the decision was impacted by the top hire’s preference for an assistant.
Was the decision influenced by the list of assistant candidates passed along during the face-to-face meetings? Did Elias gain an additional edge by dropping names that appealed to ownership? Did someone else fall out of the running for the opposite reason?
It was way too premature to discuss and debate managerial candidates without knowing who would be making the final call. However, Astros bench coach Joe Espada would be a logical fit for Elias, and he’s already interviewed several times during the offseason.
Connecting those doesn’t take much effort.
Espada joined the Astros on Nov. 6, 2017 after Alex Cora left to become Red Sox manager. He served as a special assistant for the Yankees and spent three seasons as third base coach.
A native of Puerto Rico and former second-round pick of the Athletics in 1996, Espada was the Marlins’ third base coach from 2010-2013 before joining the Yankees rather than accepting an offer to manage in the minors. He lives in Jupiter, Fla.
There’s little doubt that Espada, 43, will get the chance to interview with the Orioles. Why should they be any different than the Blue Jays, Twins, Rangers and Angels, beyond perhaps making him their manager?