The most impressive trait that Mike Elias exhibited yesterday during his introduction as Orioles executive vice president and general manager was the ability to convey his thoughts on the rebuild, the process that brought him to Baltimore, his knowledge of the city and roster, and the appeal of the job at hand while his head continued to spin.
Elias is bound to come across as more relaxed and personable once he’s done being pulled in every direction.
He sat through a 40-minute session with the media, flanked by John and Louis Angelos, in a setting that could have passed for a fireside chat except for the lack of a burning log. He was hustled to various spots in the clubhouse for one-on-one television and radio interviews. He took a few more questions from beat writers and was gone again, off to fulfill another obligation.
Maybe it’s the Yale education that enabled Elias to formulate his answers and never stumble. To speak with such confidence. To come across like a man not in desperate need of a teleprompter.
The orange tie was a nice touch.
The back portion of the clubhouse was filled with Orioles employees who applauded Elias before he spoke. The audience included director of player development Brian Graham, who will guide Elias through today’s deadline for offering contracts to arbitration-eligible players.
Pitcher Dillon Tate will be added to the 40-man roster to protect him in the Rule 5 draft, requiring a player to be removed.
Director of scouting Gary Rajsich, whose contract runs out at the end of the month, also supported Elias yesterday. I saw director of baseball operations Tripp Norton and scouts Dean Albany and Calvin Maduro in the crowd.
Elias noted how the Angelos brothers did their homework on him, but it was a two-way street. He didn’t jump blindly into the job.
Eyes were wide open.
“The ownership doing a lot of background work on me - references, people that I’ve worked with, people who knows me. And then me vice-versa doing research on this organization, on this ownership, on this situation,” Elias said.
“It was exactly what you would imagine a hiring process as big as a general manger search would and should be. It was my first time going through this, so that was an interesting experience, but I think it worked out really well.”
The to-do list is long enough to replace the orange carpeting for introductions on opening day.
“It’s a full agenda and we have a lot,” said Elias, whose wife Alexandra is in charge of moving the family from Houston to Baltimore. “The managerial hire does add another dimension to this. We have several roster decisions coming up in the next couple of days that we’re going to be dealing with. I’m going to be leaning very heavily on the leadership in place here for those decisions because they know these players better than I do, so it’s hard for me to be too heavy handed with a lot of the roster decisions coming up.
“Hiring in areas, particularly in analytics and possibly international scouting, are things that are on the forefront of my plate. I think we are going to have a hiring going on in a number of fronts and some newly created positions here.”
Elias was in the Astros front office at the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline when a deal for Orioles closer Zach Britton collapsed at the last instant. Does Elias now wish that it had transpired, bringing some prospects into the organization who might have hastened the rebuild?
“We were trying to get Zach Britton,” he said. “It would have been a wonderful addition. We needed a closer and he would have been electric, especially from the left side, but I think things worked out pretty well for us that year. We won the World Series. We got Justin Verlander a month later. So I’m not going to complain about the outcome.”
Elias preferred to focus on the present and “a truly exciting day in Orioles history,” as John Angelos labeled it.
Angelos talked about an exhaustive six-week process that culminated in Elias finishing ahead of the other candidates. And the importance of the Orioles being meaningful and impactful in the community.
“You’re making a decision not that you’re going to live with, but that you want to live with for the next decade, let’s say, or longer,” he said. “We want to be sitting here with Mike, talking about all the great things we’ve accomplished as an organization five, 10, 15 and 20 years from now. This isn’t something you do and then hope you do again.”
There was a sense that Elias had come home.
“Throughout this entire process I always felt particularly drawn to the possibility of this job for a number of reasons,” he said. “One of those is that I’m from this region and I grew up in Northern Virginia, and when you’re a kid from up in Northern Virginia, Baltimore is the place you come to to have fun. So I grew up coming to Camden Yards, visiting the Inner Harbor, visiting the aquarium.
“Later on, my sister lived here for a while. She got married here. So I already have a lot of positive memories and positive impressions of this city. I already know this city, I already love this city, so I’m very excited to be here for that reason.
“I also got a chance to see Camden Yards, to be at Camden Yards, at a time when the stadium was filled to the brim, when the city was supporting a championship-caliber team, a playoff-caliber team. So I know there’s no place better in baseball when that’s the case. But I was also particularly drawn to this because I think very uniquely this organization has in its history and in its DNA, having at one time being considered as the smartest, most forward-thinking, most progressive organization in baseball. And the fact that that was the case here before means it’s possible for that to be the case here again. We are here to restore that reputation. We’re going to work toward that.
“This is a process. It’s a process that doesn’t have shortcuts, but it’s a process that works and it’s a process that is worth it. It’s a process that I’ve been a big part of before and the fact that I have done this before, really twice across two different organizations, gives me a special level of confidence that we’re going to do it again and repeat that same type of success here in Baltimore.”
Louis Angelos joked about Elias being so eager to share his PowerPoint presentation during his interview that he had the monitor open and was “raring to go.”
“He made an amazing first impression,” Angelos said.
And it pushed Elias past Ned Colletti, Ben Cherington and others who were given serious consideration.
“We had great candidates,” John Angelos said. “Former GMs, assistant GMs, folks inside baseball, outside baseball, folks who work at the league and work for clubs. We couldn’t have asked for a better approach. There was a tremendous amount of interest.
“We tried to be as deliberate and thorough as we could be and, boy, do we think we came up with a great result. We couldn’t be happier to have Mike Elias come on board with this organization. It’s a team effort and team is all about hiring the best people and letting them do their job.”
The Orioles had to get this one right. It’s going to be one of the most important hires in franchise history.
“Well, he went to Yale and my brother went to Hopkins and I went to Duke, so we had Ivy League envy. We thought, ‘Got to get a Yale guy in here to round out the academic credentials,’ ” said John Angelos.
“I don’t know that I would use the word ‘pressure.’ I would use the word ‘obligation.’ I think Lou and I and all of the owners in our group, we’re all from here, we love the club and we want the club to do well. We want the club to be influential and impactful in the community as much as it can be, because that’s the reason to be involved.
“Holding up trophies is nice and it’s absolutely at the top of the list in many, many ways, but winning is great also because the more you win, the more people are involved and are passionate about you and the more influential you are in the community.
“I would say, absolutely, we felt an obligation.”
Note: The Baseball Writers’ Association of America released the latest Hall of Fame ballot yesterday. Results will be announced on Jan. 22 on MLB Network.
Pitchers Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte, infielders Todd Helton, Michael Young, Miguel Tejada and Plácido Polanco, and outfielder Juan Pierre join 15 holdovers on the ballot. Here’s the entire list of names:
Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Freddy García, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Edgar Martínez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Darren Oliver, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Juan Pierre, Plácido Polanco, Manny Ramírez, Mariano Rivera, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Michael Young.