I woke up yesterday morning feeling quite confident that Brian Graham was staying with the Orioles, whether as director of player development or with an adjusted title and set of duties. His knowledge of the organization, straight down through the farm system, was valued by new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. He was doing the heavy lifting before Elias’ arrival and continued to take on big responsibilities.
Graham woke up yesterday with the same sense, given no indication that he was about to lose his job. But the broom used to make sweeping changes is liable to touch anyone following a 115-loss season.
No one is laying the blame directly at Graham’s feet. Not for the historically bad season, not for a farm system that, while on the rise, has graded poorly in the past. Not for injuries to top pitching prospects. But a replacement on the top rung of the baseball operations ladder causes a trickle-down effect.
Elias wants to bring in his own people. He said so while offering an explanation to Graham. And that’s often how it works.
The decision hasn’t been announced by the Orioles and Elias hasn’t commented, so we’re left to wonder if he intends to hire one person to oversee player development and scouting. Or there could be multiple hires.
A man who already had a lot on his plate is lining up bowls, too.
It’s the knee-jerk reaction to say that Graham will land on his feet and easily find another job, given his experience in a variety of roles in the majors and minors. He’s managed and coached, run farm systems, served as interim general manager, worked as a field coordinator. He’s also liked by a lot of people, and for good reason.
We’re talking one of the really good guys in baseball. You could fill the largest ballpark with people in the industry and media singing his praises.
However, there’s also the harsh reality that job openings in other organizations have been filled and the calendar flips again on Saturday. Graham won’t necessarily have his pick of positions. And of course, he must navigate the uncertainty, with his family, right around the holidays.
Baseball is a business, the reminders all around us. And it isn’t always fair. Just like life.
If I’m running a team, I want Graham on my staff, whether it’s in a special assistant role or something else. I’d also consider him as a manager or coach. But that would be another case of bringing in “my own people.” That would be my right.
I caught the debate on MLB Network yesterday after I referenced the Orioles’ “teardown,” the argument being that they don’t have anyone left to move and it’s now a rebuild. Unlike the Mariners, who won’t admit it but are clearly in that first phase.
To me, the teardown just moved from the roster to the front office. To player development and scouting. The future hires will be critical parts of the rebuild.
Brady Anderson remains in his role as vice president of baseball operations. I wake up this morning knowing that his status is unchanged.
The team-issued press release announcing a “transition in baseball operations leadership” emphasized that Graham, Anderson and scouting director Gary Rajsich currently remained under contract. In other words, as you read this release. And now Rajsich and Graham are gone.
The release also stressed how the new executive to lead the baseball operations department would come from outside the organization and “have the final determination on all baseball matters that he or she believes will make the Orioles successful on the field, entertaining to fans and impactful in the community.” The door was wide open for the person hired to put his or her own stamp on the organization.
This is what’s happening. Right before our eyes.
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” today from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on MASN.