There is a lot to like about Mike Elias, who is expected to soon officially join the Orioles and head up the club’s baseball operations. He got his start in scouting in a sharp and smart St. Louis Cardinals organization. He worked closely in Houston with general manager Jeff Luhnow for perhaps the most progressive and forward-thinking organization in the majors.
Elias saw Houston lose 107 and 111 games in his first two years in that organization in 2012 and 2013, and then was a big part of helping the Astros improve to 86 wins in 2015 and to 101 and a World Series title in 2017. He’s seen it done and been part of a buildup from the ground up, and that is exactly what has to happen now in Baltimore.
I like the fact that he will be the No. 1 decision-maker and not report to a team president who would be above him in the hierarchy. Being No. 2 just means sometimes he might not get what he wants and someone else could overrule his moves, and indeed even his vision for the future. That won’t happen now.
In Elias, the Orioles are getting a 35-year-old Yale graduate on the rise in the industry. Someone who knows old-school scouting - since he started as a scout - but also someone who has learned from and been a key decision-maker for two progressive organizations.
And if, indeed, Sig Mejdal comes with him, the Orioles’ analytics department may quickly get up to speed as well. Not much to beef or complain about with Elias and Mejdal.
Yesterday, I talked to several in the industry about Elias.
Some thoughts from Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com: “If you are in a situation like the Orioles are now, one of the clubs you want to emulate is the Astros. Mike was a big part of that. He’s got a long scouting background and rose from area scout to scouting director to assistant GM. Houston does a lot of cutting-edge stuff that he is comfortable with, too.
“It seems like we get the scouting-versus-analytics argument sometimes, but I think he’s really comfortable with both. He’s Yale-educated, and I think this is a really, really good hire.
“If the Orioles are trying to build up their analytics department and Sig Mejdal comes with Mike, he built their analytics from scratch, I think, pretty much, and greatly enhanced what the Astros had.”
Callis on what Elias learned in Houston that he can bring to the Orioles: “One of the major decisions they’re going to have to make next year is the No. 1 (draft) pick, and Mike was involved with the No. 1 pick three years in a row in Houston. They are basically where the Astros were, but with a little bit better farm system. Houston was in a similar situation. Having that direct experience with a rebuild had to be a huge factor. He’s comfortable in the scouting world, but also in the analytical world. His resume meshes perfectly with what the Orioles need right now in that division.
Callis thinks Elias will explain his vision for the future well to the fans: “I’ve talked to him a few times over the years and know him a little bit. It would seem like it’s not high on the list of importance for a GM, but I think he’s going to communicate well. He’s got a presence and savvy.
“It’s not going to get better immediately in Baltimore and you’re going to need to get fans to buy into what you are doing, and he’s a good communicator in that way.
“I would suspect that Orioles fans are going to feel, maybe ‘comforted’ is the right word, when he lays out what the plan is going to be. It’s not like they are going to turn this around right away. He’s a smart guy, and that will come across. I will suspect the Baltimore fans will give him a shot, and it’s going to take some time.”
Analyst Dan O’Dowd talked about Elias on MLB Network: “To me, it’s a great opportunity, and Baltimore is a wonderful baseball market. He’s going there with an opportunity to potentially do everything you’d want to do. Somewhat taking over an expansion club. You only have one onerous contract on your hands, and you get to start over and apply in theory everything you’ve been thinking about doing.”
Orioles Hall of Famer Rich Dauer, who was a Houston coach from 2015-2017: “They got a good one. Before Mike was the assistant GM in Houston, David Stearns was. Stearns went to Milwaukee. And to see how he has turned that organization around, don’t think it won’t take the Orioles long to get it turned around. Mike’s got the scouting, he’s got the analytics, he’s got the temperament. And he’s only 36 (actually 35), so he’s got the energy.
“And not just him, but others could come with him that are just fantastic. The Astros organization is the most analytical and smart group of guys that I’ve ever been around in my life. And they always stay ahead of the game.”
Dauer said he would have legitimate interest in working for the Orioles: “I would love to come back in some way, shape or form. I’ve always wanted to get back to Baltimore. It’s where I grew up (as a player), I had my kids. I’ve been very blessed to be in baseball for 43 years, and not one time, other than when they hired (Bobby) Dickerson as the third base coach, did I ever not have a job and there was an opening in Baltimore. So I’m retired, but I’m tired of pulling weeds and mowing lawns. There would be no better place to be than Baltimore. I just want to make a difference. I want to be an Oriole.”
Dauer spoke last night at the downtown Renaissance Harborplace hotel in Baltimore before a great event, which was billed as “An Evening to Honor the 1983 World Champion Orioles.” He was the starting second baseman on that team.
The celebration of the ‘83 Orioles was attended by 900 fans and was a fundraiser for both the Sports Boosters of Maryland the Babe Ruth Museum. In the next day or two I’ll have more from that event. It was awesome.
An Evening with the ‘83 Orioles tonight! Dennis Martinez & Ken Singleton! pic.twitter.com/ankg0c64DJ-- Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) November 15, 2018
Yep they chanted “Eddie, Eddie” when he took the stage. Celebrating ‘83! pic.twitter.com/36KHWNRYmi-- Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) November 15, 2018