Memories of managerial searches

The process of hiring a manager in the offseason hasn’t played out in Baltimore since Lee Mazzilli got the job back in November 2003. An organization that otherwise tends to wait and re-evaluate has fired Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo and Dave Trembley prior to the final game.

The Orioles also replaced interim manager Juan Samuel with Buck Showalter in August 2010. Showalter’s contract runs out on Oct. 31 and he’s already been told that he won’t return next year.

Phil Regan, the last Orioles manager before I joined the beat, was gone after one season. Davey Johnson guided them to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997 before resigning in a dispute with managing partner Peter G. Angelos. Former pitching coach Ray Miller replaced Johnson and Mike Hargrove was tabbed as Miller’s replacement prior to the 2000 season.

The Orioles didn’t renew Hargrove’s contract after extending it through 2003.

Vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan, in their first seasons at the helm, met with Hargrove one day after the season ended, leaving him with a 275-372 record after leading the Indians to five consecutive American League Central Division titles and two World Series berths.

The rosters in Cleveland and Baltimore didn’t quite match up.

Perlozzo, the bench coach, emerged as a top candidate and the Orioles also interviewed Eddie Murray, who had completed his second season as Indians hitting coach. Rick Dempsey and Rich Dauer immediately were confirmed as possibilities after Hargrove’s exit.

Beattie and Flanagan conducted a search that spanned five weeks before naming Mazzilli the 15th manager in club history. They interviewed eight candidates, including former Red Sox manager Grady Little and current Indians manager Terry Francona.

Mazzilli was the seventh of the eight candidates to interview for the job, and he sat before a search committee that also included director of baseball administration Ed Kenney, assistant to the vice president Dave Ritterpusch, scouting director Tony DeMacio and farm director Doc Rodgers. Angelos studied videotapes from the press conferences that were held after each interview to gauge how the candidates handled their sessions with the media.

I’m reminded of this last part because of the transparency that long ago disappeared.

It’s hard for me to fathom the organization not only confirming names, eliminating all the guesswork, but also making candidates available to the beat crew and columnists. Don’t hold your breath while waiting for it to happen again.

Flanagan said later that he turned to Beattie after Mazzilli walked out of the room and “we both went, ‘The search is over.’ “

(The band Survivor decided not to sue them.)

Mazzilli received a two-year contract with two club options, but he was fired while the 2005 season crumbled at his feet - Rafael Palmeiro’s suspension for violating the league’s steroid policy going a long way toward destroying it. The Orioles never had fired a manager in mid-season in the 12 years of Angelos’ ownership.

They spent 62 games in first place, but they were as close to last as the top at the time of Mazzilli’s dismissal.

Perlozzo, the runner-up to Hargrove, was crushed when the Orioles chose Mazzilli over him, but his opportunity finally came. And it went away a little more than 22 months after his promotion.

Andy MacPhail joined the organization as Perlozzo was leaving it, and you know the rest. Trembley went from bullpen coach to interim bench coach to interim manager, received an extension on the day that the Orioles lost to the Rangers 30-3 and was fired in June 2010 after a 15-39 start, the worst record in the majors.

Showalter-Media-Scrum-Sidebar.jpgShowalter compiled a 669-684 record with the Orioles, a 115-loss season dragging him below .500. There haven’t been any rumblings about a replacement because the Orioles first need to hire a president of baseball operations and a GM type.

An industry source said yesterday that a top executive could be named later this week, but it hasn’t been confirmed and the process might drag through the World Series. (I realize that isn’t much help, but updates are scarce.)

The Orioles are keeping the interview process private, going off-campus at times, and they don’t figure to change their tactics while filling the other vacancies. Names won’t be laid out before the media, and a press conference won’t be arranged until a hire is made.

Mark DeRosa reportedly wants to stay at MLB Network. He was the only early managerial candidate based strictly on baseball’s trend toward hiring former players with little or no previous managing experience, the broadcast booth a nice launching pad. And he seems to check off the necessary boxes.

The new president already will have turned over his list of candidates to ownership. The process should be relatively swift, but we’re still waiting for the first shoe to drop.

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