By David Driver
Sports Unlimited Magazine, Used with permission
As a young boy in the early 1960s, Andy MacPhail lived with his family in the working-class Guilford neighborhood near Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. His father, Lee, president and general manager of the Orioles, often took Andy and his older brother, Bruce, to the ballpark on 33rd Street where their father would duck into the clubhouse to check on his club.
“After a night game, he would tell us he would be right back and, of course, that was 45 minutes later,” said MacPhail. “We would throw the ball around under the stands.”
The family left Baltimore before the Orioles’ first World Series appearance in 1966, but MacPhail, who was named the O’s president and CEO last June still has special memories.
“I remember a lot of the players from those days, such as Gus Triandos and Jerry Adair,” he said. “I have pretty vivid memories of Baltimore and Memorial Stadium. I remember playing outside on fall Sundays and hearing cheers from the Colts crowd. It was a lot of fun. I was a big fan of Jackie Brandt. He wore batting gloves, which was avant-garde at the time.”
Since 1997 when the O’s won the AL East Division, they are without a winning season. MacPhail brings in a fresh attitude and history of winning. In his first season, he’s already making significant changes. During the offseason he arranged two blockbuster trades, sending shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five players, and then picking up another five players from the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Eric Bedard. In return for Tejada and Bedard the Orioles received centerfielder Adam Jones from Seattle, left fielder Luke Scott from the Astros and closer George Sherrill from Seattle, including a few young prospects.
The deals reminded MacPhail of a trade he made when he was with the Minnesota Twins. He sent Frank Viola, a Cy Young Award winner, to the Mets for five pitchers – Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond and Jack Savage.
MacPhail acknowledges there is no guarantee of success when trading for players who haven’t played in the Majors. Aguilera and Tapani helped the Twins make the World Series two years later, while Savage and Drummond faded into baseball obscurity.
The Orioles’ farm system has been barren in recent years, but the trades with Houston and Seattle may improve it. “There is no substitute for a viable and productive farm system. Ours had made progress recently, but we still have a ways to go. They are just that, prospects,” MacPhail said.
MacPhail also plans to upgrade the Orioles’ facilities in the Dominican Republic, revamp the scouting computer system and video equipment and increase the team’s scouting presence in Asia.
“We came to the conclusion they were two assets that would not be with us in a couple of seasons,” he said. “We had to take some drastic steps to help our future. We just had to find some trading partners. We found a couple (partners) that made sense for both parties.”
Before MacPhail, Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette ran the club. Poor performance caused Duquette to resign at the end of the 2007 season, but Flanagan remained the executive vice president of baseball operations.
“It is nice to have a CY Young award winner at your disposal,” said MacPhail. “He will have a lot of opportunities. He has the versatility to do a lot of things.”
Born into the game, MacPhail knows the pitfalls of following your father into the business of pro sports. “I would say my father was Switzerland. He tried to stay neutral,” MacPhail said. ”My mother was not a big fan of the time away from home, baseball personnel have to endure.”
MacPhail’s grandfather, Larry, was an innovative baseball executive who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978. He worked for the Cincinnati Reds and the Dodgers and in 1935, while with the Reds, helped bring night baseball to the Majors. Then his father was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
“It is not really something I think about,” MacPhail said. “That streak is ending at two (generations). I am pleased I have been fortunate to be with some World Champions. Aspiring to that other stuff is a waste of time.”