BALTIMORE—For the second time in less than three weeks, Orioles general manager Mike Elias explained the rationale behind the makeover of the team he’s been running since last November.
Elias dismissed 14 employees in player development and in the team’s Dominican academy on Monday. That was on top of the 11 he fired last month.
Among those departing are minor league hitting coordinator Jeff Manto, minor league catching coordinator Don Werner, minor league outfield coordinator Carlos Tosca, rehab pitching coordinator Scott McGregor, Frederick manager Ryan Minor, Keys pitching coach Justin Lord and hitting coach Bobby Rose.
Aberdeen field coach Jack Graham; Ramon Martinez, who worked with Latin American pitchers; and Calvin Maduro, a former Oriole pitcher who scouted in Latin America, were also dismissed.
“It’s tough stuff, but we’re trying to reposition our organization for the future to compete in our division and in this game and decisions like this are often necessary and difficult,” Elias said on Tuesday. “But right now we’re 46-97, and we’ve got a long way to go to get better, and we need to do things differently to get better.”
MASNsports.com reported that Delmarva hitting coach Dan Radison, who came to the organization this season, Gulf Coast hitting coach Milt May, and Len Johnston, who ran the team’s minor league facility in Sarasota for many years, have elected to retire.
Elias wouldn’t confirm if more departures were coming.
“It’s been a lot so far as we know, but it’s contract season in baseball and we’re doing the best we can to move deliberately and in a timely fashion through all the different decisions we have across a very large multi-faceted department,” he said.
McGregor and Minor were former players who’d worked in different jobs in the minor league system. McGregor was the winning pitcher of Game 5 of the 1983 World Series, the last World Series game the Orioles played.
Elias acknowledged that it’s hard when players have a long history with the organization.
“There are positives to that certainly, and that is something we that we will continue to value going forward,” Elias said.
“But there are other aspects of the job that are important, if not more important, so we have to take all that into account when choosing people. Certainly, when anyone has had a long history in a company and then on top of that somebody who has played successfully in a baseball town like this, it adds another layer of difficulty to the decision.
“But we’re going to do what we have to do, as I’ve said over and over. We are in a highly competitive environment any way you look at it. This is the most competitive environment in baseball, and we have no choice but to try to keep up.”
Elias said that he expects to fill the open positions.
“Without getting into specifics right now, I do expect us to backfill all those numbers, if not more,” Elias said. “It might not be the same title, location, whatever. We’re going to be growing as a department and in player development, specifically.
“I expect an increased head count relative to what was here, for sure, but we’ll be doing a lot of different stuff across all levels. There are going to be positions here that … have never existed before.
“There will be others that will be much more familiar and I think when we all open the media guide on February 1, we’ll see what exactly it will look like. We’ve got a lot to navigate between now and then, and these things take time to put together. There will be a lot of hiring around here.”
Contracts for the employees who are leaving expire on October 31. Elias wasn’t hired last year until mid-November, so he didn’t get a chance to make as many changes as he’d like.
“I knew what the shape and structure of the Orioles looked like,” Elias said. “I knew the fact that the Orioles were coming off a really bad record and at the time were perceived to have a middling farm system and, yeah, this is not something coming out of left field for me.
“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good people, really good people. It doesn’t mean that the people that we’ve just recently parted ways with are not good baseball people that will find good homes. It does mean that change was something that was coming and is the right thing for this franchise right now and specific to our situation, change is for the better.”
Elias said there are positives in the organization.
“I do think there are good players and prospects in the system and these were good draft picks that were made, especially recently,” he said.
“They were high picks and the scouts did a great job of choosing these players. But I think that very quickly in improving some of our developmental techniques, especially on the pitching side, we’ve been able to unlock a little bit of that potential so that has helped.
“But I feel great about the level of talent that we have right now. If you look at third-party rankings, which aren’t everything, and if you look at some more objective measures, this is a consensus above-average farm system, and I feel even better about where we’re going to be taking it.”
Elias said he also sees positives with the major league club.
“It’s not the record at the big-league level,” he said. “I think we all know that and are disappointed by that But more important than that right now is some of the individual developments that we’ve seen in some of our young players.
“I think we could all go down the list, but guys having bounce-back years, guys having breakout years. I think we’ve had many more successes on that front than failures, and that’s good to see. And there are several players that could be a meaningful part of our playoff future. That’s here at the major-league level, not just at the minors.”