Earlier this week, a friend of mine who follows the Philadelphia Phillies asked me how excited he should be about the team’s addition of Andy MacPhail to its front office staff. Very, I told him. Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette get a ton of the credit for building the Baltimore Orioles back into a winning franchise, but the often forgotten hero in this franchise’s rise from the ashes is Andy MacPhail.
MacPhail took over as Orioles President of Baseball Operations on June 20, 2007, in the middle of a 69-93 season. MacPhail was at the helm for four more full seasons before leaving after the 2011 season. In MacPhail’s tenure, the Orioles went 306-432. Why, then, was I willing to sing the praises of a man under whose watchful eye the team I root for most passionately won games at a .415 clip?
The answer is simple.
The Orioles team that has now blessed the city of Baltimore with two playoff berths in three seasons is largely MacPhail’s doing. Consider the following players added to the roster by MacPhail via trade: Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis, and Tommy Hunter. The Orioles would not be sniffing a playoff berth without those trades — trades in which MacPhail absolutely came out the winner each time. Furthermore, under MacPhail, the Orioles drafted expertly. Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton were all drafted while MacPhail controlled the baseball operations in Baltimore.
Without these acquisitions and good drafting record, the Orioles would not have sniffed the playoffs. They may even be waiting for their first winning season since 1997 if not for MacPhail. While his time leading the Orioles mostly resulted in a big pile of losses, MacPhail was the right man to lead the team through a lengthy rebuilding process and bring it safely through the tunnel of losing into the bright lights of postseason baseball. It is a thankless and joyless task to build a winning team while suffering through 90-loss seasons, but without MacPhail’s efforts, Showalter and Duquette would not be in the position they are today. Duquette has made a name for himself tinkering with the Orioles roster and snagging cost-effective players that buck the odds against the spendthrift New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but without the stars put in place by MacPhail, his job would be next to impossible.
MacPhail will face a different set of circumstances in Philadelphia than Baltimore. He will have more money to play with in the big market city, but he will get his first real test this month as the trade deadline nears and Cole Hamels will be dealt. After working with Peter Angelos for four-plus seasons, MacPhail will be up to the task of dealing with Ruben Amaro Jr. who could be on the way out the door when MacPhail assumes the role of Pat Gillick as team president. I told my friend there is good reason to be excited about the arrival of MacPhail. I have seen the fruits of his labors the past three seasons. Handed a pool of young talent, and the freedom to rebuild as he pleases in Philadelphia, I do not doubt that there will be winning baseball played in Citizens Bank Park within the next four seasons.
MacPhail will be hailed a winner in Philadelphia if he makes that happen. I only wish more people in Baltimore remembered his time with the Orioles for more than the abysmal record. Oftentimes, the one who is responsible for being the public whipping boy during a lengthy rebuilding process, like MacPhail was, must bear the brunt of the public’s displeasure with last place finishes. In the end though, Andy MacPhail is the one who made the Baltimore Orioles roster what it is today, and he should be remembered as such.