- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

BALTIMORE It came from all sides of the room and it came in varying forms, but the question on everyone's mind inside the B&O; Warehouse at Camden Yards yesterday was essentially the same:

How exactly is this supposed to work?

Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie, who have been paired by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos to run his baseball operations department, are supremely confident that this unconventional hiring can and will work.

Even if no one seems to be sure who has the final say on matters of great importance like, say, the pending decision whether to re-sign 37-year-old shortstop Mike Bordick. (The Orioles have until Saturday to work that one out or else Bordick won't be available until May1.)

So who is the face and the voice of this organization, which is coming off a fifth straight losing season?

"It won't so much be any one voice as much as a chiming of voices throughout the organization," said Flanagan, who assumes Syd Thrift's former position as vice president of baseball operations. "Together we will try to make the best possible decisions.

"I sort of see us as being attached."

Beattie appears to have a loftier title executive vice president of baseball operations but he gave no indication yesterday that he intends to pull rank over his new tag-team partner.

"I think meshing us together in the partnership is going to be fun and it's going to be exciting," the former Montreal Expos general manager said. "We don't have big enough egos to say, 'I have to be the guy.'"

It sounds like a revolutionary concept. Today's GM must possess far more energy, knowledge and resourcefulness than one man usually can supply, so why not split the job between two able and willing people?

"The job has grown to be very large, very complex," said chief operating officer Joe Foss, who has come to be the public face of the Orioles ownership with Angelos keeping himself firmly out of the limelight. "And you really need at least two people at the senior level to meet the challenge of that job."

In theory, it makes sense. Then again, given the fact that no other current major league organization has a two-man GM setup, how much sense can it make?

On a practical level, Flanagan and Beattie are sure to hit some speed bumps on their way toward rebuilding this franchise. What happens if one hashes out a blockbuster, six-man, three-team trade, only to have the other shoot it down? What happens if one wants to pursue a top-name free agent this winter like Ivan Rodriguez or Cliff Floyd, while the other wants to wait until next year and go after Miguel Tejada or Bartolo Colon?

"I don't think either of us has veto power," Beattie said. "They are going to be organizational decisions."

Beattie does speak from experience when it comes to these matters. When he was first hired in Montreal in 1995, he shared front-office duties with Bill Stoneman (who recently built the Anaheim Angels into World Series champions). Stoneman was the Expos' vice president of baseball operations; Beattie was vice president/GM.

"It worked very well for Bill and myself," Beattie said, "and I have no doubt that the energy coming from our office is going to be the same in Baltimore."

Still, in Montreal, one man (Beattie) was designated as general manager, making him the organization's visible front man. Angelos hasn't technically had a GM since Frank Wren in 1999; Thrift was VP of baseball operations the last three years.

And what of Thrift, who spent the last two months working out of his warehouse office, beginning the process of molding this franchise for the 2003 season, all the while his owner was openly interviewing candidates to replace him?

If the roles of Beattie and Flanagan are unclear, Thrift's fate is even murkier. As best anyone can tell, he will not be retained when his contract expires Dec.31. Thrift, however, said he wants to continue working for the club in any capacity, and when the word "retirement" was thrown at him yesterday, the 73-year-old, lifelong baseball man said emphatically, "No, absolutely not."

Both Flanagan and Beattie were quick yesterday to praise Thrift for the work he did over the last three years (and over a career that has spanned six decades). But it's safe to say that both would prefer Thrift not attempt to stay too involved within the organization.

After all, two's company, three's a crowd.

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