BALTIMORE -- There were jokes that it was the Yale pedigree of Mike Elias and the need for both John and Louis Angelos -- graduates of Duke and Johns Hopkins, respectively -- to continue to round out the academic credentials. Or maybe it was the Powerpoint presentation that Elias, who turns 36 next month, couldn't wait to unveil in the first meeting of an exhaustive six-week process to find Baltimore's top executive.
But seated comfortably in one of three stylish armchairs in a revamped clubhouse at Camden Yards on Monday, it was clear how Elias charmed the Angelos brothers. Wearing an Orioles' orange tie and sandwiched between both prominent members of ownership, the northern Virginia native spoke of growing up going to Orioles baseball games. He reminisced on visiting his sister years later when she moved, and later married, in Baltimore. And, most importantly, he talked about how excited he is to restore "The Oriole Way" to a historic franchise as the newly-minted executive vice president and general manager.
"In its history and its DNA, this organization was once considered the smartest, most forward-thinking, most progressive team in baseball," said Elias, who was officially unveiled on Monday afternoon to lead a new Orioles front office. "The fact that that was the case here before means it's possible for that to be the case here again. We are here to restore that reputation."
Elias, who most recently served as the Astros assistant general manager, was among a decorated group of candidates interested in leading a rebuild of the Orioles after a 115-season loss season. Undeterred by the critics and by being the only organization without a permanent general manager at the GM Meetings earlier this month, the Angelos brothers were methodical and committed to finding the right person. They believe they found the one in Elias, who offers a unique blend of scouting and analytics expertise, two areas that the O's have vowed to overhaul.
"You're making a decision not that you're going to live with, but that you want to live with for the next decade, let's say, or longer," said John Angelos, part of an ownership group headed by the brothers' father, Peter. "We want to be sitting here with Mike, talking about all the great things we've accomplished as an organization five, 10, 15 and 20 years from now. This isn't something you do and then hope you do again. So, sure, [there was] pressure [to get it right], but I think obligation is the way we looked at it."
Elias' to-do list is lengthy, including filling out the front office and adding to international scouting on the immediate agenda. The process for hiring a new manager is underway, though there is no timetable on that and the other bevy of hires expected in the coming weeks.
As for the plan to transform Baltimore back into a contender, Elias was succinct. The goal is simple: to build an "elite pipeline" starting with the Orioles' Dominican Summer League all the way up to Triple-A. It will not be easy, and it will not be swift. Elias cautioned the packed room of media, club officials and other members of the organization that there are "no shortcuts" to building a sustainably competitive franchise.
"We're going to work as fast and as smartly and as hard as possible. We're going to remain focused on the process," he said. "We're going to continuously improve the talent base up and down the organization, whether that's at the Major League or Minor League level.
"I have confidence that we can do this and we can do this in the right amount of time. And the analytics portion of it is something that's not optional in today's game. It's a lot of advanced information. The trick is how you incorporate it into decision making and into baseball practices so that it's not two different approaches going on, but it's one approach that comes out of that. There will be a lot of work and a lot of expertise in that area."
Elias has a scouting background and was lauded for the Astros amateur drafts under his tenure. Beefing up the O's on the international front will require the Yale grad to use his contacts and bring in people he trusts. By all accounts that process has already begun.
"He was incredibly prepared, thoughtful, both from a 40,000-foot view down to the weeds," John Angelos said of Elias. "He could move laterally and vertically in terms of being incredibly knowledgable about the subject matter."
John added that the current MASN contract dispute will have no effect on Elias or the operating budget, with both Angelos brothers reiterating that the GM will have full baseball autonomy. That includes how Elias works with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson.
"As Mike indicated, he's spoken to all the high-level executives, and we've had some discussions about all aspects of baseball operations in the lengthy meetings that we had," Louis Angelos said. "I think in this transition period, I believe Mike is going to be reliant on all of the individuals who have great knowledge and deep knowledge of our current players. So that extends across the board, and Brady isn't any different in that respect.
"We have to determine where people are going to make the best contribution, whether it's player development or what have you. We're all excited and looking forward to that transition and collaborating as an organization."
Elias will rely on the current members of the organization to get brought up to speed, with several roster decisions looming and the Winter Meetings just three weeks away. He made it clear on Monday that, despite the need for improvement, there are still some exciting possibilities already in the Minor Leagues.
"As a scouting director, I'm familiar with a lot of the players in the Minor League system. There are some future stars in the system and some really good pitchers. There is more than enough here to work with," Elias said. "That is part of the attraction of this job to me. I know there are already players here that we're going to be able to lean on over the next few years and watch grow."