Orioles' Top 5 general managers: Trezza's take

June 22nd, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the Top 5 players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Joe Trezza’s ranking of the Top 5 general managers in Orioles history.

Orioles' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RHP | LHP | RP | M

1) Harry Dalton, 1965-71
Key fact: Principal architect of Orioles dynasty of late '60s, early '70s

Taking the reins from Lee MacPhail Jr. in 1966, Dalton’s first order of business was to execute the trade for Frank Robinson, still considered one of baseball’s all-time biggest heists. What followed was the most successful stretch of Orioles history. Working his way up the front office chain, Dalton led Baltimore in its heyday, winning four American League pennants and two World Series championships during his tenure. The O’s played to a .603 winning percentage, eclipsing 100 wins each year from ’69-71.

It was a golden age of Orioles baseball, and it had Dalton’s fingerprints all over it. Dalton hired Earl Weaver, brought in youngsters like Bobby Grich and Don Baylor and acquired Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson and Don Buford via trade. He was also responsible in a roundabout way for Jim Palmer, who was developed in Dalton’s farm system. He also cultivated a new generation of front office talent, including future Hall of Fame executive John Schuerholz.

2) Hank Peters, 1975-87
Key fact: Longest-tenured GM in club history

The last GM to build a world champion in Baltimore, Peters is largely credited with taking over a franchise with a storied past and maintaining that success. Upon assuming the head of baseball operations in December 1975, Peters shepherded the O’s to 10 consecutive winning seasons, averaging 90 victories and capturing two AL pennants over that stretch. Baltimore lost a seven-game World Series to the Pirates in ’79, and defeated the Phillies in five games four years later to claim the title in ’83.

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Along the way, Peters acquired Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez in the massive 10-player 1976 deal with the Yankees, drafted Cal Ripken Jr. ('78), Mike Boddicker ('78) and Storm Davis ('79) and brought in key players like Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein via trade and waiver claims. Peters also traded for Reggie Jackson in the ill-fated '76 deal with Oakland. The two-time executive of the year also headed the Indians and served as the president of Minor League Baseball during his 40-year career.

3) Frank Cashen, 1971-75
Key fact: Longtime sportswriter-turned-executive inducted into Orioles Hall of Fame in 1999

Overseeing Dalton’s tenure as club president, Cashen took over GM duties when Dalton left to rebuild the Angels in 1971. He oversaw two more division winners as GM, with the Orioles losing in the AL Championship Series in ’73 and ‘74. As an executive, he gets credit for green-lighting many of Dalton’s best trades, and his stint as GM was highlighted by the shrewd acquisition of Ken Singleton from the Expos in ’74. He also acquired star pitchers Ross Grimsley and Mike Torrez via trade.

On the field, the O’s averaged 90 victories during Cashen’s four seasons as GM, though he gets dinked here because his two rings came when his main responsibilities were on the business side. He later went on to help build a championship Mets team in New York, and he won three World Series rings total during his career as an executive.

4) Pat Gillick, 1995-98
Key fact: Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011

One of the sport's all-time best executives, Gillick led the Blue Jays (1992, ’93) and Phillies (2008) to World Series titles as GM. He came out of retirement to replace Roland Hemond in Baltimore after the 1995 season and guided the club to playoff appearances in ’96 and ’97. Those were star-studded teams that fell just short, losing in the ALCS both seasons. But they owed their success largely to manager Davey Johnson and the finishing touches Gillick provided the roster.

Inheriting a talented but underachieving team, Gillick signed Roberto Alomar, B.J. Surhoff and Randy Myers and traded for David Wells in his first month on the job. The next winter, his signing of All-Star lefty Jimmy Key paid dividends. The O’s were on the verge of getting good before Gillick arrived; under Gillick, they turned the corner, and they weren’t the same without him. Gillick chose not to return at the conclusion of his three-year deal in ’98, and the O’s did not achieve a winning season again until 2012.

5) Dan Duquette, 2011-18
Key fact: Sculpted Orioles playoff teams of the mid-2010s

Taking over for Andy MacPhail in 2011, the Orioles snapped their 15-year playoff drought under Duquette a year later. They made the postseason two more times over the next four seasons, reaching the ALCS in '14 and Wild Card Game in '16. By playoff appearances, it was the club’s most successful stretch in more than four decades, and Duquette presided over it. The Orioles achieved it with a mix of leftovers from MacPhail’s tenure and new imports from Duquette, who inherited a foundation that already consisted of Manny Machado, Adam Jones and manager Buck Showalter.

But Duquette was adept at complementing it with key pieces, notably acquiring Nelson Cruz, Wei-Yin Chen and Delmon Young through free agency and Andrew Miller and Steve Pearce via trade. Duquette’s Draft record is checkered, but he is responsible for two of the O’s best current prospects in Austin Hays and Grayson Rodriguez, and the flurry of trades in 2018 that set up their current rebuild. He was Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 2014, when the O’s claimed their first division crown in 17 years.

Honorable mentions
The only GM-manager in club history, Paul Richards (1955-61) implemented the organizational philosophies and practices that would become known as the "Oriole Way" ... Lee MacPhail Jr. was one of the most accomplished executives in baseball history and the O’s GM from 1958-65, growing them into pennant contenders and laying the groundwork for the dynasty they would soon grow into. ... MacPhail’s son, Andy, paved the way for the club’s success under Duquette, acquiring Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, drafting Machado and hiring Showalter.