When the Chicago Cubs fired Andy MacPhail in 2006, it wasn’t exactly under the best of terms. After winning two World Series titles with the Minnesota Twins, his run in Chicago was terrible. The owners of the Cubs at that time, The Tribune Company, threw MacPhail under the bus on his way out. It ended poorly.
The year after he was fired, he wound up with the Baltimore Orioles. I remember thinking, as a Cubs fan; what the heck are the Orioles doing to their fans. Don’t they realize what a mistake MacPhail was with he Cubs? Boy was I wrong! In five years, he turned the Orioles from a laughing stock to a legitimate contender in the AL East.
My issues with MacPhail weren’t unwarranted. His attitude and general smugness toward the fans was very frustrating. I remember one time in particular, during the Cubs Convention (an offseason event designed to give fans an opportunity to hear about the team), MacPhail talked about doing things the right way with the organization and not investing in free agents. He went on to tell us fans that the Cubs needed to do it the right way because they didn’t have the revenue sources other teams in baseball were fortunate enough to have. In other words, he sold the Cubs like they were a small-market team. Looking back on it, this was probably more ownership talking. Instead of embracing his honesty, I took him as a guy that didn’t care about winning. Guess he had the last laugh!
Last season, the Orioles won 93 games, a one-game playoff against the Texas Rangers and took the New York Yankees to five games in the divisional round of the American League playoffs. This wasn’t done with smoke-and-mirrors, but through an organization that MacPhail helped to build from the bottom on up.
Through the draft, player development and shrewd free-agent pickups, this team started strong and improved as the season moved along. It was a formula MacPhail created with the Twins and rediscovered it with the Orioles. While it didn’t work in Chicago, MacPhail has taken one of baseball’s worst franchises and made it competitive again.