Orioles Preview - Page 22 - Rebuilding Crew (2)

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- Page 22
Rebuilding Crew (2)

Baltimore has revolved around Elias, Mejdal and Hydemore than any player who will be on the team come Opening Day.


It’s why, with their father, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, having a reduced role running the franchise, brothers John and Louis Angelos arrived at Elias. It’s also why, upon introducing Elias, they described ownership’s obligation as getting “the absolute best baseball operations person involved and give them the resources, and let them do the job.”


They’ll have been happy to find out where Elias was when he got the call to start that process.




Elias, a left-handed pitcher at Yale from 2002 to 2006, began his professional baseball in 2007 not as a player but as an amateur scout for the St. Louis Cardinals in a department headed by Luhnow. He worked his way up to supervisory roles there, then went to Houston when Luhnow was hired as Astros general manager ahead of the 2012 season to execute a rebuild that mirrors what the Orioles want in many ways. At the time, a rebuild like this was far more unusual.


Elias was the director of amateur scouting for several impactful drafts for the Astros, was the point man when they drafted All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa with their top pick, and eventually had international scouting director added to his job description when he was promoted to assistant general manager in 2016.


The Alexandria, Va., native was in that position when the Orioles’ top job came open this past October. Elias now acknowledges that he was monitoring it throughout the end of the 2018 season as the franchise he grew up watching lost 115 games and the contracts of executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter were expiring.


When the time came to meet with the Angelos family, he hadn’t formally interviewed for a job since college; even the initial Cardinals scouting job was one he knew he was a strong candidate for. But he knew how to sell himself.


“I explained to them very objectively our successes in St. Louis and Houston, our track record with scouting and player development, and there are benchmarks and metrics you can point to to demonstrate that success,” Elias said. “I thought it’d be very applicable here in Baltimore.”


Their drafts in both places produced large parts of World Series-winning cores, and through several phone interviews before marathon in-person sessions, he communicated what was behind those triumphs.


“I was pretty confident with the success of what we did in Houston and St. Louis, and our know-how in the scouting and player development a reason top of the fact that the Orioles would be looking to expand their international program and their analytics program,” Elias said. “There was a lot of overlap with my resume and their needs. I wasn’t surprised to be a serious candidate, but the interview process, just the communication process went well enough where things only got better after that.”




As long as Elias had worked for Luhnow, so had Mejdal, an engineer with a diverse resume of blackjack dealing and NASA work. Mejdal, 53, was hired during the “Moneyball” era in 2005 to build draft models for the Cardinals and came along to Houston with the title of director of decision sciences. The Astros were going to take the data-driven success St. Louis had built in its amateur scouting department and have that inform everything from player development to major league strategy.


“He informs basically everything that we do, scouting and player development — just everything,” Elias said. “He’s kind of the intellectual core of a lot of that.”


Mejdal’s influence grew outside the analytics department. He was made special assistant to Luhnow and spent a season in uniform at Short-A Tri-City to see what players and coaches truly needed to implement some of the club’s analytics and player-development practices.


But through 2018, something changed.


“I realized that I very much enjoy the start-up phase more than the status quo,” Medjal said. “Thatwas becoming clearer tome as the year went on. The internal dialogue was like, ‘Are you crazy, Sig? This is arguably the best team in baseball, and they’re expected to arguably be again next year, and I’m not completely satisfied?’ But the feeling didn’t go away.”


When he spoke to Luhnow about the possibility of leaving Houston, he and Elias hadn’t spoken about the idea of getting the band together elsewhere. Mejdal said he was embarrassed to acknowledge that he didn’t think Elias would be part of this year’s batch of top executive hires until he saw him connected to a job.


“I immediately thought, ‘That would be the best-case scenario, where I would have a GM who already trusts me, and who has experienced the value in what I can bring, and doesn’t have to be sold on this,’ “ Mejdal said. “Then, I thought from Mike’s perspective, that a lot of the tools that he put to the Astros’ and previously the Cardinals’ advantage, I had created or been involved with that. So, he would know that he was going with someone who could re-create some of those valuable tools.”


Just days after Elias’ hire became official, the Orioles announced that Mejdal was joining him.


Mejdal was about to inherit a department that had just lost its head, Sarah Gelles, to the Astros, and had one programmer on staff. There hadn’t been a formal international scouting director in 2018 after Fred Ferreira left, and the person taking point in that role