Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/18/14

In a Hot Stove season that generally focuses on organizational acquisitions, multiple league sources reported yesterday that Tony LaCava has turned down the general manager position with the Baltimore Orioles and will remain the assistant general manager with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The intriguing aspect of this development, however, is not that LaCava turned down Baltimore in favor of Toronto. It’s more that nobody in the baseball community believes he made the wrong choice. In fact, national writers immediately took to Twitter with snide comments such as: “Nobody blames him.”

So, why does no one seemingly covet the GM job in Baltimore? After all, only 30 GM positions exist in baseball.

A general manager is ultimately judged by wins and losses, and the Baltimore Orioles are not in a position to win anytime soon. Perhaps they can threaten a .500 record in the next half-decade, but we’re talking about an Orioles’ franchise that has not won more than 79 games since 1997.

To be fair, the 2011 season was supposed to be different. We ranked the Orioles at #15 in the Organizational Rankings prior to the season on the strength of their young talent reaching the big league level — such as Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton — but the 2011 Orioles only won 69 games and were outscored by 152 runs on the year.

Not only did the Orioles win few games, but the three components of a team’s ability were all well below-average:

Team Offense: .320 wOBA (24th of 30 teams)
Team Pitching: 4.67 FIP (30th of 30 teams)
Team Defense: -53.6 UZR (29th of 30 teams)

Blech. Having some young, projectable talent on the big league club is certainly desirable, but it would be nice to have something to show for it in the performance, as well.

The Orioles are also stuck in the AL East, making their climb out of the cellar even more daunting. If the organization were in the AL Central or NL Central, the prospects of a fundamental turnaround would not be so unlikely. But in a division that features perennial Goliaths such as the Red Sox and Yankees, the Orioles are not just behind the eight ball. They are behind two eight balls and up against the bumper with only a sliver of daylight.

This is not to say that Tony LaCava couldn’t have succeeded as the GM of the Orioles. After all, the Tampa Bay Rays have one of the smallest markets in the MLB and have made the postseason three of the past four years. The possibility clearly exists. Of course, the Rays built through the draft and have a farm system stocked to the gills with potential impact talent.

The Orioles, however, have a below-average farm system. Shortstop Manny Machado receives the bulk of the attention, but the shelves are otherwise bare. Baseball America ranked the organization at #21 in their farm system rankings, Keith Law ranked them #24, and former scout, Frankie Piliere, ranked Baltimore at #25.

Tony LaCava — or any potential Orioles’ GM — would have inherited a poor big league squad (admittedly with some young talent) and a poor farm system in what is the most difficult division in all of baseball.

Talk about setting yourself up for success.

Then, almost adding insult to injury at this point, the new Orioles’ general manager will surely have to navigate a power struggle with manager Buck Showalter and owner Peter Angelos. For example, Roch Kubatko of MASN reported last night that “there were disagreements over some personnel moves” that LaCava wanted to make upon his arrival.

Of course there was.

A general manager must be the captain of the ship. Perhaps more importantly, the owner and manager must trust the captain to navigate the difficult and choppy waters ahead. A captain cannot adequately and successfully do his job if he is constantly asking for permission and/or making personnel decisions with anything but success on his mind.

Between the poor big league club, poor farm system, and difficult working conditions with manager and owner, it’s no surprise that Tony LaCava would choose to stay with the Toronto Blue Jays. Peter Angelos has to be wondering, though … does any qualified candidate legitimately want this job?

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