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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

After latest mishap in GM search, inept Orioles look even worse

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After DeJon Watson took his name out of the running, the Orioles are left to scramble for a new GM.  
After DeJon Watson took his name out of the running, the Orioles are left to scramble for a new GM.    

Syd Thrift once famously explained Baltimore's inability to operate effectively in the free agent market by saying it was as if the club was trying to spend "Confederate money."

More than a decade later and none the wiser, the Orioles now look like they've assumed a Confederate attitude.

We all know the Orioles have been spinning around in circles, chasing their tailfeathers for years.

Now, as another three-ring circus plays out under the Peter Angelos Big Top, add the appearance of racism to the long list of Orioles' fatal shortcomings.

Before we go any further, understand: I said "appearance" of racism.

Whether it cuts any deeper than that, there is only one definitive answer. And that can only come when Angelos and Co. look in the mirror. Hard.

Here's the deal: Baltimore brought in three men from outside the organization to interview for their vacant GM job. One, Jerry Dipoto, accepted the Angels' gig while the Orioles were sitting around flapping their beaks. They offered the job to a second, Tony LaCava, who turned them down this week, electing to instead remain with the Blue Jays.

The third, DeJon Watson, is a highly respected, veteran baseball man who interviewed for more than a dozen hours over two days last month.

The Orioles made sure to rave about how well the interview went. Watson brings impressive credentials in two areas the Orioles listed as chief criteria for the job -- scouting and player development.

He was the director of professional scouting for the Indians from 2004 to 2006. Before that, he was the Reds' director of scouting back when Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns were drafted. Most recently, Watson has been the Dodgers' assistant GM, player development.

So after eating up a good portion of two days interviewing him -- and after LaCava turned them down this week -- the Orioles moved on to their second choice, right?

No. They moved on toward bringing in a second round of candidates for interviews.

Yes, Watson is African-American.

No, he wasn't owed the job.

But if the Orioles thought enough of Watson to bring him in as part of the first three interviews, and if by all accounts the interviews went exceedingly well ... then how else is a reasonable person to interpret it other than, well, um, you know.

Commissioner Bud Selig mandates that clubs interview minority candidates with every GM or managerial opening. Watson is the only minority candidate who interviewed.

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At the very least, even if you give the Orioles the benefit of the doubt and think Watson wasn't a token interview ... something still smells in this whole process.

Good-old-boy network or nothing more sinister than sheer long-term incompetence, that's for Angelos and his Orioles to explain. Whenever they reach an end-game for this interminable process.

Because that's the other thing. Their season ended more than a month ago. And the Orioles had known for weeks before that Andy MacPhail was planning to step down. They should have been way out in front of this process.

The Cubs had fired GM Jim Hendry. Then the Angels whacked Tony Reagins a few days after the season ended.

There was going to be competition for the best GM candidates.

Even given a head start, this is the best the Orioles can do?

Of their initial group of four interviews, the other was John Stockstill, an internal candidate who has worked in the O's front office for the past six years. Clearly, a courtesy interview -- otherwise, he would have been named by now.

Realistically, after Dipoto came to terms with the Angels and LaCava turned the job down, Watson was the last man standing.

Or should have been.

The GM meetings start a week from Tuesday in Milwaukee. The way things are going, the Orioles may not even have anybody in place by then. And if they do, their guy is going to be scrambling to play catch up -- when he could have been doing that the entire month of October.

Remember: Dipoto was with the Diamondbacks, LaCava the Blue Jays, Watson the Dodgers. Common thread: Two of those three clubs weren't even involved in the playoffs, and Dipoto's D-Backs were done by Oct. 7.

Meantime, free agency started on Thursday. Is there any Oriole at home to dial up Prince Fielder? Albert Pujols? On another front, the O's will be playing from behind.

The second wave of Baltimore GM interviews started Thursday. First in: Scott Proefrock -- an assistant GM in Philadelphia who is a rules and contracts guy and worked for Angelos before moving to Philadelphia.

Not quite the scouting and player development expertise the Orioles demanded a few weeks ago.

They were said to have had former executive Dan Duquette in for an interview Friday. He hasn't worked for a major-league club in a decade. They wanted to talk with Mike Radcliff, Minnesota's vice-president of player personnel, but the Twins refused to grant them permission. They also wanted to talk to Allard Baird, a key member of Boston's front office and former Royals GM, but Baird on Friday pulled out to stay with the Red Sox.

Also on the list of second-wave guys: Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' scouting director since 2005.

Watson -- who, by the way, also is very well-versed in baseball in Latin America and speaks fluent Spanish -- withdrew his name from consideration on Thursday. With a process this pureed and communication this choppy, who could blame him? The Orioles did everything but physically slap him across the face.

Eventually, they will get their man ... whomever he might be.

Check that: Eventually, they will get a man ... and then claim him as their man.

Only thing clear right now is that the Orioles have no idea what they're doing.

In other words -- the current count now at 14 consecutive losing seasons -- business as usual.

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