For those of you who may not have noticed, a baseball lifer and Oriole great Mike Flanagan past away yesterday at the age of 59. In an attempt to pay my respects to him, his family, friends, and fans, I thought it would be nice to repost the interview I conducted with him in 2008 at the Orioles spring training complex in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I hope you enjoy it.
ELI: When did you first realize you might be drafted?
MIKE: Well, I was drafted twice. I was first drafted by Pat Gillick of the Astros out of high school, but I had a bad elbow at the time so I went to the University of Massachusetts. When the next draft came around for me I was pretty confident I was going to be drafted and I went in the seventh round.
ELI: You won the AL Cy Young in 1979, looking back on it, what was working for you that year?
MIKE: A pitcher name Scott McGregor helped me early on. I was mostly a two pitch pitcher early on in my career and you cannot survive as a starter with two pitches. I tried all sorts of grips to develop a change, but McGregor had a great change-up and helped me find one. It made all the difference. I had pitched four hundred innings against everyone without a change, so the next time I pitched, no one had seen it, and that made all the difference.
ELI: You played alongside Jim Palmer, what was that like early on in your career?
MIKE: I came up with Jim Palmer, and looking back on it, I was fortunate to play with him. It is not always the case that pitchers give out tips, but Palmer helped me a lot with psychology of it, and finding strengths and weaknesses.
ELI: What was Earl Weaver like as a manager?
MIKE: I don't know if he have enough time to talk about it. [Laughs] Every game was a war. Every night he managed, it was a war. Even in Spring Training or Fantasy Camp - he was a high intensity manager.
ELI: While you were playing, did you ever think you would hold a Front Office position after you retired? What positions did you hold before you got to where you are now?
MIKE: I thought about it. I was a broadcaster twice, and their pitching coach. Being a broadcaster was a nice avenue to getting here. You stay in touch with the game by talking to scouts, players and coaches.
ELI: This past year, you traded Steve Trachsel to the Cubs for Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore. Was the negotiation process to bring him back easy, was there any hard feelings?
MIKE: Well, we talked to Trachsel when it happened, so it was not difficult to get a deal done. Either way, most veterans understand.
ELI: Several trades were made this offseason, did the players take longer to gel in Spring Training than normal?
MIKE: No. I think players understand that there is an opportunity here. Rosters are usually set coming into Spring Training, but I don't know of one major leaguer that doesn't want an opportunity.
ELI: You drafted Matt Wieters last year, how did he handle his first big league camp?
MIKE: Extremely well. He is a strong catcher and a switch hitter. We do not have much catching depth in our minor league system, so to add a switch hitter gives us the depth we need.
ELI: Is there one pitcher in camp that really turned heads this year?
MIKE: Chris Tillman. He came over in the Bedard trade. He is a big guy, and showed a lot of poise.
ELI: Daniel Cabrera has a hard fastball. Is there anything you told him to work on this spring?
MIKE: We had him work on a change-up. Daniel is a big guy, he just needs to slow things down.
ELI: There is a saying, "When you have a passion for your work, you never work a day in your life," do you feel that way?
MIKE: Absolutely. If you are concerned about your job and hours, this isn't the job for you. You are on call twenty-four hours a day, twelve months out of the year.