Grading The GMs—Who’s Good; Who’s Bad; Who’s Clueless (Continued)
As promised, here’s the National League GMs, rated (and razed as the case may be):
- Ruben Amaro Jr-Philadelphia Phillies:
There’s not much context for Amaro yet, but he’s filled the biggest holes of the Phillies reasonably well replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez, although their lineup is going to be so lefty-centric that it’s a potential issue; and they’ve signed important younger players like Cole Hamels and Ryan Madson to long term deals. If the Phillies falter because of not having that righty bat who can hit the ball out of the park, Amaro’s going to have to do something to rectify that and then there’ll be enough information to judge him positively or negatively.
- Omar Minaya-New York Mets:
Minaya’s best skills are his scouting abilities and his patience. Coming up through the ranks as an old-school scout, Minaya can judge players almost by looking at them and how they move; he has a great rapport with the Latin players and he’s charismatic and charming. The patience he showed in getting Johan Santana last year, and then acquiring not one, but two closers in Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to fill the Mets’ bullpen holes for pennies on the dollar showed guts and imagination. Minaya is not as ruthless as GMs sometimes need to be, which leads to the embarrassing way in which manager Willie Randolph was fired last June; Minaya’s main screw-up wasn’t with the way he handled it, but with the way he felt badly about it and shunned the hard job of firing the guy he picked to manage the team. It looked shabby—-not because Minaya was trying to be mean—-but because he was trying to be too nice.
- Larry Beinfest-Florida Marlins:
Beinfest and the Marlins are always ready to deal and know what kind of young players they want for their veterans; no one, and I mean no one is off the table for the Marlins (exemplified by the fact that they were even willing to discuss Hanley Ramirez with the Red Sox); they target the prospects they want, they get them, and they let them play in the big leagues. If there’s a book to be written about how a team wins and develops players without spending much money, forget Billy Beane and Moneyball; check out the Marlins.
- Frank Wren-Atlanta Braves:
Wren is rapidly becoming either the most unlucky baseball man in the world or is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time. He had an awful year as the GM of the Orioles in which he took on Cal Ripken Jr in an ill-advised feud (smart move); then took over for a “legend” in Atlanta by succeeding John Schuerholz; but Schuerholz may have kicked himself upstairs just in time for Wren to take the blame for the Braves demise. John Smoltz’s situation was poorly handled and the Braves would be well-served to tell Tom Glavine to take a hike as well; they’ve targeted the wrong players (Rafael Furcal) and been embarrassed that they’ve been spurned; they traded some top prospects for Javier Vazquez, who’s serviceable; and they got lucky when A.J. Burnett went to the Yankees and the Braves wound up with the more durable Derek Lowe. They’ve done nothing for their offensive woes and are still in a quandary of exactly what they are; it’s a bad sign that the GM doesn’t seem to know either.
- Jim Bowden-Washington Nationals:
Without any concern as to what his manager has to endure as he imports one reclamation project/juvenile delinquent after another, Jim Bowden acquires players with checkered history and a stat sheet rife with underachievement. Manager Manny Acta should get combat pay for having to massage the sociopathic tendencies of Elijah Dukes and the (comparatively) moderate behavioral issues of Lastings Milledge and Scott Olsen. Bowden’s been successful with some players picked up off the scrapheap from his time as the Reds GM, but the Nats are pretty well devoid of prospects due to his drafting strategies (they didn’t even sign last season’s first round pick Aaron Crow). The team should be better because of some of the pitchers Bowden’s brought in, but the results are what they are. It’s hard to imagine this team truly turning the corner until a new GM is hired.
- Jim Hendry-Chicago Cubs:
He didn’t do a particularly good job when Dusty Baker was his manager and he kind of hung Baker out to dry as if the Cubs fall was his fault, but Lou Piniella’s hiring and the loosening of the purse strings has made the Cubs a World Series contender and that has little to do with Hendry’s GM skills. The team’s main hole from last season—-a lefty bat—-has been solved with Milton Bradley (if Bradley can stay healthy); he made a mistake in trading a young power arm for the shaky Kevin Gregg; and had to overpay to keep Ryan Dempster after a career-year. Piniella’s going to cozy up to the new owner because of his reputation and cachet; Hendry’s on the hook for this team.
- Doug Melvin-Milwaukee Brewers:
Melvin’s loyal to a fault with his managers, which explains why he didn’t fire Ned Yost until he absolutely had to (some say he was told to by the owner); he’s a superior talent evaluator who made some aggressive trades to try and win last season and it almost worked. The bullpen he built was atrocious and he’s going to have to deal with the contract issues of the Brewers young power bats as they pop up. Melvin paid a lot of money for outright mediocrity in Jeff Suppan and Jason
Kendall. His new manager, Ken Macha, might be another product of the Billy Beane way of running his team and time will tell if he can do the job on his own. Melvin’s a solid GM who’s dealing with a difficult situation financially and may end up taking the fall if things go downhill.
- Ed Wade-Houston Astros:
Let’s put it this way: Wade was unable to generate much sympathy when pitcher Shawn Chacon attacked him in the team lunchroom as Wade was said to have instigated the incident by cussing at Chacon. The Astros have done almost nothing this winter other than signing Mike Hampton to a shot-in-the-dark contract based on sentimentality more than anything else. The owner, Drayton McLane is the one calling the shots and Wade is just sort of there. He’s a disposable entity who may be flushed very quickly if the season starts poorly.
- John Mozeliak-St. Louis Cardinals:
Mozeliak has literally done nothing this winter other than acquire Khalil Greene only because Greene was given away by the cost-slashing Padres. He was lucky last year that he found a taker for Scott Rolen and managed to even get a useful power bat in Troy Glaus for him; and the signing of Kyle Lohse and Lohse’s successful season owes nothing to the Cardinals front office. They’re going down the penny-pinching and obnoxious Moneyball road; with a barren farm system, no improvement on the field from an overachieving 86 wins in 2008, and this sure to be Tony La Russa’s last season as manager, they’re going to fall very far, very fast with Mozeliak as the GM. That he’s openly warring with the one thing with whom an organization can’t afford to do battle—-the fans—-is a terrible omen for their future without La Russa.
- Walt Jocketty-Cincinnati Reds:
Jocketty was the architect (along with La Russa) of the perennially contending Cardinals teams from 1996 until before last season when he was forced out in favor of Mozeliak. He made some solid moves in dealing Ken Griffey Jr and Adam Dunn away and the Reds aren’t that far from contending for a playoff spot. Jocketty is aggressive in finding players and doesn’t fear making mistakes. If he has the money available to improve and willing trading partners, he’ll be wheeling and dealing during the season.
- Neal Huntington-Pittsburgh Pirates:
It’s been said that Huntington is the GM in name only and team president Frank Coonelly is calling the shots. That’s Huntington’s only chance at redemption for the hideous trades he made as he dealt away both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay and got far less than expected in what appeared to be panic stricken maneuvers. The Pirates organization seems to have done the opposite of what teams like the Marlins have done and accepted their fate as a second-rate organization that has no chance of competing because they fired one GM who didn’t know what he was doing in Dave Littlefield and hired a tandem in Coonelly and Huntington who don’t know what they’re doing. Two empty heads are not better than one.
- Ned Colletti-Los Angeles Dodgers:
Colletti’s made some major gaffes like signing Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt to very expensive washout contracts; he prefers veterans to younger players even though the Dodgers farm system is producing one hot prospect after another. Colletti was said to be on the firing line at mid-season as the Dodgers were struggling until Manny Ramirez fell into his lap and carried the club to the NLCS. If things go poorly this year, it’s not manager Joe Torre who’s going to get the blame, it’s Colletti; because of that, assistant GM Kim Ng may finally get her chance to be the first female GM in big league history.
- Josh Byrnes-Arizona Diamondbacks:
Byrnes has a history as a stat guy, but that’s not how he runs the Diamondbacks. He’s aggressive and makes moves based on his eyes and the numbers. Byrnes did everything he could possibly do to try and jump start his team last season and acquired the components necessary to win—-they just didn’t. He’s got a great future as a GM because of those traits; the Diamondbacks have a young nucleus that should be competitive for a long time.
- Dan O’Dowd-Colorado Rockies:
O’Dowd is living off of one hot month that led the Rockies from a better-than-expected, over .500 season in 2007 to a shocking trip to the World Series. He’s had numerous chances to rebuild the club and make trades to find a way to win in the pinball machine known as Coors Field and, purely by accident, stumbled onto something in that magical month of 2007. The team has some young talent and is always willing to deal, but by all rights, O’Dowd should’ve been fired three years ago; instead, he’ll be there for the foreseeable future. If they made an aggressive move for Roy Halladay, they might have a chance to win the weak NL West, but O’Dowd’s started another rebuilding project, thereby giving him at least another three years of “building” to work with, preferably with players who live by a Christian moral code.
- Brian Sabean-San Francisco Giants:
Sabean was considered one of the “worst” GMs according to the poll conducted by Dugout Central; and while he’s gotten a big hit for the Barry Zito signing, no one could’ve expected Zito to be this bad. He was the GM when they drafted both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and the Giants have bu
ilt up a very solid pitching staff from top-to-bottom. All of Sabean’s career as Giants GM was spent trying to build a team around one temperamental (borderline impossible to deal with) superstar in Barry Bonds. He signed veterans like Omar Vizquel, Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo to do one thing—-surround Bonds; he hired managers to do one thing—-handle Bonds; the team was a championship contender for much of that era and Sabean has been trying to rebuild on the fly after the departure of Bonds; and he’s had to deal with a new boss after the retirement of Peter Magowan; and he’s operating under a budget. Realistically, it should’ve taken the Giants more than the two years it’s taken sans Bonds to gain respectability, but they’re again a viable contender in the NL West short one power bat from being serious threats. Sabean’s getting a bad rap due to circumstances beyond his control.
- Kevin Towers-San Diego Padres:
Towers was well-respected before Sandy Alderson took over as Padres club president; now he’s nothing more than a low-level mouthpiece/functionary who saw an opportunity to escape as GM of the Diamondbacks be awarded instead to Josh Byrnes and Towers had to return to the Padres under their auspices. The prevailing image of Alderson can be seen when reading between the lines of Moneyball; he thinks he’s the guy who created Billy Beane; he thinks he’s the guy books should be written about. What is happening with the Padres has nothing to do with the divorce of owner John Moores and the club’s pending sale (these factors weren’t in place during last season’s 99-loss campaign; nor while they collapsed in the pennant race of 2007); it has to do with the logical conclusion of the Moneyball system as it’s laid out in the book if it’s followed to the letter; the logical conclusion is the current state of the Padres organization. See it; study it; know it; accept it.