Top 10 GM's of the past 20 years

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Avatar 14NyquisT 8 months ago.

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  • #79933
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    Bob Reed
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    Since general managers have been discussed at some length on another thread, I thought I’d just go ahead and give such a worthy subject its very own topic thread. My list:

    1) Dave Dombrowski
    2) Andrew Friedman
    3) Billy Beane
    4) Brian Cashman
    5) Walt Jocketty
    6) Theo Epstein
    7) Brian Sabean
    8) John Mozeliak
    9) Jeff Luhnow
    10) Chris Antonetti

    Just missed: Jon Daniels, Mike Rizzo
    Honorable Mention: Pat Gillick and John Schuerholz, both too long retired

    When I began ranking this top 10, I realized how little there was to chose between them all. I could’ve have Antonetti as high as 4th or 5th, and Dombrowski as low as 3rd or even 4th. It’s amazing to me how the strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates balance each other out. But rather than just offer my own laundry list of plusses and minuses, I’ll let you guys debate for a day or two before entering the fray.

    Or maybe everyone who had an opinion in the matter already got it out of their system in the other thread. Guess we’ll see.

    • This topic was modified 8 months ago by Avatar Bob Reed.
    #79936
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    Bob, good winter topic! It would help us better understand if you could share at least a bit what is behind your rankings, though.

    For example, Theo has three rings, including in two places that had gone 100 years without titles. The guy has his warts, but seventh in the last 20 years? How? Why?

    Friedman second with zero World Series wins? Beane third despite never having got past the first round? etc…

    Either you are going back 20 years or you are not. Arbitrarily leaving Schuerholz off is ignoring the fact the Braves were in the playoffs every year from 1995 through 2005, winning more than 100 games five different seasons, all while he was GM. Even if you start with 1999 and end after 2007 when he moved up, he is unquestionably among the best of the last 20 years.

    Net: We see the situation much differently, FWIW.

    #79937
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    I recalled reading a BA story about this, which I liked because it had a formula behind it. The story, which just ran in November, ranked active GMs using a scoring system tied to World Series, League titles, Division wins, wild cards, 100-win seasons and total regular season wins.

    Their list is:
    Cashman
    Dombrowski
    Sabean
    Epstein
    Alderson
    Friedman
    Mo
    Beane
    Daniels
    Moore
    Luhnow
    Antonetti

    https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/most-accomplished-mlb-general-managers/

    #79950
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    gscottar
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    I would rank them:

    1. Brian Cashman
    2. Billy Beane
    3. Walt Jocketty
    4. Theo Epstein
    5. Brian Sabean
    6. Dayton Moore
    7. Chris Antonetti
    8. Andrew Friedman
    9. Jeff Lunhow
    10. Dave Dombrowski
    11. Jerry Dipoto (for entertainment purposes)

    #80166
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    Bob Reed
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    “I recalled reading a BA story about this, which I liked because it had a formula behind it. The story, which just ran in November, ranked active GMs using a scoring system tied to World Series, League titles, Division wins, wild cards, 100-win seasons and total regular season wins.”

    Thanks for being patient Brian, while I’ve been lazy for the past couple of days. I like the idea of a systematic numerical analysis like Baseball America’s, but I see a few flaws with BA’s rankings.

    1) They don’t include a GM’s financial resources
    2) They don’t give any weight to what talent a GM inherited
    3) They don’t consider what that GM left behind
    4) They probably give too much weight to the playoffs, which involve a LOT more luck than the regular season, and in my opinion reflect managerial wisdom more than GM acumen

    “Either you are going back 20 years or you are not. Arbitrarily leaving Schuerholz off is ignoring the fact the Braves were in the playoffs every year from 1995 through 2005, winning more than 100 games five different seasons, all while he was GM. Even if you start with 1999 and end after 2007 when he moved up, he is unquestionably among the best of the last 20 years.”

    Fair criticism. More than fair, in fact. I should have thought it through better and made fully explicit the parameters. Let’s say that my list only includes individuals who’ve been active within the last 5 years in a GM or GM-like capacity. That way Walt Jocketty is of course still included, but guys who retired a decade ago, or were promoted beyond conventional GM responsibilities, would be excluded.

    The logic is, if I were to include Gillick and Schu (easy Hall Of Famers both), then I’d be comparing them to guys like Antonetti and Luhnow, against whom they never competed head-to-head as GM’s. Instead, I want peers v peers.

    “For example, Theo has three rings, including in two places that had gone 100 years without titles. The guy has his warts, but seventh in the last 20 years? How? Why?
    Friedman second with zero World Series wins? Beane third despite never having got past the first round? etc…”

    Okay, we get to the meat & potatoes of it.
    Theo Epstein did not break any curses. Or maybe I should say that I don’t believe in curses — so no bonus there, not for me. Theo won World Series rings with huge player payrolls, for two of the top four revenue franchises in the sport. The Red Sox and Cubs are penthouse teams, not outhouse.

    Then and now, as a reflection of general manager skill, winning a World Series in Boston or Chicago is less impressive to me than winning a pennant in Tampa Bay. Speaking of which, during Theo’s 9 years in Boston, his Red Sox won fewer division titles than the Devil Rays. And that’s even though Tampa stunk during Theo’s first 5 Beantown seasons.

    Now let’s see what Epstein inherited from his Carmines predecessor when he took over following the 2002 season. The 2002 BoSox were a juggernaut, outscoring their opponents by nearly 200 runs, and featuring a 6-man core, all 30 or younger, that averaged more than 6 WAR apiece. (Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, Nomar Garciaparra, and Trot Nixon.) In Theo’s first season they averaged 5.5 WAR each.

    With massive team revenues/payrolls and a core like that, how could things be any better? Here’s how. In the minors Epstein also inherited future stars Hanley Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, and Jon Lester. Between the majors and minors that’s A LOT of talent. I would argue without fear of contradiction that Theo Epstein inherited the best starting position of any first time GM in modern major league history. Maybe of any GM at any time in MLB history. (Unless one believes in curses, which I don’t.)

    He inherited all that, and won one division title in nine years. He left the team with bloated contracts and mediocre prospects. They finished last in 3 of the next 4 seasons after he left. Much of that was due to Theo protegee Ben Cherington, but some was surely on Theo as well. Howard Bryant at ESPN summed it up well when he described the historic 2011 Red Sox collapse. Bryant anticipated the last place finishes to come, with his critique of Epstein’s generally dismal free agent signings. http://www.espn.com/espn/commentary/story/_/page/bryant-111005/theo-epstein-held-accountable-red-sox-collapse

    As for his next stop, Epstein in Chicago inherited in Chicago a situation almost identical to what Mozeliak inherited in St. Louis. In both cases: old team, mediocre farm system, losing record, and a crappy run differential around -100. Remarkably, Mozeliak’s first team finished 10 games over .500, and not by luck. They improved their run differential by over 150 in one year. And they kept on improving from there, making the playoffs the following season. (And of course they’ve only had winning seasons since.)

    Next to Mozeliak, what Epstein did was comparatively easy: gutting a team for three straight years in order to accrue top draft picks (and the high draft budgets that accompany them) and also bloated int’l spending budgets, and accumulate the dirt cheap high end talent that results from them.

    Overall, Epstein’s cubs have averaged 84 wins a year. They have two division titles, one pennant, one Series. Mozeliak’s Cards have averaged 90 wins a year, won four division titles, two pennants, and also one Series. Theo’s only had 7 years and Mozeliak 11, but then Theo’s team has the sport’s 4th-most resources and right now the 2nd-highest player payroll. If Theo didn’t have his Boston years, then for me Mo would rank ahead of him.

    I think that the Epstein essay pretty much explains the relative placements of Friedman and Beane also. Friedman inherited nothing in Tampa, had few financial resources throughout his tenure, yet won the division more often than Theo Epstein, hired goofy iconoclast Joe Maddon, and won an A.L. pennant. Now that he has resources, Friedman wins his division every single year, and has two more pennants for his office wall. And his team looks very well positioned for the future. Markedly better than the cubs, in my opinion.

    Billy Beane you already know plenty about, likely more than I do. And he’s easily the toughest guy to grade, because of the extraordinary record of playoff futility. How much should he be punished for that? I have no idea whatsoever. His regular season record is very good, and very lengthy, and hindered by payroll constraints that haven’t handcuffed the others on the list. (At least not since Friedman left Florida.)

    Again, these GM’s are so tightly bunched that if you want to drop Beane from 3rd to 7th or 8th or even lower, I might not bother with rebutting. They’re all so darn close together. All ten guys would grade somewhere between a straight B and an A- for me. In fact, Antonetti might be the only B grade. Everyone else could receive B+ and A-, and next year Antonetti or Luhnow could be top 3, if their team wins 100 games and the World Series.

    #80192
    Mrperkins
    Mrperkins
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    Love this discussion. This is why I’ve read this site since 2002. I miss the old format that showed when posters joined. The analysis on Theo is exactly what I would have loved to give if I were more eloquent.

    #80193
    Brian Walton
    Brian Walton
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    This is about the time that nate would stop by and say all that matters is rings. I do accept that point of view, but do not think it should be the only factor. To say a GM with three titles is as good as one with no titles seems a stretch to me, for example, but the link I provided earlier has a real formula that attaches value to World Series, divisions, wins, etc. Maybe a factor also needs to be added that reflects difficulty – where a Beane or Friedman (TB) would get extra points over a Theo or a Friedman (LAD) because the former’s jobs are harder by definition. And you can adjust the weight of the categories if you please. But a formula is the best way to solve this debate, IMO. Otherwise, it is just one person’s opinion vs. another. Without consistent assumptions, there will never be agreement.

    #80204
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    14NyquisT
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    A major part of a GM’s job is to build good teams. If if means FA signings or trading for the needs of the teams, its important that the right move has been made. Getting help from the farm system helps immensely a being able to see ahead as to what the prospects can offer, also important.

    Let’s consider the acquisitions of the last few seasons. Mozeliak is still in charge and his performance has been less than marginal. The rise of JoMartinez DeJong, Bader, Flaherty and Hicks plus Mikolas’ surprising season has bailed him out. The negative side of the equation has been very poor… Cecil, Gregerson, Leone, Leake and to some extent Ozuna(with his bad wing). Of course, there’s the poster boys of the Mozeliak regime… Fowler, Holland and Heyward.

    So don’t tell us about his early years, that’s history. Its what we are looking at today… Cecil and Fowler still on the roster because Mozeliak overpaid them by leaps and bounds and Heyward just walked away, dissing the team and organization as he slammed the door.

    Oh, and speaking of dissing… Tommy Pham told it like it is about the FO. Special treatment for some and none for others. All of the chaos, dysfunction and criticism are the results that trail back to the top, Mozeliak.

    It amazes me how some can still praise him as a GM. Rings…schmings, play-offs, you have to look that stuff up in a history book. How have we spent the last three Octobers… tell us about that.

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