Monday, September 20, 2010

The Greatest GM In The History Of The World, Ever--Ever!!!

  • And these guys ain't it:

In John Madden's first book (Hey, Wait a Minute) he spoke about the cushy job enjoyed by some backup quarterbacks in the NFL. Here's the clip:

When a guy doesn't want to play, you're really in trouble, especially if he's a quarterback. I've known some quarterbacks who were perfectly content standing on the sideline with a telephone headset and a clipboard. Play----hell, they knew if the played, they'd blow their cover.

I remember when George Mira was the 49ers' backup to John Brodie at quarterback. George had the best job in football. Whenever Brodie had a bad game, the fans in San Francisco would start chanting, "We want Mira, we want Mira. When the fans didn't get him, Mira told the writers, "Play me or trade me." When the 49ers finally played him, he had his problems.

I get this feeling when the GM merry-go-round spins in baseball. The speculation as to who's getting the available or soon-to-be available jobs generally involves the general list of retreads or unprovens who are known more for the propaganda surrounding them than any actual baseball accomplishments. All have their positives and negatives; but it has to be remembered that these people, for the most part, were fired from a prior GM job or haven't been the boss of an organization at all.

So is there an untested GM out there who could be the next Branch Rickey? The next Bob Howsam? Harry Dalton? Or even a Gene Michael, Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman, Larry Beinfest or Jon Daniels?

We won't know until we know. Some of the names bandied about----Dan Jennings, Kim Ng, Logan White, Rick Hahn----have worked in great organizations and made terrific contributions behind the scenes----but, who knows what's going to happen when they're handed the reins? They could become Branch Rickey or they could turn into a Paul DePodesta, Jack Zduriencik, Omar Minaya or Ruben Amaro Jr.----respected and impressive before the fact, but found wanting when given the big job.

Then there are the hot names. Former GMs who are available because they were fired, "retired" or forced out. John Hart, Josh Byrnes, Kevin Towers, Sandy Alderson----they have their own faults and resume blots. You can find brilliant maneuvers and massive gaffes with all of them. Some errors are larger than others and the same fact applies to the likes of DePodesta, Zduriencik, Minaya and Amaro. Everyone is in lust for Towers suggesting him for the Mets and Diamondbacks----he's a good executive----but not this all-knowing genius who can rebuild any and all organizations from the ruins.

The term "genius" is so fleeting and easily tossed about that it's lost all meaning. Some try to cling to the myth based on a selfish agenda. This is easily transparent. Could a team go wrong by hiring Towers? No. But to think he's going to march into Citi Field and clean up what ails the Mets based on his reputation (and things aren't as bad for the Mets as people try to portray) is ridiculous.

There are questions about all. Hart's, well, heart is questioned----would he be ready to commit to the job at age 62? Towers is a West Coast guy and and, contrary to popular belief has made mistakes (see his waiver claim of Randy Myers in 1998 that cost the Padres a fortune and almost got him fired); Byrnes hired a neophyte manager in A.J. Hinch attached the term "organizational advocacy" as a weighty yoke around his neck, gave him a 4-year contract and refused to fire him when it wasn't working; Alderson's made a living off of his part in Moneyball when the truth is that he latched onto the bandwagon to credit himself for successes he had little to do with.

Some men can't stay away. Pat Gillick has the credentials to walk in and be expected to turn things around if he's given the resources and freedoms he needs. But these other guys? All would presumably acquit themselves well as the face of the organization, but nothing is guaranteed. What I would want in an interview is a plan and a reasoning behind the plan. If that makes sense; if he's able to do the job and all it entails nowadays, then you can't go wrong even if you do go wrong. But the anointing? Like the backup quarterbacks, it's a case of be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it; and when you get it, it could turn into a disaster worse than what was trying to be fixed in the first place.

  • This doesn't sound like a retirement plan:

Joe Torre offered a non-denial denial that he's intrigued by the soon-to-be open Mets managerial job----ESPN Story.

Obviously Torre has no intention of retiring and presumably doesn't want to be sitting out to see which team gets off to a slow start for him to be the "manager-in-waiting". He wants to manage a team that has a chance to win immediately. Some have mentioned the Cubs; some the Mets; others (me) the Cardinals.

Torre's not the Bill Parcells/Brett Fav-ruh type where he's announcing his retirement with everyone rolling their eyes at the absurdity safe in the knowledge that he's coming back. He's not saying anything other than the equivalent of a cautiously phrased "we'll see". Could he be a candidate for the Mets? Of course, but it depends on the direction the club takes.

If the Mets hire a younger GM with a long-term plan, then it's unlikely that Torre would be the answer. A long-term plan would include swallowing the likelihood of a 2011 season of growth for the youngsters. That growth includes shutting organizational eyes and letting Ruben Tejada, Fernando Martinez, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole play without a veteran safety net and hoping the peaks outweigh the valleys. For this, a younger manager like Wally Backman or a teaching manager with strategic gifts like Bobby Valentine would be preferable.

But if the Mets are going for it fast, they need to hire a John Hart/Pat Gillick-type who's not there for the long term; will be willing to deal youth for immediate veteran help and get better very, very rapidly. I've suggested the Mets make a move on Aaron Hill, give up one of their young prospects to get him (I'd seriously consider moving Thole); signing Victor Martinez; getting a Hiroki Kuroda for the starting rotation; beefing up the bullpen with Grant Balfour-type and mortgaging a part of the future for 2011.

I'm done speculating on where Torre's going to go, but if he did want to come back to the Mets, this is the only way it would make sense. Suffice it to say that Joe Torre will be managing somewhere next year. He's as much as said it without saying it.

  • Viewer Mail 9.20.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joe Torre and the Mets:

I wouldn't rule out Torre as the Mets next manager. What could be more enticing to come back to NY with a chance to be a winner there again? Plus, he still has a house in Westchester, his foundation is based in NY, etc etc.

Apparently neither will Torre.

I will not break silence from now on. Speculating is tiresome and if you do it often enough, you'll say everything that can be said and eventually be right by process of killing everything to make sure you get the intended target.

The Cardinals are the perfect fit, but as we've seen, being a fit means nothing and when it comes to pass, it has little bearing on the end result. We know Torre likes money, so whoever pays him will get him.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE Torre and the Mets:

I agree, Torre will be managing next year. I don't think there's any doubt the McCourts and the unpredictable future of the Dodgers made Torre want to bail-out. He's been complaining all year actually, for anyone who wanted to listen.

Torre back to the Mets? He would have been perfect for the 2006 team. I feel this Met team with the direction they should be going in, is not the right place for Torre to be. I'd be silly to criticize Torre but I do not feel The Mets and Torre are a match today.

Where does Torre land? Chicago Cubs seem logical as you pointed out. How do you feel about Nolan Ryan seeing a chance to upgrade, bouncing Washington for Torre? Marlins? Are they really out of the question? It wouldn't surprise me at all.

Capo out.

If the McCourts are still the owners and are slashing payroll, it makes no sense to pay a manager multi-millions and feel compelled to bring in expensive veterans at mid-season to try and win. The Dodgers actually have a lot of young, cheap talent to hang around contention.

I can't imagine him with the Cubs and the Cubs have played so well under Mike Quade that it's either Quade, Ryne Sandberg or Joe Girardi for that job. Would Torre want to go to Texas? Sure, the playoffs are an easy mark in a four-team division with the mediocre Athletics and re-tooling Angels (forget the Mariners for now), but Texas? I dunno. The Marlins are an option only because they may be forced to spend some of that revenue-sharing money to get the league and the state of Florida off their backs for the creative way they got stadium financing. I don't see it, but it's a way to say, "look, we're spending on big names!"

Max Stevens at The Lonely One writes RE Don Mattingly and the Dodgers:

My biggest question about Mattingly as the skipper for the Dodgers is whether he will have learned how to fill out a lineup card by the start of next season... All kidding aside, it speaks to what you're saying about the importance of minor league seasoning for prospective big league managers. I have no sense whatsoever at this point as to what type of baseball guy Mattingly is do you? I watched him play a lot in the 80s, but I have no idea if he's smart, or what kind of 'philosophy' he'll bring to the table as a manager. How will he handle his pitching staff? What kinds of rules will he impose on the clubhouse?

Hiring him was, in my opinion, a bad move, carried out by a short sighted management group that's in disarray, looking for the cheapest option!

We've seen how poor strategic managers can win----Ron Washington for example. Washington is a good comparable for Mattingly because the players play very, very hard for him. I get the sense that the love players feel for a manager can overcome any mistakes the manager might make. Torre isn't exactly the best strategist ever either. Mattingly's career accomplishments and affability will get the players on his side and, as I said yesterday, they might not let him fail because of their affinity for him.

Judging from the assessments of Mattingly before the fact, the expectations are very, very low and this could end up being a boon for Mattingly----no pressure. I think he'll do well, but he'd better have a very good bench and pitching coaches.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Tony La Russa and the Cardinals:

The talk in the 'Lou is that maybe it's time for TLR to go. I can't believe that's actually happening with sincerity. It's a bit sad.

It's a dicey situation to tell a Hall of Famer that it's time to go whether he's a player or manager. They have to ask themselves whether it's worth it to stay with the known entity or make a change. The replacement of La Russa with a Torre is still a risk, but not as great a risk as hiring an unknown or a retread. They're not going to do that. It would have to be a big name to replace La Russa. Bobby Valentine is also an interesting name.

What happens next year if Albert Pujols's extension talks are going nowhere; if Chris Carpenter gets hurt; if the bullpen is in shambles----are the Cardinals going to go into next season as they did this season and see things come apart for reasons no one can quite put their finger on?

This is a big-time developing story of what happens with La Russa. If they stay together out of convenience, it could spiral just as the Cubs did under Lou Piniella.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday talking about the stretch run. Go to Sal's site to download it on I-Tunes or click it directly here.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


She-Fan said...

The McCourts will NOT be the owners of the Dodgers next season. Count on it!

Jeff said...

Maybe one of those as-of-now "backup" GMs has a little Michael Vick in him. That would make a good story.