A look at 10 men who should be considered to run a baseball operations department.
Welcome to Top 10 Week. All week long, various BP authors will be revealing their Top 10s in various categories. Today we start off with Will Carroll ranking the 10 best general manager candidates.
A couple years back, I did a list of the "next GM" crop. It's one of those innocuous exercises that nonetheless tells us a lot about what's going on inside of the front offices. We hear about GMs, about trades, about drafts, but even in Moneyball and earlier in Dollar Sign on the Muscle, we seldom hear about the day-to-day operations carried out by a group of people that is overworked, underpaid, and most importantly, vastly overqualified. This is a group that years ago would be more likely to be putting together a hedge fund, working for the State Department, or something a bit more "important" than the game of baseball. With the money of the modern era, teams got smarter, fast.
The Rays' GM talks about his influences from the past and present day, and the advance state of analysis inside the game.
Andrew Friedman is, in many ways, a modern-day version of Branch Rickey. Rickey famously commented, "Luck is the residue of opportunity and design," and Friedman's Rays didn't overcome long odds and advance to last year's World Series by accident. As the executive vice president of baseball operations for Tampa Bay, Friedman brings an analytical and innovative approach to the ballpark each day, constantly searching for a competitive advantage against some of baseball's most formidable-and wealthiest-teams in the American League East. The Ray's director of baseball development before moving into his current role in November 2005, the 32-year-old Friedman has a degree in management, with a concentration in finance, from Tulane University.
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The Reds' Single-A affiliate GM holds forth on the success of the Dayton Dragons.
Minor League Baseball set an attendance record last year, and the poster-child team for that success resides in the Ohio Valley. The Dayton Dragons sold out every game for the ninth consecutive season in 2008, with 8,624 fans coming through the turnstiles to watch the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds on a nightly basis. Gary Mayse, the team's Executive Vice President and General Manager, talked about why Dragons baseball is so popular, and the reasons that minor league baseball will continue to thrive despite the economic downturn.
An interview subject is not often both a sabermetrician and a biologist. Andy Andres, the instructor of Tufts' Sabermetrics 101 class, sits down with BP.
Andy Andres teaches a class called "Sabermetrics: The Objective Analysis of Baseball" at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Andres is also an Assistant Professor of Natural Science at Boston University and has taught a seminar in Exercise Physiology and the Physiology of Human Athletic Performance at Harvard for over 15 years. A data analyst for Ron Shandler at BaseballHQ, Andres has a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry and Physiology.
Running the Pacific Coast League is how this third-generation baseball man continues the family tradition of service to the game.
The name "Rickey" evokes a strong place in baseball history with Branch Rickey Jr.'s signing of Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier, as well as the same man's introduction and development of the farm system.
Johnson served as Senior Analyst of Baseball Development for the 2004 NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Now back in Silicon Valley, Johnson sat down with BP during a recent San Jose Giants game to discuss his background, his experience with the Cardinals, and where he sees the the most valuable applications of sabermetrics, both now and in the future.
Baseball Prospectus: Could you begin by telling our readers a little bit
about your academic background? In the baseball industry it is a bit
Carlos Lugo sits down with Hall of Famer Juan Marichal to discuss the art of pitching, the origins of his high leg kick, and what a pitcher needs to learn to stay effective.
Beyond his high style, Marichal also one of the best pitchers in history. A six-time 20-game winner, the former San Francisco Giants great won a total of 243 games, and his 191 wins during the 60s were the highest total of the
decade. Marichal never won a Cy Young award, because in the years he was great, somebody--namely Koufax, Gibson, Chance or Seaver--was historically great. Marichal pitched in eight All-Star games, winning two of them, and he was voted the 1965 game MVP. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983, his third year of eligibility.
If there's one thing George Steinbrenner has always been good at, it's hiding his money. Whether it's starting his own cable network to keep
his broadcast revenue out of the reach of his fellow owners, as he did in 2002, or paying himself a "consulting fee" to negotiate his own cable contract, as he did in the 1980s, The Boss has always been at the cutting edge of creative accounting, helping him evade attempts by fellow owners to force him to share the bounty that comes from operating the most lucrative franchise in baseball.
With his recently revealed plan to build a new $750 million stadium in the Bronx, though, Steinbrenner may have hit upon the biggest scam of his life.
With his recently revealed plan to build a new $750 million stadium in the Bronx, though, Steinbrenner may have hit upon the biggest scam of his life. If the early reports of the plan to tear down the House That Reggie Remodeled and replace it with a new one across the street are accurate, Steinbrenner looks to have figured out a way to build a new playpen for the Yankees, replete with extra luxury suites and food courts and all the other gewgaws that he's been slavering after for decades...and force baseball's other 29 teams to pay nearly half the cost.
(We now pause for Larry Lucchino's head to explode.)
My one and only conversation with Joe Torre took place during a lunch break about two weeks after the Yankees were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 Division Series. My impressions at the time were clouded by the kind of star-struck feelings that a little boy might have upon meeting with his hero. Yet, Joe Torre was not my hero so I cannot explain my nervousness. I don't think it was merely shyness around a celebrity, because I think I would be in perfect control of myself if Burt Reynolds or Gavin McLeod appeared out of nowhere and criticized my lifelong policy of yam avoidance. In any case, weeks later my nervousness would be forgotten, and I would remember only his poise and how smooth, persuasive and in-control he was during our brief yam encounter. I don't want to make too much of this, but clearly this was a man whose courage had been tested under fire. A different man might have been more timorous when it came to mocking another man's side dish. Torre handled the whole encounter with aplomb, genial, yet forceful, like Gary Cooper. Shockingly, he seemed not at all intimidated by the inequality that existed between us--he being only the manager of the New York Yankees while I was the proud owner of a juris doctorate--and you can bet that if I had been Ken Kaiser, the Wookie from "Star Wars," or GMS III himself, he would have forthrightly made the case for yams as if he cared nothing at all for his own job security and everything for the nutritional lives of his co-workers.
My one and only conversation with Joe Torre took place during a lunch break about two weeks after the Yankees were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 Division Series.
My impressions at the time were clouded by the kind of star-struck feelings that a little boy might have upon meeting with his hero. Yet, Joe Torre was not my hero so I cannot explain my nervousness. I don't think it was merely shyness around a celebrity, because I think I would be in perfect control of myself if Burt Reynolds or Gavin McLeod appeared out of nowhere and criticized my lifelong policy of yam avoidance. In any case, weeks later my nervousness would be forgotten, and I would remember only his poise and how smooth, persuasive and in-control he was during our brief yam encounter.
Statistics are a tool, not unlike a microscope. Statistics are a hammer, a speculum, a thermometer. A statistics-based approach to understanding of baseball is one of many paths to knowledge of the game. Calling those who take that path "freaks" or "Nazis" makes as much sense as calling a Ph.D. chemist a wimp because he tests the qualities of his cyanide compound by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy rather than just drinking the thing.
In 1937, George and Ira Gershwin wrote a song for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers picture Shall We Dance that was an instant classic satire of the human need to scoff at the merest hint of progress: