If you haven't yet seen it, this rather uncharacteristically tongue-in-cheek post over at Fangraphs compares the dubious GM careers of the Mets' Omar Minaya and the Royals' Dayton Moore. While even the most casual of baseball fans can readily identify these men as regular passengers aboard the proverbial fail bus, the Fangraphs piece alludes to a Moore quote urging fans to presumably be patient and "trust the process."
Baseball fans of teams that seem to be "rebuilding" every other year hear terms like "the process" constantly. As a result of this constant exposure, most of them probably even grasp a few of the key tenets of such front-office schemes. The obvious example: waiting around for homegrown, cost-controlled talent to develop more. BUT it seems that very few fans have a grasp on how long "the process" is supposed to take. Prospect development in baseball is more drawn out than the other major sports leagues, and it also hinges on quite a bit of luck and fortunate timing to boot. If all the pieces don't click at exactly the right time for some clubs, the team could be "developing" for an eternity. And the fans are still mostly in the dark.
But how does one even quantify the effectiveness of "the process"? The most obvious answer would be to look at the tenure of some current GMs in baseball and to see how long they are allowed to pull the strings. Let's take a gander at some of the more recent hires among MLB GMs, shall we? I've included team names and year of hiring for easy reference.
These folks have 3 seasons or fewer in their current positions: Tony Reagins (Angels, 2007); Ed Wade (Astros, 2007); Frank Wren (Braves, 2007); John Mozeliak (Cardinals, 2007); Michael Hill (Marlins, 2007); Andy MacPhail (Orioles, 2007); Bill Smith (Twins, 2007); Jack "Daddy WARbucks" Zduriencik (Mariners, 2008); Ruben Amaro (Phillies, 2008), Neal Huntington (Pirates, 2008); Walt Jocketty (Reds, 2008); Alex Anthopolous (Jays, 2009); Mike Rizzo (Nationals, 2009); Jed Hoyer (Padres, 2009).
So what does this all mean? First and foremost, I can't be the only one who had no idea what the name of the Marlins' GM was, right? Anyway, I'll try and show how the diversity of experience in this group would seem to be most indicative of an organization's willingness to wait out "the process." But, first things first, we're going to cut a little bit of the fat out of this list.
Wren, Smith, Hoyer, and Mozeliak are interesting cases because they replaced guys (John Schuerholtz, Terry Ryan, Kevin Towers, and the aforementioned Walt Jocketty, respectively) that had been at their jobs for years and years. Moreover, the Cardinals are very much a successful team and the Braves have been coming off an unparalleled run of divisional success so these two front-office men don't really afford a truly useful perspective. The Twins were a playoff team under both Ryan and Smith so that eliminates them. The Padres and Angels too, are off the list for that "playoff" reason. I'm going to toss out the Marlins too since their willingness to have a fire-sale whether or not they need it doesn't help much with our analysis. Amaro replaced the retiring Pat Gillick, so that isn't the type of regime change that will shed light on our little thought experiment. Lastly, we'll cut MacPhail a break since the Orioles had never really used a GM until Peter Angelos found room in his blackened heart for one.
So who does that leave us with? Huntington, Rizzo, Daddy WARbucks, Jocketty, Wade, and Anthopoulous What will help shed more light on this subject is the tenure of each of these fellow's predecessors, so let's break it down one more time:
- Huntington replaces Dave Littlefield, who had been GM from 2001-2007.
- Rizzo replaces Jim Bowden, who had been GM from 2004-2009.
- Zduriencik replaces Bill Bavasi, who had been GM from 2004-2008.
- Anthopoulos replaces JP Ricciardi, who had been GM from 2001-2009.
- Jocketty replaces Wayne Krivsky, who had been GM from 2006-2008.
- Wade replaces Tim Purpura, who had been GM from 2005-2007.
What does this tell us? On average, this arbitrary system of measurement indicates you have about four to seven years, give or take, it would seem, before you're booted to the curb in favor of a new guy's "process." But what do you guys think? Given what we all know to be true about prospect development, is this really fair? I know fans want the rings now, but how realistic is it for a regime change to get the turnaround they want in only five years, or sometimes less? Should folks like Andy MacPhail and Frank Wren be getting antsy as the apparent doomsday clock creeps towards midnight ? Does Drew's fine work play a part in an ownership's decision to make a change? I certainly think so, do you? How long is too long to stick with a particular GM? Some would argue that the Royals have already given Dayton Moore (hired 2006) too much rope... Is it even possible that "a right time for change" exists in the baseball world? Why am I asking so many questions?
Who knows, maybe not knowing the answers to these question is itself, all part of the plan...
A case of Coke Zero to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the GM information.