Major league teams are hiring presidents of baseball operations, paying them in the $5 million-$7 million per year range, and then hiring a general manager to boot. Basically, the GM is the assistant GM. He has no power. His duties are often similar to an assistant GM.
So why are baseball owners endorsing these new layers of upper management?
“The duties are just getting bigger,” said Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten. “The sheer numbers in personnel, the enormous number of players you have to keep track of, the huge amounts of data we’re getting on both scouting and analytics, all of those things make management of a baseball team more complicated than it used to be.
“I often give the example of the baseball GM vs. the basketball GM since I was involved with the Atlanta Hawks for many years. If you’re a basketball GM you know everything about every player out there, college or pro. You may even know the parents of a guy you’re looking at. In baseball, there are so many players that when you’re making a deal, you may not even have heard of the player 20 minutes before you make the deal.”
One term going around for this is “title inflation,” and according to one major league source, small-market teams don’t like what’s going on. There’s a theory that Major League Baseball will eventually do what the NFL does and assign one person per title. So if you’re the president of baseball operations, there won’t be a GM. Just one person in charge.
Kasten has a layered management team. He hired Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations and paid him a record contract of $5 million per year. Farhan Zaidi, a former Billy Beane assistant in Oakland, was hired as the GM, Josh Byrnes as the senior vice president of baseball operations, and Ned Colletti as the senior adviser to the CEO and president.
Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski last week named Mike Hazen the general manager, promoting him from assistant GM. It seems as if Hazen’s role is similar to what he had been doing for Ben Cherington. Basically, he’ll run the baseball operations department and report to Dombrowski.
Dombrowski mentioned that Hazen will have to deal with the media more. But the media wants to speak to the person making the decisions. It’s that way in Chicago, where Theo Epstein is the go-to guy because he’s the decision-maker and not GM Jed Hoyer.
The setup seemed to start with the Marlins. Larry Beinfest was the president of baseball operations and Mike Hill and then Dan Jennings were the GMs.
And then you have assistant GMs under the GMs and presidents of baseball operations.
The Phillies hired Andy MacPhail to be their president and he will hire a GM to replace Ruben Amaro Jr., who was let go. The Red Sox, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs, and to some extent the Giants have similar setups. The Blue Jays, who will have former Indians president Mark Shapiro in charge soon, will also have a general manager on the payroll. Presumably, Shapiro will retain current GM Alex Anthopoulos.
Do you really need this many people? All you hear is how complex and analytical baseball has become. And because of it, there are more departments in team offices than ever before.
Even Dombrowski seemed surprised with the size of the Red Sox front office, including staffs for analytics, video, amateur scouting, professional scouting, international scouting. There are layers of vice presidents, directors, psychologists, therapists, trainers, doctors.
Suffice to say, Dombrowski’s staff in Detroit was much smaller than Boston’s. You can argue that the Red Sox have won three championships since 2004 so it’s worked.
With all of the money spent, and the amount of personnel devoted to acquiring talent, is baseball being played any better?
“That’s the hope,” Dombrowski said. “If it’s not, then you’re not doing your job. If you’re devoting resources in Asia or Latin America and you can come up with a player that makes an impact on your team, that’s what you’re looking for. The Red Sox have done a fantastic job identifying those players and the farm system is full of them as a result of scouting and signing those players.”
Dombrowski didn’t delve too far into the Pacific Rim while with the Tigers (though he had a terrific international scouting director in Tom Moore), but he sees the value of it given the success the Red Sox have had in that market.
Dombrowski was the president of the Tigers. He oversaw the baseball operations and the business of the team. He had the roles of president, general manager, CEO. He was everything. Because he had the GM role, Al Avila, who later took over for Dombrowski, was the assistant GM and Dombrowski’s right-hand man.
Every team has a different twist. Jon Daniels is president of baseball operations in Texas, but he’s also got the GM title.
Dombrowski feels that this will be the trend, especially among big-market teams because the game has become so enormous. The small-market teams will likely keep operating the same, with smaller departments, fewer resources.
It makes what Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay do that much more meaningful. And Kasten, for one, has so much respect for the Terry Ryans or the baseball world, who accomplish so much with much less.
Dombrowski believes that naming a GM elevates the stature of that person in the eyes of other baseball executives or agents who would deal with the GM in trade talks, etc. Dombrowski also pointed out that it’s harder for another team to interview and take a coveted GM from an organization since that title is just one step from team president.
Recently, Orioles GM Dan Duquette was denied the opportunity to interview for the president’s job in Toronto, which went to Shapiro.
Epstein certainly believes that gathering smart, powerful executives can make a big difference in formulating the best attack to acquire players and ultimately save money on those acquisitions.
FAIRY TALE SEASON
Cubs fit the bill as playoff Cinderella
The Cubs will enter the playoffs as baseball’s Cinderella team. They are a young, exciting group that can hit home runs and pitch with anyone. They have the incomparable Joe Maddon, who predicted a Cubs playoff run when he was hired as manager over the winter, leading a talented core that former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein patiently assembled.
Are they ready for the big time?
“I love playing in what is perceived to be the best division in baseball,” Maddon said. “It’s about the end of the season and the last game of the season, and getting to that particular moment. Sometimes it takes a different route to get there. I really respect what both [the Cardinals and Pirates] have done. I like to believe we’ve pushed them a little bit, too, in this particular season. I think it’s aided us in getting better quicker.”
The Cubs will enter the playoffs with a wild-card game against the Pirates. What they’ll have going for them is Jake Arrieta, the first 20-game winner in the majors this season. If he should beat the Pirates, the powerful 1-2 combo of Arrieta and Jon Lester on the mound would be very tough to face in a five- or seven-game series.
Epstein doesn’t want to jinx his team by talking about the playoffs yet, but he’s excited the team has taken the city by storm. The Cubs should be an exciting team for many years.
This offseason, the Cubs would like to land two starting pitchers, and both could come via trade. They have extra young bats to trade for pitching. In that regard, the Cubs line up well with the Indians and Mets, who have many arms and need offense.
The playoffs through the offseason should be exciting for the Cubs. They could go far with their pitching and power combination. If they don’t, they were probably a year ahead of what was expected of them this season.
“They’re already a very good team, but they have extra bats that they can turn into extra pitching, and when that happens they’re going to be one of the best teams in the league depending on who they can get for pitchers,” said one National League executive.
“They’re going to have a lot of good battles with the Cardinals and Pirates in that division, but potentially because of their resources they may surpass both of their competitors.”
Apropos of nothing
1. New Brewers GM David Stearns was born in 1985, the year Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt started covering baseball.
2. It was analytics data that drove the Dodgers to trade Matt Kemp and not re-sign Hanley Ramirez. The Padres and Red Sox jumped in.
3. The Pirates are now going to their third straight postseason after setting an North American professional sports record of 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993-2012. There’s an attitude, a professionalism that pervades that team. There’s a drive to go deeper into the postseason and win a World Series. As Pirates star Andrew McCutchen said recently, “Act like you’ve been there before, and we have been. We don’t want to go crazy because a couple of years ago that was something where we were happy where we were. We are happy where we are, but we know there’s still some work to be done. And we’re not done.”
4. We continue to see the shrewd way in which Dave Dombrowski operates an organization. He’s promoted from within the Red Sox (Mike Hazen as GM). And he’s also brought in someone he’s worked in the past, hiring former Braves and Orioles GM Frank Wren as senior vice president of baseball operations. Wren will report directly to Dombrowski, who is expected to have a few more of these appointments in special assistant and adviser roles. Possible adviser hires who have strong player evaluation abilities: Jim Leyland, Jeremy Kapstein, Dick Egan, Scott Reid.
5. Gregg Clifton, who used to represent Tom Glavine among several players, was selected for the 22d Edition of “The Best Lawyers in America.” Clifton now works on the team side of things, handling arbitration cases for the Giants.
6. Torii Hunter handed out the Torii awards last week, based on his Twins teammates’ behavior during postgame victory celebrations. Hunter had actual trophies made.
7. Now that a downtown Providence stadium deal is dead, who will get the Pawtucket Red Sox? Worcester? Springfield? How about this for a novel idea: Pawtucket!
Updates on nine
1. Johnny Cueto, RHP, Royals — He’ll have to convince shoppers this offseason that he’s physically fine. There will likely be a lot of medical attention devoted to Cueto. One AL executive stayed away from Cueto at the trade deadline because of a possible elbow issue. Cueto is 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA since the Royals acquired him from the Reds.
2. Billy Eppler, assistant GM, Yankees — He appears to have a good shot at the Angels’ GM job after interviewing with them, but the Angels remain methodical in their search. Many believe the biggest factor remains the ability of the new GM to co-exist with manager Mike Scioscia. Eppler, who combines analytics, scouting, and a personable nature, also interviewed in Seattle.
3. Jerry Dipoto, former GM, Angels — He signed on to evaluate the Red Sox organization as an impartial set of eyes. He is still officially with the Sox but he’s interviewing for GM jobs. He’s seen as a front-runner with the Mariners.
4. Torey Lovullo, interim manager, Red Sox — The team’s managerial situation will be interesting for 2016. John Farrell is into his third round of chemotherapy and should be done with treatments by mid-October. Lovullo has done a great job with the team in his absence, and now you wonder if the Red Sox would allow Lovullo to be hired by another team to manage? There will be potential openings in Miami (when Dan Jennings goes back to the front office) and San Diego (if interim manager Pat Murphy is not retained). Lovullo, who has a year remaining on his contract as bench coach, now has the major league managerial experience he lacked before.
5. Wade Davis, RHP, Royals — Any team would be in trouble if they’d lost their closer (Greg Holland) at this time of the year, but Royals GM Dayton Moore did a great job piecing together a deep bullpen, and Davis has been able to take over in that job and not miss a beat.
6. David Price, LHP, Blue Jays — He is saying all the right things about how much he’s enjoyed his time in Toronto, but at season’s end, Mark Shapiro, Alex Anthopoulos will get word on just how much ownership will extend itself to keep him a Blue Jay. The field staff and Price’s teammates certainly want him back. If not, the Blue Jays would likely move Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna, currently back-end relievers, into the rotation. With Marcus Stroman back and pitching well, the Jays have a potential ace.
7. Ron Gardenhire, former manager, Twins — Gardenhire, fired after the 2014 season after 13 years as the skipper in Minnesota, appears ready to get back into managing.
8. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox — He received the Latino MVP award for the third time at a luncheon at Fenway on Thursday. The Latino award was established in 1990 after Ruben Sierra was robbed in voting for the 1989 AL MVP.
9. Jason Varitek, special assistant, Red Sox — His name is out there as a managerial candidate. Varitek is respected around the majors, dating to his catching days and how he prepared pitchers for games. There are always rumors about San Diego given that former Red Sox CEO Mike Dee is running that team. But Varitek would have to be ready to commit to something full time, and right now his family comes first.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Xander Bogaerts and Dee Gordon are having similar seasons with each over 180 hits, each fewer than 10 homers, and each fewer than 30 walks — the difference is that Gordon has 53 steals to Bogaerts’s 10.” . . . Also, “Manny Machado is the only player this season 22 or younger with 15-plus steals and 20-plus homers, while Mookie Betts is the only player 22 or younger this season with 20-plus steals and 15-plus homers.” . . . Happy birthday, Pedro Ciriaco (30), Vicente Padilla (38), and Jerry Casale (82).
As 2015 winds down, the free agent class of 2016 still has a lot to play for — their next big contract. Here are the big-name players who are helping themselves the most and the least:
HELPING THEIR CAUSE
|With N.Y. Mets||.307||13||1.014|
WHO NEEDS MONEY?
|With Kansas City||2-5||4.86||1.360|
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.