Friday, December 22, 2006

The Worst GM in Baseball?

I was talking to a friend of my brother's the other night, and it occurred to us that the level of GM-ing in the major leagues right now might be at an all-time low. Between the two of us (he's a Yankee fan), we could only think of 8 to 11 current GMs that we would feel comfortable with if they were running our favorite team (eight definites - Cashman and Epstein both made the cut - and three maybes). That's far below half, which is just sad.

Anyway, I was trying to come up with a rock solid candidate for the worst in MLB, and I just can't. There are way too many options. I'm going to throw out some of the worst right now, along with some of their recent transgressions, and then maybe I'll be able to come up with some kind of rankings, like they tried to do here.

Dave Littlefield, Pirates - Easy to pick on because of the limited resources and the dysfunctional organization that he works for, but he's still pretty atrocious at what he does. Just a look at the list of players that he let go for nothing (Bronson Arroyo, Chris Shelton, Duaner Sanchez), and the list of players that he traded away for garbage (Chris Young, Aramis Ramirez) is proof of that.

Granted, he traded for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez, but then he gave Perez to the Mets as a throw in at the deadline this year, selling him at his absolute lowest value. He also traded for Freddy Sanchez, but only after crying foul over the earlier horrific trade that netted him Brandon Lyon and the immortal Anastacio Martinez (for Mike Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck) and then whining through the media about Lyon's elbow until the Red Sox re-did the deal.

More recently, he wasted almost $11 million for Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz to play bit parts on a 67-win team, gave Jack Wilson a $20 million contract, and had a pretty rough trade deadline. So far this off-season, he's done nothing, which may actually be a good thing. Team seems to have no direction and has made no progress in his five years.

Full seasons on the job: 2002-2006
Playoff appearances: 0
Winning %: .437

Wayne Krivsky, Reds - He's only been on the job for a year, and he started out strongly enough with the Arroyo and Phillips trades, but man has it been ugly since then. The Trade, as Reds fans have come to call it, was and still is a disaster, and now Krivsky's kicking and screaming and crying foul over it because he's the only one who didn't see the obvious (that Majewski had been hurting since the WBC).

But beyond that, he's given roster spots (and, in some cases, two-year commitments) to replacement-level types like Chad Moeller, Juan Castro, Bubba Crosby, and Ray Olmedo, and to 40-ish players like Rheal Cormier, Mike Stanton, and Jeff Conine. He's let young guys with upside like Brandon Claussen and Brendon Harris (who he just acquired in The Trade) walk away for nothing.

Essentially, he took a team that for the first half of last season was one of the biggest surprises and one that looked like it could be a contender with one or two more shrewd moves, and turned them into the Baltimore Orioles. Not good times.

Full seasons on the job: 2006
Playoff appearances: 0
Winning %: .494

Bill Bavasi, Mariners - Until 2003, when the Marniers were 93-69 and missed the playoffs by two games, Seattle baseball mattered. Then Bill Bavasi took over. Granted, he didn't have much to work with in the minor leagues at the time, but after serving as GM from the Angels from 1994-1999 and reaching 85 wins only once, there should have been no doubt what would happen next. His first few signings (Raul Ibanez, Eddie Guardado, Scott Spezio) were hit or miss, and his first trade was dumping Jeff Cirillo for spare parts. Then it got ugly.

After trading Carlos Guillen to the Indians for Omar Vizquel, only to have the trade luckily nullified when Vizquel failed his physical, Bavasi turned around and traded Guillen to Detroit for Ramon freakin' Santiago (since the trade - Guillen: .320/.385/.508, Santiago: .205/.263/.236). Not only does Guillen have a better batting average than Santiago's slugging percentage since the deal, but for some reason Bavasi was so hell-bent on trading the guy that he took his second best offer. I'd like an explanation for this, and I'm not even a Mariners fan.

Anyway, since the crash to 63 wins in 2004, the Mariners have improved each year, but they've also blown $100 million on corner infielders, $40 million on Jarrod Washburn, and continued to plow salt into the farm system. The most recent trades for a mediocre Horacio Ramirez and a washed-up Jose Vidro smack of desperation and stupidity. There's no way that this team hangs with the A's and Rangers this year.

But what do Mariner fans think? If this post doesn't tell you all you need to know, than the new logo of the site will. Not good times...

Full seasons on the job: 2004-2006
Playoff appearances: 0
Winning %: .432

Jim Hendry, Cubs - He's made some nice trades (Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, for two, although Ramirez was gift-wrapped to him by Littlefield), but his track record otherwise is terrible. He stuck with Dusty Baker for too long and, by extension, stuck with players that Dusty loved for too long. Look at the laundry list of terrible hitters that Dusty wasted at bats on: Neifi Perez, Freddy Bynum, Henry Blanco, Tony Womack, John Mabry... and that's just 2006! (I'll cut Ronny Cedeno some slack because he was just a rookie.)

But I think Rob Neyer said it best (and I can't find the link anywhere - I think it was in a chat) when he said that the Cubs weren't going anywhere because of Hendry's "fundamental lack of understanding of the value of on-base percentage" (I'm paraphrasing). And he's 100% correct. Even when the Cubs get a nice young player that should get some at-bats, they bury him behind an overpaid stiff. Matt Murton, meet Jacque Jones. Ryan Theriot, say hello to Mark DeRosa.

And the reliance on Wood, Prior, and big-ticket managers has been fascinating. We'll see how it works out this year with Lilly, Marquis, and Piniella, but I'm not optimistic.

Full seasons on the job: 2003-2006
Playoff appearances: 1
Winning %: .497

Dan O'Dowd, Rockies - Two words: Hampton, Neagle. At the time, Gammons wrote a column where O'Dowd said that it was all about branding. Oh, the Rockies were branded, alright. Branded as a terribly-run franchise. Then the bid against themselves by signing Todd Helton to a jillion dollar contract, and they haven't sniffed .500 since.

Full seasons on the job: 2000-2006
Playoff appearances: 0
Winning %: .452

Honorable mention:
- Jim Bowden
- Ned Colletti
- Dayton Moore
- Brian Sabean

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