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The General Manager Gap

Jan 5, 2010, 10:57 AM EDT

There are a lot of reasons why the NL has been getting its butt handed to it by the AL in recent years. Money is one, the DH is another. Matt Klaassan of FanGraphs has another theory:  better GMs in the AL than in the NL.

He doesn’t rank them, really. He simply creates two pools: one with the five best general managers, generally speaking, and one with the five worst. By his estimation four of the five best are in the AL and four of the five worst are in the NL.  We can quibble with his pool — even with the financial advantage I don’t think Beane is necessarily a better general manager than Brian Cashman, for example — but no matter how you shuffle the names around, I’m not sure you can break the 4-1 advantage the AL has over the NL.  Maybe you could still substitute John Mozeliak for Beane, but at this point I’m stretching.

I’m the sort of person who is highly skeptical of silver bullet explanations.  Most things in life are a function of many complicated factors interacting.  When we add in stuff like the GM gap to the money thing and the DH I think we get closer to the truth than simply blaming the Yankees-Red Sox arms race, for example.

  1. Old Gator - Jan 5, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    I wonder, since Craig attracts such a reef colony of sabremetrics types and statistics freaks from the MTSS (Mark Twain Sucks Society): assuming that the luchre largesse in the AL is responsible for all these great ballplayers hauling their mercenary derrieres over there, what proportion of them stay in the AL once either their initial contracts are up or they are traded during their initial contract periods? In other words, can one plot a baseball-talent NL-to-AL “brain drain” (although clearly that is not the organ which most succinctly characterizes the phenomenon, but we can’t denote the pair of organs which does because, as Craig is so fond of pointing out, this is a family site)? The results would be kinda interesting, though we would have to set up a control group to keep the tar-pit effect of the DH from skewing the stats.

  2. Joey B - Jan 5, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    I saw the article yesterday and didn’t find much use for it. The first problem is using Jack Z. He only took over this year, and one year’s worth of moves is rather meaningless for a l/t trend. And it also brings to mind that his predeccessor might’ve been the worst GM in recent history.
    And the rankings of the GMs is subjective. Colletti and Sabean have pulled bone-headed moves in the past, but both have developed top notch minor league systems. I’m really not seeing why he considers Cashman, Shapiro and Byrnes as being in the elite, and those two guys as basement dwellers.

  3. APBA Guy - Jan 5, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Always a fun subject to discuss, especially as Bay Area GM’s are presented at both ends of the spectrum. I’ve said before in Craig’s previous blog that I think Sabean takes too much blame for the managing owner’s interference. The Bonds years distorted every signing in that Bonds “temperament” necessitated signing old pros who could do their jobs professionally while pretending to ignore the carnival next door. Some of those guys were better than others, but the house was packed every night and the privately funded mortgage got paid. With Bonds gone we’ll have a better idea of Sabean comparatively, and although the results aren’t totally clear yet he doesn’t belong in the same group as Ed Wade and Dayton Moore. Maybe right next to that group.
    Beane’s another story. I do believe he’s very good at what he does, but a lot of the work he does started with Sandy Alderson and the style and emphasis on player evaluation and value that Alderson pioneered. The search for value at the root of “Moneyball” continues, but the AL in general is far better at balancing scouting and numerical assessment.
    Finally, I can’t believe that Pat Gillick was left out of the discussion. I know he’s not a current GM, but really, was anyone better in the recent past?

  4. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Jan 5, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    Fear not, intercession is over in three weeks and these sports-management students will be back in school.

  5. Matt - Jan 5, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    The best GM is yours; the worst GM is mine.
    They’re like ex-wives that way.

  6. Mike Treder - Jan 5, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Craig, what are “too pools”? Overly ostentatious swimming holes?

  7. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 5, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    Um, it’s like, really complicated Mike. Rather than take the time to explain it to you, I’m just going to change it back to your pedestrian “two” spelling so as not to confuse you or anything . . .

  8. Chipmaker - Jan 5, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    It’s so obvious. As with pitching, expansion has diluted the pool of smart GMs. I’ve said this for years. (I don’t really believe it, but it’s every bit as plausible as the expansion-has-diluted-the-pitching-ranks position.)

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