Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 7

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Comparing general managers in any sport is difficult. Comparing them in baseball is probably most difficult, however, as the playing field is not as level as it is in other leagues. With hockey, football, and basketball all having some form of a salary cap, in theory, all general managers in those sports are working under the same parameters. Now, obviously, there are other factors at work (as any Edmonton Oiler front office employee can tell you, geography plays a part), but money-wise, no one can spend well beyond what every other team can.

This is not the case in Major League Baseball, and it is especially not the case in the American League East. In this division, you have the extremes of the Yankees and Red Sox, who have 2 of the highest payrolls in the Majors, and the Rays, who spend less than most teams, with the Blue Jays usually falling somewhere in between.

The biggest knock against J.P. Ricciardi as general manager of the Jays is that he hasn't sent a team to the postseason. Now, this is a big knock and I get as frustrated as any Blue Jays fan when October comes and we're stuck watching other teams go and have all the fun.

Ricciardi, hired before the 2002 season, has the longest active tenure of any GM who's team hasn't made the playoffs. On the surface, that looks ugly, and it's hard to blame fans who look at that and think a change should be made. Digging a little deeper, though, I'm not sure Ricciardi's done much worse than a lot of his contemporaries.

This is a list of general managers who have been to the playoffs starting in 2002:
Brian Cashman
Terry Ryan
Billy Beane
Bill Stoneman
John Schuerholz
Walt Jocketty
Joe Garagiola, Jr.
Brian Sabean
Larry Beinfest
Jim Hendry
Theo Epstein
Gerry Hunsicker
Paul DePodesta
Tim Purpura
Kevin Towers
Kenny Williams
Dave Dombrowski
Omar Minaya
Ned Colletti
Pat Gillick
Josh Byrnes
Mark Shaprio
Andrew Friedman
Tony Reagins
Doug Melvin

Now, that's a long list, to be sure, but I'm not convinced that every one of them is necessarily better at their job than Ricciardi is just because they got to spray champagne around their clubhouse.

First, I think you need to compare him to his AL East counterparts. Cashman, Epstein, and now, Friedman, are seen as some of better front office minds working in baseball today. Cashman, Yankee GM since 1998, has won 3 World Series rings at the helm of the Evil Empire, although none since 2000. Epstein has 2 championships to his name, the first for the Red Sox since 1918, and Friedman took over the Rays and through some shrewd drafting and trading, transformed them from bottom feeders to contenders. While Friedman has done an excellent job, I'm not sure it's fair to compare his situation to Ricciardi's. While Friedman took over a team that had never won more than 70 games, his squad had amassed a large amount of high draft picks that allowed him to have a large group of high ceiling players either develop for Tampa or be traded elsewhere for useful parts. Ricciardi, on the other hand, took over a Toronto team that had been mediocre at worst for the better part of the previous 5 years, winning somewhere in between 76-88 games from 1997 until 2001. He was also given the task of rebuilding the major league team relatively quickly in the image of the low budget Oakland Athletics, the team where he had been the Director of Player Personnel since 1997. And while Toronto fans may look at what the Rays have done in the past season and a half, winning in the tough AL East on a low budget, I'm not sure many of them have the appetite to go through the full scale rebuilding that something like that would take. Do you want to put up with 10 years of awful baseball for the chance of a good 2 or 3 year run?

It may also not be completely fair to judge him next to Cashman and Epstein, but those 2 have been in charge of their respective franchises for basically Ricciardi's entire run in Toronto. Ricciardi obviously doesn't have the financial resources to compete with the big spenders in the division, and that has hampered his team-building somewhat. While Boston and New York are able to hide bad free agent signings and not let it affect them (Julio Lugo and Carl Pavano come to mind), Ricciardi isn't afforded that luxury, making situations like B.J. Ryan's (and Frank Thomas's, to an extent) look much worse. While Cashman and Epstein are probably decent GMs, I'm not sure they would have fared much better in Toronto than Ricciardi has.

It becomes even more difficult to compare him to GMs in other divisions (and in the National League), I think, because the level of competition is completely different. Is Ned Colletti, the same guy who signed guys like Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Jason Schmidt to awful contracts a better GM because he lucked into Manny Ramirez wanting out of Boston and won a weak division? Probably not.

During Ricciardi's time in Toronto, his team has averaged 81 wins a year (2002-2008). Not a great number, obviously, in fact, it's perfectly mediocre. That's dragged down a bit by the awful 2004 season, which can probably be seen as an aberration, as they've won 80+ games a season since then. However, during this time they have almost always underperformed their Pythagorean record, sometimes by as many as 8 wins. I think this shows that he has put together better teams than the Win/Loss record would dictate, which I think most people miss when discussing his relative success and/or failure.

All in all, when looking at him compared to his fellow GMs, I think Ricciardi stacks up pretty nicely. It's obviously difficult to ignore the lack of postseasons on his resumé, but if you look past that, he's probably in the middle of the pack.

Well, I don't think I can look at it any other ways. Next time out I'll try and sum it up as nicely as I can in some sort of conclusion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

admiration http://gotuc.net/members/Bariatric-Surgery/default.aspx nasvf http://gotuc.net/members/Electric-Blankets/default.aspx tripoli http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Furnace-Filters/default.aspx salad http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Vending-Machines/default.aspx budgeted http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Kitchen-Cabinets/default.aspx dispatched http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Slipcovers/default.aspx centerville http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Polar-Monitors/default.aspx brigid http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Popcorn-Machines/default.aspx flint http://blogs-new.bestfriends.org/members/Garage-Door-Openers/default.aspx bulgarian