Will any GM join Krivsky on unemployment line?
This isn't like the old days, when some baseball teams were run by the lazy, the unqualified or the truly incompetent. Today there's only one team like that, two tops.
Almost every baseball owner now understands the importance of the general manager position and makes a real, legitimate effort to find someone to fill the position wisely. There are no Woody Woodwards (former GM of the Yankees, Phillies and Mariners) who show a stunning disinterest in their work and only do their job between rounds of golf. And no Chuck LaMars (the long-serving Tampa Bay GM who had no idea how to put together a team) pretending to know what he's doing. The closest to these old-school general-manager pretender class may be the Astros' Ed Wade, whose greatest qualification appears to be that he knows club president Tal Smith really well.
Despite almost universal competence at the top of the 30 baseball ops departments, it remains a position of great pressure. Wayne Krivsky, who never got a full or fair shake to show whether he could be a successful GM, suffered an early firing last week when Reds owner Bob Castellini decided he wanted old friend Walt Jocketty in the job. And Jocketty himself got dumped by the Cardinals only months earlier after a highly successful run that included a World Series championship only a year prior to his firing.
Krivsky's removal came painfully early in his GM career (two years and two months), not to mention dreadfully early in the season (only 21 games in, during which the Reds were 9-12). GMs don't often receive pink slips that early in a season, and it's possible that no GM will join Krivsky on the unemployment line anytime soon. But at least seven GMs could be on seats that range from slightly warm to downright toasty.
They all may make it into next year, though perhaps not without some sweating. Here they are:
1. Brian Sabean, Giants. He went about five years without making a bad trade, but he's made a few bad ones in recent seasons (the one for A.J. Pierzynski that sent Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano to Minnesota comes to mind, Liriano's recent demotion notwithstanding). What's more, those mistakes were compounded by some bloated free-agent contracts and a recent inability to develop positional prospects.
Sabean couldn't possibly have lost all his smarts overnight, but he'll need to show he hasn't misplaced his magic. Since he's signed through next season, he may get ample chance.
2. Bill Bavasi, Mariners. He built the farm system that resulted in the Angels' 2002 world championship. But as GM, his teams rarely do quite as well as you think they should. This one may be no exception. The Erik Bedard trade made terrific sense and looked like it could finally make the Mariners a playoff team. It's early, but so far they look an awful lot like that same ol' underachieving team.
3. Ned Colletti, Dodgers. This baseball lifer waited a long time to get his dream job, and it was a hire applauded in many circles. Sabean's right-hand man during the Giants' heyday also previously worked as a PR man and sportswriter (not a bad Dodger formula, as Fred Claire, another ex-writer, did a decent job as L.A.'s GM).
Colletti's first year, 2006, brought some wise deadline deals, including one for Greg Maddux that helped pushed L.A. into the playoffs. But the Dodgers have done a lot of disappointing lately, perhaps partly because of a lack of clubhouse cohesiveness. A few notable free-agent missteps haven't helped, though, especially the signings of Juan Pierre and ex-Giant Jason Schmidt, whose arm has bothered him practically since hitting L.A.
4. Jon Daniels, Rangers. This very bright young man (he's still only 30) will make an excellent GM in time. And that time could be soon. His most recent moves have been among his best after an early clunker or two hurt (especially the deal that sent Chris Young to San Diego). Daniels received a surprising haul for high-priced slugger Mark Teixeira last summer and acquired Josh Hamilton this winter. Plus, his team has an impressive stable of pitching prospects.
Though the defeats are piling up for the last-place Rangers, it appears new club president Nolan Ryan is more likely to blame manager Ron Washington. Daniels showed he's a stand-up guy, recently saying, "I'm a Ron Washington man.'' But it remains to be seen whether Daniels' vote is determinative in this case.
5. Jim Bowden, Nationals. The Nats are very bad, a fact that is usually disregarded or dismissed due to the rebuilding nature of their team. Judging by the bonuses it handed out last summer to its draft picks, the organization does appear serious about building for the future. However, Bowden's moves aren't aiding the present. He has a penchant for coddling the terminally troubled (see offseason acquisition Elijah Dukes). And the $10-million contract for Dmitri Young, only a backup, seems like a waste. It can't hurt Bowden that he has gotten really close to owner Ted Lerner's son.
6. J.P. Ricciardi, Blue Jays. They've been painted for years as a major threat. And they still aren't really that. Ricciardi has developed what appears to be a pretty good pitching rotation; but the combination of a killer division, debilitating injuries, an unusual number of uncomfortable breakups and a few free-agent mistakes has resulted in a regime that specializes in the average.
7. Omar Minaya, Mets. There's pressure on every Mets decision-maker after their epic implosion last year. Some moves haven't worked, including a pair of trades following the 2006 season that sent reliever Heath Bell to San Diego and another that moved starter Brian Bannister to Kansas City for Ambiorix Burgos. Minaya also never should have replaced professional hitting coach Rick Down with Rickey Henderson, who mostly played cards as a coach. In general, however, the Mets have improved during Minaya's tenure, thanks to some big-ticket signings, especially the importing of Carlos Beltran to go along with homegrown stars David Wright and Jose Reyes. Trades for Johan Santana, John Maine and Olvier Perez helped bolster the starting rotation, too. Minaya also has an excellent relationship with the team-owning Wilpons, which can't hurt.