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Master of the Trade
Nicholas Dawidoff
March 30, 1992
When it comes to building a baseball team for the '90s, Andy MacPhail, G.M. of the Twins, is the best in the business
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March 30, 1992

Master Of The Trade

When it comes to building a baseball team for the '90s, Andy MacPhail, G.M. of the Twins, is the best in the business

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Such a player is Gladden. Last winter MacPhail informed him that Pedro Munoz, a thick-waisted young slugger who carries a bat with him wherever he goes, would be the starting leftfielder. "Sometimes you have to take the manager off the hook," says MacPhail. "The day the kid goes oh for four there will be a lot of pressure on the manager to play Danny. It puts me at risk, but that's part of my job." He offered the 34-year-old Gladden a salary cut (from $1.05 million to a package totaling $850,000) to stay in Minnesota as a reserve, knowing that Gladden might not take it. He didn't, instead accepting a two-year, $2.2 million contract from the Detroit Tigers. "I spent five great years in Minnesota," says Gladden. "I have the utmost respect for the organization. When they make deals they get people who fit in. Andy sometimes asked me, 'Will this guy fit in?' I think he does a great job. I'm gonna be working for Andy one day, or he's gonna be working for me."

"I think Andy understands us because he's young," says Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek. "If he walks into the locker room, nobody bats an eye."

Says MacPhail, "I tell the players they can talk with me anytime about the state of the game, contracts, the Democratic candidates for President. The only thing I won't talk to them about is the lineup. Do that, you doom yourself. In Minnesota, everybody has full autonomy. The price they pay is full accountability."

There's no better accountability than wearing a championship ring. What makes MacPhail proudest about 1991 is that the Twins didn't make a trade all season. Morris, Pagliarulo and designated hitter Chili Davis were all free agent signees in the off-season. The organization provided the rest. But with victory came the despoilers. Gladden and Morris were lost (the latter signed a two-year, $10.85 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays). The Colorado Rockies snatched away vice-president of player personnel Bob Gebhard and made him their G.M., and eastern scouting director Kevin Malone was snapped up by the Montreal Expos to be their scouting director.

However, MacPhail re-signed Pagliarulo and catcher Brian Harper, so unless Munoz flops heroically, he will be a member of what is arguably the best starting eight in the game. And besides adding Smiley to the staff, MacPhail brought in Krueger (11-8, 3.60 ERA with the Seattle Mariners last year) to go along with three promising young starters in the Twins' farm system—Willie Banks, Pat Mahomes and Mike Trombley. MacPhail didn't want to lose Morris, "but small-market general managers are always going to be forced to make difficult decisions. A big factor in the Morris decision was Puckett's contract coming up next year. If you have to pay Jack $5.4 million, you'll have to pay Kirby more. Can we pay two players $11 million? Not us."

The G.M. genealogy of the MacPhail family begins with Andy's grandfather Le-land Stanford (Larry) MacPhail—"the Roaring Redhead." Born with a wicked look in his eye and a tempest at his elbow, the irrepressible Larry had sold everything from lingerie to automobiles before his gleam fastened on the Cincinnati Reds. At Crosley Field in 1935, MacPhail, as the Reds' general manager, hosted the first major league night game.

In 1938 he moved on to Brooklyn, where he hired Leo Durocher to manage and Red Barber to broadcast on radio, and sailed a yacht stocked with old bourbon to mellow his critics in the New York press. The boat ran aground, but the Dodgers didn't, bringing Brooklyn its first pennant in 21 years in 1941. Soon MacPhail was headed for the Bronx, where he was the Yankees' chief executive until October 1947, when he resigned during his players' World Series victory celebration. In his day MacPhail introduced baseball to televised broadcasts, team flights, old-timers' games and pension plans. He also darn near traded Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams, "until," says Andy MacPhail. "somebody sobered up and backed off." He ranks with baseball's best-loved characters. "People in Brooklyn still get tears in their eyes when they talk about my grandfather," says Andy.

Larry had two sons: Bill, who became the first director of sports for CBS (and now holds a similar position with CNN), and Lee. Larry had not wanted his sons to follow him into baseball, because opportunities were sparse; but after Lee spent a year and a half cleaning hog troughs for a livestock firm, his father relented. In 1940 Lee was hired as the business manager for Class B Reading. Over time Lee MacPhail—wise, white-haired and well-connected—became the ultimate management insider. Besides running the Orioles, he was the Yankee general manager, special assistant to commissioner William (Spike) Eckert, American League president and president of the Player Relations Committee. It was Lee MacPhail who urged baseball to address its growing problems with cocaine, who ruled that George Brett's pine tar-smudged home run should stand and who repeatedly questioned baseball executives for their lavish spending on mediocre talent.

Lee had four sons. In 1969 the eldest, Lee III, who was then the 27-year-old G.M. of the Reading Phillies, was killed when a car jumped a median and collided head-on with his. Allen, the second son, worked briefly for the Pirates before going into the textile business. Bruce never gave a baseball career much thought. Andy never thought about anything else.

"Andy amazes me now," says Bill MacPhail, "because he was a little flaky growing up"—a reputation earned in part by his propensity to run away from home. As a senior at Dickinson College, where he was a rightfielder on the baseball team, Andy wrote letters to the 24 major league teams and eventually landed with the Chicago Cubs. He worked in Chicago from 1976 to '82 and was assistant general manager for the Astros until '85, when Pohlad brought him to the Twins as the vice-president of player personnel. "I wanted a new, fresh, young look, somebody who wouldn't get caught up in old thinking," says Pohlad. MacPhail, who had similar thoughts about a manager, hit it off immediately with Kelly.

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