Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.
In some circles, Bill Beane is talked about like he’s a Gabor sister or something. Famous for being famous, almost. They wrote a book about him and Brad Pitt played him in a movie and he’s held up as an example of something that most of the people doing the holding up fail to understand or refuse to understand. He’s more avatar in some big dumb debate than real person, it seems. A guy who, if you hear his detractors tell it, is most famous for never having a team he’s run make it to the World Series. And if you hear his fans tell it, is God Almighty. Yeah, he’s a bit polarizing.
But he’s first and foremost the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. And has been for a very long time. And as Mark and Dan argue today, he is the 11th greatest general manager of all time.
Check your preconceptions at the door and see if you think they’re right about that.
Flash back to Target Field during the All-Star Game in July. Your intrepid reporter was sitting next to Posnanski in the press box, arguing over who the new “face of the game” was for MLB. Gleeman was sick in bed in another part of town. Adam Wainwright was doing a poor job of attempting to win home field advantage for the National League and all was right with the world.
But, little did we know, we were all party to a secret program run by the Department of Homeland Security. From the New York Times:
As Major League Baseball’s top players took the field at the All-Star Game in Minneapolis in July, a covert radar system scanned the sky above the 40,000-seat stadium for what security experts said was an emerging threat to public safety: drones.
Using finely tuned detection programs brought in by the Department of Homeland Security, “Operation Foul Ball,” as it was known, identified several small, commercial drones flying in the area. Some were similar to the quadcopter that crashed on the White House lawn Monday.
But the drone detection system, which was considered one of the most advanced in the country and cost several hundred thousand dollars to operate for just that night, had no way of actually stopping drones from flying into the stadium. There was even confusion about whether one of the drones belonged to ESPN.
I feel safer.
Ken Rosenthal reports that Fredi Gonzalez is entering the final season of his contract with the Braves. He had signed an extension last year, but it was unknown how long it was for. Now we know: one year.
Lame duck managers used to the norm. Many teams went year-to-year with managers, including successful ones like the Dodgers, who famously had Walter Alston on a couple decades worth of one-year deals. These days, however, it is considered unusual for a manager to work with no promise of the following year. At least it is for managers who aren’t on the hot seat.
Not that Gonzalez is on the hot seat. He is a favorite of Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz and, to date, has never been held responsible to the team underperforming. But Rosenthal says that the club is going to wait and see how Gonzalez fits in with the John Hart-led Braves, who are rebuilding.
I moan and complain about Gonzalez a lot because he’s aggravating to fans who watch the team day-in, day-out. At the same time I will be the first to admit that talent — healthy talent — and not the manager, is the most important factor to a winning ballclub. My guess is that Gonzalez, who has always been a good company man, won’t stand in the way of whatever experiments Hart undertakes with the Braves over the next couple of years and that, as a result, will get an extension at some point.
Some serious must-click link stuff from Jorge Arangure Jr. of Vice Sports. The first in a series called “The Cuba Diaries,” which chronicle Arangure’s visit to the country.
He touches briefly on baseball in this first installment, but this is a scene-setter which explains how Cuba is, at the moment, anxious. In transition from what it has known for the past half century to what it will become as the island opens up and relations with its neighbor to the north normalize. A transition many in the U.S. will portray as some form of grand, unequivocal progress but which, in reality, is something that will bring new problems even as it presents new opportunities.
Of particular interest is Arangure’s description of how cable TV has, quite illegally, made inroads into the country and how “with cable, the world has gotten significantly smaller for Cubans.” He ads that “in its own way, watching sports on television has become a form of passive revolution.”
Absolutely fascinating stuff that anyone with an interest in Cuba and Cuban baseball players should make a point to read.
Ken Rosenthal reports that Joba Chamberlain “has rejected multiple offers from teams he did not want to join.” Which, while he was decent enough in lower leverage situations last year, is somewhat surprising considering he’s, you know, Joba Chamberlain.
But then again, people always seem to value relief pitching in the offseason and at the deadline. When the rubber hits the road and relievers give us heartburn we tend to wonder why on Earth so-and-so is here — and Chamberlain has been that so-and-so a few times — but such is life.