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.
Today Mark and Dan discuss Jim Campbell, who ran the Detroit Tigers from the early 60s and into the early 90s. As they note, he was the last of the old school GMs who hated free agency and didn’t really use it as a tool to build his teams. Stopgap guys? Sure. But no big splashes. Yet he presided over teams that won tons of ballgames and two World Series.
He also, however, presided over teams that cratered when the excellent of core players he and his scouts signed and/or drafted got old. The post-Kaline Tigers of the mid-70s and the post-Gibson/Morris/Trammell/Whitaker Tigers of the early 90s were some bad old teams who likely would’ve won more games had Campbell been willing to add some star power and cut loose some dead wood earlier than he did. It’s never a good idea to go through life with one hand tied behind your back.
But even if Campbell only used one hand, he did it masterfully. Really, has there ever been one team with two distinct cores of amazing players like the 1960s and 1980s Tigers had that were put together by the same GM? I can’t think of one.