Tuesday, March 1, 2011
AL East: Ranking organizational leadership
By Darryl Johnston
Organizational leadership is a key to success in any business.
In an effort to rank the management of the five American League East teams, we will breakdown and grade each of the owners, GMs and managers in the division. Each category will be graded against their peers, and a composite score will be totaled. The highest ranking in a given category will receive five points, while the worst will receive one point.
Certainly this is a topic that very well could require 2,000 or more words to discuss, but I've consolidated it for the SweetSpot.
Owner: Hank Steinbrenner | AL East rank: 2nd | Points: 4
The mighty, mighty Steinbrenners. First it was George and now it's Hank. He possesses an unrelenting desire to win and a giant piggy bank to draw from. Demonstrates little restraint and is always trying to capture the next ring. It's hard to argue with that attitude from your owner, even when emotions go wild in the Bronx, leading to irrational decisions.
General manager: Brian Cashman | Rank: 3rd | Points: 3
He has won four World Series in his time as GM, but three of them you can probably credit to Gene Michael. Has been willing to let impact players walk and is not always in sync with ownership. Cashman has a blank check and a lot of expensive hits and misses on his résumé. Would you rank him higher or lower? I'm split.
Manager: Joe Girardi | Rank: 3rd | Points: 3
He has one pennant and one World Series title in three years as a manager of the Yankees, but many feel the team won it in spite of him. Girardi's a former catcher and previously won Manager of the Year in 2006 while with the Florida Marlins. Sometimes makes questionable in-game moves, particularly with the bullpen.
Yankees' composite score: 10 points
Owner: Rogers Communications | Rank: 5th | Points: 1
Rogers has caught the drift. Get out of the way of baseball operations. Nitpicky ownership saddled the team during the J.P. Riccardi era while trying to build up "sports content." Things are better with Alex Anthopoulos, but this ownership group still ranks dead last in the AL East.
General manager: Alex Anthopoulos | Rank: 4th | Points: 2
Possibly the best young GM in baseball. Being the fourth-best best GM in the AL East is a tough draw. Brokered the "Doc Deal" netting huge prospects and somehow jettisoned the Vernon Wells albatross of a contract. Built a highly skilled team with younger players and fewer long-term deals. His trades have revamped the organization and positioned the team to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees in the short term.
Manager: John Farrell | Rank: Incomplete | Points: Incomplete
He has the skills and makeup to be incredibly successful. Was considered at one point to be on a management path, but will now lead the Blue Jays in a difficult division -- albeit one he knows well. Check back in October for a grade.
Blue Jays' composite score: 3 points*
Owner: Peter Angelos | Rank: 4th | Points: 2
He's not the most popular owner in the world, and some even consider him the worst owner in baseball. The Orioles haven't been to a World Series since 1983 and have barely made a murmur in the past 15 seasons. Angelos spent a little dough on some "name" hitters this offseason, but is pretty content with just being old and rich.
General manager: Andy McPhail | Rank: 5th: Points: 1
Tread lightly here. His owner is a frugal 81-year-old man who just recently allowed McPhail to go out and get some "big" bats. McPhail has had the deck stacked against him, and he's also up against some other great GMs. He does own two World Series rings while with the Minnesota Twins.
Manager: Buck Showalter | Rank: 4th | Points: 2
He's a career .517 manager who led the Orioles to a 34-23 record last season. Showalter is an old-school coach with mixed results in previous stints with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers. He has set a new tone in Baltimore with early and positive results. Jury is still out on the Orioles, though.
Orioles' composite score: 5 points
Owner: John Henry & Co. | Rank: 1st | Points: 5
Class act, second-to-none owners who have been front and center since their acquisition of the Red Sox. Henry and the ownership group brought two titles (2004, '07) to Boston and have invested heavily in the organization while developing the farm, improving Fenway Park and allowing baseball operations to do its job. MLB's model ownership group is committed to all aspects of franchise ownership.
General manager: Theo Epstein | Rank: 1st | Points: 5
He came along in 2004 and delivered the first World Series to Boston in 86 years. Since then, Epstein has secured another title and developed one of the best farm systems in baseball. Plays big market "Moneyball" and perennially has made the team competitive and flexible.
Manager: Terry Francona | Rank: 2nd | Points: 4
He has managed to win two titles in Boston, with five 95-win seasons in his seven years. He is a players' coach with a head for the modern game and might be the best in team history. Despite that, he is still referred to at times as "Francoma" for questionable decisions, particularly with his bullpen.
Red Sox's composite score: 14 points
Owner: Stuart Sternberg | Rank: 3rd | Points: 3
He is a guy who some call a "carpetbagger." Others praise him for creating success under limited budgets. Is the attendance issue his fault? Time to move the team perhaps? He has rebranded the (Devil) Rays and brought in superior baseball minds. Sternberg splits the list at No. 3.
General manager: Andrew Friedman | Rank: 2nd | Points: 4
Nobody does more with less than him -- except maybe Billy Beane. Friedman has built a fantastic farm system and exploited market inefficiencies to create a club that competes with baseball's conglomerates. Tampa Bay won the AL East division on a 2010 Opening Day payroll of about $73 million. Friedman just needs some hardware.
Manager: Joe Maddon | Rank: 1st | Points: 5
He might be the best manager in all of baseball. Maddon is instinctive, can extract maximum value from players, understands and implements advanced metrics (maybe to a fault), and has unwavering support from his players.
Rays' composite score: 12 points
Overall AL East ranking:
1. Boston (14 points)
2. Tampa Bay (12 points)
3. New York (10 points)
4. Baltimore (5 points)
5. Toronto (3 points*)
(*score incomplete due to first-year manager John Farrell)
So there you have it. The Red Sox have the highest-rated organizational leadership in the AL East. It comes as no surprise to us in the Boston area, but can it lead the Red Sox to their third World Series in eight seasons?
Darryl Johnston contributes to Fire Brand of the American League, a blog about the Boston Red Sox. You can follow him on Twitter.