Thursday, March 3, 2011
AL Central: Ranking organizational leadership
By Bill and The Common Man
On Tuesday, Darryl Johnston caused a bit of a stir when he ranked the components of "organizational management" -- the owners, GMs and managers -- of the five AL East teams. Being Midwest guys, we thought we'd try the same thing with the AL Central; not as sexy, maybe, but fun nonetheless. We're using the same basic method Darryl did, with one point for a fifth-place ranking and five points for a first-place ranking.
Owner: Jerry Reinsdorf | AL Central rank: 2nd | Points: 4
Reinsdorf generally stays out of the way and cuts checks these days. He's also succeeded at the unenviable job of maintaining détente between his manager and general manager. Which is good, because the two are both excellent in their roles, even if they don't always work well together. Reinsdorf gets a slight ding here because of his role as Bud Selig's chief supporter and his role in collusion in the late 1980s.
General manager: Kenny Williams | Rank: 1st | Points: 5
Williams, who has held his job since 2000, excels at making trades, picking up guys like John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Jose Contreras in very one-sided deals. He's reached into the Cuban market, generally hit on his free-agent acquisitions, and had decent farm systems that he's mostly leveraged to acquire more talent.
Manager: Ozzie Guillen | Rank: 1st | Points: 5
Ozzie has made waves this offseason by not keeping his clubhouse's business in-house. But he's typically been quick to leap to his players' defense and take the blame himself for any failures. He also consistently provides the best quotes in the business.
White Sox's composite score: 14 points
Owner: Larry Dolan | Rank: 4th | Points: 2
The Indians used to be the class of the American League Central. They had a beautiful ballpark, they sold out every single game (literally), and they finished 171 games over .500 from 1994-99. Working diligently, Dolan has managed to undo all of that hard work. The Indians sit at the bottom of the division, they drew under 1.4 million fans last year, and they've finished .500 or worse seven times in nine seasons.
General Manager: Chris Antonetti | Rank: 4th | Points: 2
Antonetti's hard to figure, given that this is his first season at the helm and the club still has ties to former GM Mark Shapiro. It's also unclear how much of the Indians' performance these last several years are traceable back to Antonetti, Shapiro's right hand since 2007. His first offseason was not exactly inspiring.
Manager: Manny Acta | Rank: 2nd | Points: 4
We like Acta. He earns high marks for his open-mindedness, willingness to experiment, demeanor and jaunty hat. His overall record, 227-345, is deceiving, since his owners and GMs steadfastly refuse to provide him with actual major league players.
Indians' composite score: 8 points
Owner: Mike Ilitch | Rank: 1st | Points: 5
IIlitch and the Tigers spent a long time in baseball's wilderness. Now he's mostly content to hand out the checks and let Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowkski run the show. This is a good thing. Pizza! Pizza!
General manager: Dave Dombrowski | Rank: 2nd | Points: 4
When he's had a free hand, he's put winners on the field. He's occasionally played a little too fast-and-loose with Ilitch's money -- like this year, comically overpaying for a middle reliever and apparent DH in Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez.
Manager: Jim Leyland | Rank: 4th | Points: 2
Leyland's still a good and popular manager when he's engaged and happy. As he gets older, there's additional risk that he'll burn out again or fall asleep in the dugout. We're probably starting to get into Casey Stengel-with-the-Mets territory here.
Tigers' composite score: 11 points
Owner: David Glass | Rank: 5th | Points: 1
We'll never blame an owner for refusing to spend on a team that's going nowhere, but their continually going nowhere is in large part BECAUSE of Glass, who had a huge hand through the mid-90s in turning the team into the perpetual downer it's become.
General manager: Dayton Moore | Rank: 5th | Points: 1
Yes, the farm system is excellent right now. Yes, GMDM remains the worst GM in all of baseball. Virtually every move he has made at the big league level has failed spectacularly and predictably. There's been no indication at all that, once those great kids are ready, he is capable of acquiring the pieces necessary to turn that core into a contender.
Manager: Ned Yost | Rank: 5th | Points: 1
He's had only about three-fourths of a season in KC, but he has a rep among Brewers fans as a high-strung statistics-phobic dinosaur who used his bullpen in a bizarre and ineffective way. Yost probably isn't a terrible manager, but he's at the bottom of a strong stack.
Royals' composite score: 3 points
Owner: Jim Pohlad | Rank: 3rd | Points: 3
Pohlad's father did basically what Glass did in the '90s, with the same results. The Twins are spending a lot more these days, but that's the park, not the owner. It's pretty hard to argue with the results under either Pohlad since 2002, though.
General manager: Bill Smith | Rank: 3rd | Points: 3
Smith is an enigma. After starting his career with two disastrous trades and little else, Smith shockingly hit a home run with nearly every move a year ago. This offseason, he seems back to his old ways. Antonetti gets ranked behind him for now, but I have a suspicion that Smith might be pretty close to 29th out of 30.
Manager: Ron Gardenhire | Rank: 3rd | Points: 3
The esteem in which one holds Ron Gardenhire seems to have an inverse relationship to how often you watch the Twins play. You love him at 30,000 feet, but if you're close enough to see his irrational love of "scrappy" players and his bullpen usage, the cracks start to show. But the players seem to love him and love playing for him, and I think that's the one aspect of managing that sometimes gets unfairly overlooked.
Twins' composite score: 9 points
Overall AL Central ranking:
1. Chicago (14 points)
2. Detroit (11 points)
3. Minnesota (9 points)
4. Cleveland (8 points)
5. Kansas City (3 points)
This roughly approximates how you might expect the 2011 standings to look, at least with the group of three who will finish at the top and the two who are destined for the bottom. The all-around futility of the Royals kind of skews the rest of the results (making Cleveland and Minnesota appear closer than they probably are), but the general order is right.
The Common Man and Bill write obsessively on The Platoon Advantage and bicker incessantly on Twitter here and here.