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Greatest general managers of all time?

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  • #46
    Early in my career as a baseball fan the Orioles and the Dodgers were the teams "always" in contention to win and I understand that Harry Dalton and Buzzie Bavasi were considered great general managers for their work in building those teams.

    Bavasi, Warren Giles (more for his work as league president), and Bob Howsam are the GMs who now (in virtual 1982) have one supporter each in the "Best of Baseball" series, Hall of Fame forum. Howsam led the Reds while Dalton led the Orioles and Angels. Bavasi was then a veteran GM with the Dodgers and he followed Dalton with the Angels.

    John Schuerholz led the Royals about that time and later the Braves for a couple decades. Pat Gillick led the Blue Jays and Phillies during parts of Schuerholz's time.

    Schuerholz is 70 years old and has retired from GM to President in Atlanta. Gillick is 73 and he retired in Philadelphia after the 2008 World Series win. So the Historical Oversight Committee should put both of them on the Cooperstown ballot.

    Among them all, I feel sure that Schuerholz will be elected to Cooperstown and to some shadow halls such as the Baseball-Fever HOF. I am not sure about any others.

    --
    Which GMs have been on the Cooperstown ballots recently? Bavasi, Dalton, Howsam, Gabe Paul, and John McHale. Bowie Kuhn and the owners have garnered a lot more votes.
    Last edited by Paul Wendt; 10-20-2010, 04:43 PM.

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    • #47
      Originally posted by Paul Wendt View Post
      Which GMs have been on the Cooperstown ballots recently? Bavasi, Dalton, Howsam, Gabe Paul, and John McHale. Bowie Kuhn and the owners have garnered a lot more votes.
      Howsam is another guy I think should be recognized as one of the greats. He put together the Cardinal pennant winners of 1967 and 1968, then put the finishing touches on the Big Red Machine.

      Buzzie Bavasi is an interesting case. He was Dodger GM for almost 20 years, during which the team was very successful, so obviously he must've been doing something right. Still, it seems like the Dodgers' biggest strength in those days was their deep minor league system. Perhaps a lot of credit for the Dodgers' success should go to Al Campanis, the scouting director? Bavasi didn't do anything special as Padre GM (yes, they were a young expansion team, but they made hardly any progress during his tenure), and his work with the Angels was a mixed bag. I don't know if I'd put him in the Hall of Fame.

      Paul and McHale were both solid guys, but like Bing Devine, I'm not sure they did enough to be considered "great."
      Baseball Junk Drawer

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      • #48
        Originally posted by ian2813 View Post
        Paul and McHale were both solid guys, but like Bing Devine, I'm not sure they did enough to be considered "great."
        How about the run of trades that Paul made in the early and mid-1970s for the Yankees? He did a lot to bring them back to the World Series. It was way more than free agency, which was just in its early stages.

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        • #49
          Bavasi's like a lower-case Barrow. They both inherited strong organizations that remained strong throughout their long tenure. That doesn't mean either man wasn't excellent at this job, it's just harder to judge without detailed knowledge.

          My sense, which may be mistaken, is that Barrow was somewhat more completely the man in charge of his organization than Bavasi. He certainly came in far closer to the ground floor with the Yankees, and they became an even more successful organization, of course. But when they hired him the Yankees were a strong third-place club that had just purchased the greatest player in the history of the game, and the owners remained committed to spending aggressively for outstanding talent. So Barrow by no means had to pull himself up by his own bootstraps the way Rickey had to with the poverty row Cardinals.

          On the other hand, if you talk about the Yankee ownership's willingness to bring in outstanding talent, it's only fair to add that one talent they brought in was Ed Barrow, and under his guidance the team only got better. Likewise, the Dodger job was no doubt a plum position for which O'Malley et al. could choose from a strong field of candidates, but they picked Bavasi rather than anybody else. These facts seem to say something about the two men, but it's hard to be sure exactly how much they mean.
          “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

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          • #50
            Originally posted by VIBaseball View Post
            How about the run of trades that Paul made in the early and mid-1970s for the Yankees? He did a lot to bring them back to the World Series. It was way more than free agency, which was just in its early stages.
            Well, that's nice to have on your resume, but it doesn't necessarily make you one of the greatest GM's ever. You have to wonder how much of that was Gabe Paul and how much was George Steinbrenner. Paul spent a lot of time running the Indians too, but they were rarely more than a mediocre team.
            Baseball Junk Drawer

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            • #51
              I don't know enough about Bavasi or the Dodgers (or the Angels under Autry, Bavasi, and Mauch) to be a strong advocate. From his Wikipedia entry I know that he worked in the Dodgers minor league system under Larry MacPhail and Branch Rickey, 1938 to 1950 around WWII service, most notably regarding Nashua NH in the integration episode. From that source it does not appear that selecting or developing players on the field was high among his job duties.

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              • #52
                Originally posted by Paul Wendt View Post
                I don't know enough about Bavasi or the Dodgers (or the Angels under Autry, Bavasi, and Mauch) to be a strong advocate. From his Wikipedia entry I know that he worked in the Dodgers minor league system under Larry MacPhail and Branch Rickey, 1938 to 1950 around WWII service, most notably regarding Nashua NH in the integration episode. From that source it does not appear that selecting or developing players on the field was high among his job duties.
                Bavasi was actually kept on by O'Malley after Rickey left. I believe that he stayed on with the Dodgers until he joined the Padres front office.

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                • #53
                  Bavasi was hired under Larry MacPhail's administration before Rickey came to New York, and it occurs to me now that I have read a characterization of him as a MacPhail man promoted during the purge of Rickey loyalists after O'Malley took control of the Dodgers.

                  According to O'Malley's wikipedia bio, O'Malley "abolished Rickey's title of General Manager so that no front office person could perpetuate Rickey's role." I think this is the source of my dim perception watching the team (and it was my favorite, so I watched them relatively closely) that its management was just about unique in being less hierarchical and more a collective responsibility than other clubs, so that you perhaps couldn't regard Bavasi as the man fully in charge the way Barrow was. What did Bavasi do? What did Fresco Thompson do? I was never clear, but I think they were both vice-presidents and they may well have been at least formally equals.

                  I don't know whether my perception was accurate, though. It wouldn't be surprising if, after O'Malley first shook things up and even possibly in spite of his continuing intention, the club's management gradually subsided into a more normal pattern, with Bavasi operating as a classic general manager minus the title. Veeck certainly talks about him as the man who negotiated trades for the team, at any rate.
                  “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

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                  • #54
                    Some additional names worth possible consideration:

                    Dave Dombrowski - responsible for the Expos' minor league system of the 1990s, carried blueprint to Florida where two youth movements resulted in World Championships, and rebuilt a moribund Tigers franchise into a pennant winner.

                    Billy Beane - done more with less over an extended period of time; perhaps the most imitated GM in history for his methodologies. Significant in a historical sense.

                    Walt Jocketty - incredible work with the Cards for fifteen years; if he can take the Reds to the Series he certainly deserves to be in these discussions
                    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Beady View Post
                      Bavasi was hired under Larry MacPhail's administration before Rickey came to New York, and it occurs to me now that I have read a characterization of him as a MacPhail man promoted during the purge of Rickey loyalists after O'Malley took control of the Dodgers.
                      Perhaps I didn't see it earlier, but where are the Larry MacPhail fans? Him and Veeck certainly deserve their spots in Cooperstown in addition to Barrow, Rickey and Weiss.
                      "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                      "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                      "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                      "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        George Weiss was undoubtedly one of the great GM's in baseball history and a major force in maintaining Yankee preeminence. Although it's true that Topping and Webb's economies must have hurt the Yankees, there is another factor as well: the absence of African-American players. They were pretty slow in bringing them on board. One occasionally reads about unsavoury Weissian attitudes towards African-Americans, although I'm not sure whether these are justified or not. However, they were slow in adapting to the Jackie Robinson era.

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                        • #57
                          It's hard to know whether that is an endorsement of George Weiss. "Undoubtedly one of the great GM's in baseball history" suggests that it is. But it's a truism that speakers of English say they have no doubt while showing doubt.

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                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Paul Wendt View Post
                            It's hard to know whether that is an endorsement of George Weiss. "Undoubtedly one of the great GM's in baseball history" suggests that it is. But it's a truism that speakers of English say they have no doubt while showing doubt.
                            What it is is a rhetorical device, intended to do various bits of work. First, to stiff-arm any objections from Yankee-haters that might follow hard upon a mere "GW is one of the great...." "Oh yeah, sez who?" The "undoubtedly" hopes to scare the skeptic into a hesitation.

                            But, second, it means, "Look, Weiss was a great GM and is going to remain so even after what I'm about to say."

                            And, finally, yes, 3: it's intended to show anxiety because of what comes concerning Weiss. As when someone once criticized a great writer--Rousseau, I THINK--and prefaced his remarks by saying, "I'm about to criticize a great man, and it makes me anxious."

                            In short, it should be "hard" to know whether the comment is a flat-out endorsement. It's a bit of short-hand, suggesting that it would take a long post, indeed, to provide sufficient nuance to deal with the effect of race attitudes on certain kinds of reputation (and not merely in baseball).

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                            • #59
                              The term "General Manager" hadn't been invented yet, but as far as the job of procuring talent is concerned, I'd have to give Frank Selee the nod.
                              "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

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                              • #60
                                A name that has been mentioned several times is Gabe Paul. He deserves a profile.

                                Gabriel Howard Paul---AKA Gabe Paul

                                Born: January 4, 1910, Rochester, NY
                                Died: April 26, 1998, age 88

                                Baseball Executive; Jewish
                                Cincinnati Reds' Traveling Secretary, 1937 - January 6, 1944
                                WW II military service, January 6, 1944? - ?
                                Cincinnati Reds' Traveling Secretary, September 23, 1946? - August 4, 1948?
                                Cincinnati Reds' VP, January 4, 1949? - 1951
                                Cincinnati Reds' GM, 1951 - 1960
                                Houston Colts 45 GM, 1960 - April, 1961
                                Cleveland Indians' GM, April, 1961 - 1973
                                New York Yankees' GM, 1973 - 1977
                                Cleveland Indians' GM, 1978 - 1984

                                Wikipedia
                                Gabriel Howard Paul (January 4, 1910 – April 26, 1998) was an American executive in Major League Baseball who served as general manager of three teams and, perhaps most famously, as president of the New York Yankees under George Steinbrenner during the 1970s.

                                Early life and career
                                Born in Rochester, New York, Paul, who was Jewish, got his start in the game at age 10 as a batboy for the Rochester Tribe of the AA International League and later attended Monroe High School. Eventually, he worked for Warren Giles, who became business manager of the renamed Rochester Red Wings when the St. Louis Cardinals purchased the team in 1928. When Giles took over the front office of the Cincinnati Reds in 1937, Paul became the Reds’ traveling secretary.

                                After returning from military service during World War II, Paul was promoted to vice president.

                                Cincinnati Reds general manager
                                In 1951, when Giles was elected president of the National League, Paul took his old mentor's job as Cincinnati general manager. The Reds were then a losing outfit with a weak farm system. Paul rebuilt the minor league department and began to scout and sign African-American and Latin American players. In 1956 at age 20, Frank Robinson, the club's first black superstar, had the best rookie season in NL history, hitting 38 home runs, scoring a league-leading 122 runs, and compiling an OPS of .936. In 1958, Cincinnati unveiled another star rookie outfielder, Vada Pinson, who would enjoy a long MLB career and, with Robinson, help lead the 1961 Reds to the National League pennant. Paul also signed a working agreement with the Havana Sugar Kings of the Triple-A International League, giving the team access to top Cuban talent such as shortstop Leo Cardenas and future "Big Red Machine" icon Tony Pérez. In addition, the Reds produced Cuban stars such as outfielder Tony González, second baseman Cookie Rojas, and pitcher Mike Cuellar — among many others — who made their mark with other MLB clubs.

                                The Cincinnati team of the mid-1950s — then temporarily nicknamed the Redlegs because of the anti-communism of the time — captured the country's imagination as a team of sluggers. With a lineup that included Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Gus Bell, Wally Post and Ed Bailey, the 1956 Redlegs hit 221 home runs and won 91 games to finish third, only two games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers. Paul was named Executive of the Year. The following year, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick had to intervene when Cincinnati fans "stuffed" the ballot box and elected a virtually all-Redleg starting lineup to the National League All-Star team.

                                The Reds failed to improve upon their 1956 mark during Paul’s tenure, however, and after a disappointing 1960 season, Paul resigned to become the first general manager of the expansion Houston Colt .45s.

                                Houston Colt .45s/Cleveland Indians executive

                                Paul brought to Houston fellow Cincinnati executives Tal Smith and Bill Giles and began to lay the foundation for the team's 1962 debut, but he did not stay long. He clashed with majority owner Roy Hofheinz and reportedly had a standing offer from the Cleveland Indians to take over their front office, following the resignation of Frank Lane. So in April 1961, Paul returned to Ohio to assume command of the Indians, leaving the Colt .45s almost 12 months before the team ever played an official game.

                                The Indians of the early 1960s were a middle-echelon team in the American League that had contended for a pennant only twice (1955 and 1959) since its 1954 AL title. The team had lost its most popular gate attraction, slugger Rocky Colavito, in a Lane-engineered trade just before the 1960 season and the young players summoned from the team's farm system failed to capture the city's imagination. On November 26, 1962, Paul became a part-owner in the team, as well as president, treasurer and general manager, but the Indians continued to tread water in the standings and struggled badly at the gate. On multiple occasions, the club was rumored to be headed elsewhere. In 1964, the Indians' board of directors authorized Paul to investigate transferring the franchise to one of three cities: Oakland, Dallas or Seattle. But a new stadium lease with the city of Cleveland staved off the move.

                                On the field, Paul brought to Cleveland pitching stars Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant and, in 1965, reacquired Colavito in a bid to win more games, and more fans. But, after an encouraging 1968 season, the Indians plummeted in the standings. For a while, Paul gave up his general manager title to field manager Alvin Dark in an effort to change the club's fortunes.

                                New York Yankees club president/general manager

                                Finally, in 1973, Paul sold his interest in the Indians and became part of Steinbrenner’s Cleveland-based syndicate that purchased the Yankees from CBS. Installed as club president that year after the April departure of minority owner Michael Burke and the year-end departure of GM/interim president Lee MacPhail, Paul helped Steinbrenner rebuild the once-proud Yankees into a champion. The team won its first American League pennant in 12 years in 1976 and its first world championship since 1962 the following year.

                                The key to re-building the Yankees was a series of trades that Paul pulled off. He acquired in succession: Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow and Oscar Gamble from his former team, the Indians; Lou Piniella from the Royals; Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa from the Angels; Willie Randolph, Ken Brett and Dock Ellis from the Pirates; and Bucky Dent from the White Sox. He also signed Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson as free agents.

                                Paul, whose nickname was the "Smiling Cobra" for his expertise in trades, had his enemies, among them influential Cleveland radio host Pete Franklin, who said of Paul, "Gabe was a master at working the room, of getting to know everybody and knowing where all the bodies are. The thing about Gabe was that while he did work for an owner, he always found a way to get a piece of the team himself. Then it became damn near impossible to fire him because he was part-owner. Gabe's greatest gift was the ability to take care of Gabe." The Yankees were able to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series, Paul's only World Series victory.

                                The 1977 season, however, was Paul's last in the Bronx.

                                Return to the Cleveland Indians

                                After Al Rosen was brought into the Bronx as a senior executive in fall 1977—crowding Paul's authority much as Paul's presence did Mike Burke—Paul returned to Cleveland as president of the Indians in 1978. But he could never rouse the Tribe from their doldrums.

                                Paul retired in 1984 after almost 60 years in the game. He died at the age of 88 in Tampa, Florida.

                                Paul was played by actor Kevin Conway in the 2007 ESPN television mini-series The Bronx Is Burning.

                                1953: Buster Wills, Gabe Paul, Rogers Hornsby, Ford Barrison.
                                Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-24-2011, 02:36 PM.

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