For those of you emailing/commenting elsewhere that we’re a bunch of statheads who wouldn’t support anyone without a laptop for a head, could you please email us your favorite tobacco shop? We’d love to know what you’re smoking. We’ve argued continually here for a state-of-the-art modern hybrid GM, someone who weights scouting with performance evaluation, who won’t look at how good a guy looks in uniform if they flat can’t hit and won’t get overly enamored with someone who hits well while old in a hitter’s park in the minors. Dave and I endorsed Antonetti, not some RoboGM 2000.
What particularly bugs me about this is that we get crap for being stathead zealots who won’t listen to any opposing viewpoints and for being wishy-washy and not sticking to our guns when we do things like (for instance) detailed looks at Melvin’s managerial habits that show he’s not such an idiot after all. If everyone could get together and come up with one line of attack, that’d be a big help.
Rob Neyer once wrote —
If you think what I do is easy, then do it. Teach all of us something. And if you’re not ready to do that, then learn. Elsewise, you’re just wasting your time and ours.
Seriously, get out there and start writing. I would love to see an active Mariners blogsphere with dozens on dozens of other viewpoints, arguing over this stuff. Right now here’s what the other guys are saying:
The Safe thinks Bavasi’s an unknown
Mariner Musings hasn’t said anything pro/con yet.
The SS Mariner isn’t happy.
Dave’s Mariner Blog comes back from a month-long hiatus to say Bavasi’s a good choice. In particular, that Mo Vaughn was a perfectly defensible signing… which is crazy talk.
Bob Mong was distracted by the ferry sale.
The Bremerton dudes “have a good feeling” about Bavasi.
Bill Bavasi and the AL West
A historical perspective
One of the best ways to evaluate a team is by how efficent they are, using replacement level. Doug Pappas has done a lot of work around this: a team of scrubs can win fifty games for a couple million, so you need to look at how much each team pays to get over fifty wins. In that way, the Yankees, who pay a ton and win a ton, come off well, and the A’s of late, who pay little to win almost as much, are even better. But the Mets, who have a top payroll and stink, look terrible. With that in mind, here’s how the AL West shook out during the Bavasi years.
What’s that mean? Well, when Bavasi really got a budget in 1999, he blew it: he spent that money on some awful stuff. Of course, the M’s did that in 1998, too.
Take those six years together.
The Angels were the worst at using their budgets, limited or not, to improve the team. The A’s, who started here spending wildly, thrashing around trying to bring a championship to their dying owner, still managed to come out ahead of the Angels by a ways.
Don’t tell me Bavasi is somehow not responsible for that last year. I’ve never had much patience for the “well, if you drop his disastrous outings, Bobby Ayala was pretty decent” school of statistics, and I’m not going to let it in here. Bavasi gave those bad contracts out, and that should be taken into account.
Woody Woodard was a better GM than Bill Bavasi.
Now, Derek, lets not get too emotional about this. Yeah, I would have preferred a different type of GM, and I’m not bubbling over thinking that Bavasi believes Gillick was a master of roster manipulation, excellent at filling out his roster with solid 24th and 25th guys, which is just obviously not true.
However, its a press conference. His quotes mean absolutely nothing. Its chicken feed for media types to fill column inches. Its public relations. To be honest, I’d be more worried if he had come out, ripped Gillick’s philosophies to shreds, torn the old-school mentality a new one, and proclaimed that a new day was dawning. Bavasi showed respect and class for those who laid the groundwork for what he is about to attempt to build. Had he come out and said anything remotely negative about the previous regime, I’d be concerned about his ability to work within a management structure and handle the press effectively.
Bill Bavasi is a giant mixed bag. There are positives and negatives, and we really have no idea what kind of GM he’s going to be here in Seattle. Those who are extremely excited about his hiring are misguided, being led on by quotes a decade old and presuming to know something about his abilities that we simply have no chance of ascertaining. On the other hand, those ready to throw themselves off a bridge are misguided, as we’ve had 4 years of experience that a GM who does not do things the sabermetric way can succeed in this organization. He might say some dumb things to the press, but Billy Beane called Eric Chavez a better player than Alex Rodriguez in Moneyball, which is the most indefensible value comparison I’ve ever heard a GM publically make. When you’re being asked hundreds of thousands of questions a year, you’re invariably going to say some things that just aren’t that smart. Judging a man’s ability to run this franchise based on what he said to a reporter is bad analysis.
I stumped for Chris Antonetti harder than anyone, because I believe his blend of statistical analysis combined with his experience in an organization that emphasizes scouting and player development more than any other would have been a tremendous blend for the Mariners. I’m not sure a sabermetric-only GM like Paul DePodesta would have worked here, and I’m not sad that he didn’t get the job. Bill Bavasi might turn out to be a bad fit, a mini-Gillick who repeats the mistakes of the previous management, but he might not. There are qualities that make up a good general manager that we simply have no possible way of knowing about Bill Bavasi right now that devoid us of any ability to make a strong stance either way on this issue.
The logical point of view on this hire is that he deserves a chance to succeed. If he gives a contract to Mark McLemore, attempts to lure Ken Hill out of retirement, and trades Clint Nageotte for Lenny Harris, I will skewer him more than anyone else. But to write him off because of what he told the media yesterday, well, thats just not like you. Give Bavasi a chance. If he’s awful, you can bet we’ll let him have it. But there’s no point in being negative when there’s not enough evidence to give us reason to be.
I don’t want to be negative. I really don’t. But… from the Everett Herald:
“”The person we’ve selected is, in my opinion, the perfect fit for this organization, and the man who can help lead us to the next level,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said. “He’s smart, confident, enthusiastic and decisive. He’s an experienced and knowledgeable baseball executive who is well-respected by his peers.”
Bavasi, at best, is a decent hire: a guy who understands technology is changing the game but loves his veteran scouts, a scouting and development guy who hasn’t done particularly well at scouting and development. While Gillick had his flaws, there’s no evidence Bavasi does not share those flaws. To say that he’s going to take the team to the next level… no. Bavasi’s a caretaker GM, a safe an inoffensive pick. The person to take the team to the next level would have to be someone who took risks or, at worst, brought strengths to the team that the team did not already have. Bavasi doesn’t offer that.
But that’s not the kick in the groin. This is:
“During Friday’s press conference, Bill Bavasi expressed admiration for Gillick’s ability to manipulate a roster, and for San Francisco GM Brian Sabean’s ability to recognize veteran players who bring the right competitive spirit to the clubhouse. He also praised Anaheim’s 2002 offensive style of putting the ball in play and moving runners around the bases, rather than waiting for the big blow.”
If Bavasi is sincere about this, we’re fucked. We’re totally and utterly fucked. I would not buy tickets for next year if I hadn’t already committed. This is fertilizer-grade manure, and we’re going to see flowers grow in the outfield at Safeco before we see a team advance in the playoffs.
What the Mariners need is not more veteran leadership — that’s exactly what led to the massive, stupid contracts for Dan Wilson, Mark McLemore, etc etc. This is a team in a weird, delicate position:
– competitive but greatly flawed major league team
– many, many quality pitchers rising in the farm system
– few position prospects in the farm system
Olerud needs a platoon partner. The team needs to figure out what they’re going to do in the outfield, and cobble together a quality bullpen with two lefties or put Box Melvin in a room with some guys who will beat the matchup fixation out of him.
Reader Jen Van Dijk (who you’ll remember was officially endorsed on these electronic pages) writes:
“So, there’s this baseball team, and they build a big lead in the first half, only to see it go to waste during the dog days of August & September because they totally choke and the second place team in their division is kicking ass & taking names. The GM of this team is criticized for not making any moves before the deadline.
Sound familiar? It’s the Mariners of 2002 or 2003 (take your pick), and the GM is Pat Gillick, right? WRONG!!!!!! It’s the 1995 Angels and the GM is Bill Bavasi!
It’s nice to know we’re getting someone different and interesting with fresh ideas.”
You see why were so impressed by Jen Van Dijk we gave her our full endorsement.
I just wrote an amazingly long post on Bavasi’s years at the helm of the Angels as part of the AL West during that time and lost it when I hit ‘post’ and the dumb wireless router I’m borrowing flaked out, which mean blogger cleared the ‘post’ box, started to load the page and then… boom. Post dropped into the ether somewhere.
I may re-do it tomorrow, probably editing this one, but short version: the contention that Bavasi was limited by payroll and would do better with a larger budget is not supported by data.