Antonetti in ’08
You may have noticed over on the left sidebar that there’s an image that looks an awful lot like a political button. In a sense, it is a political button, though for an election that isn’t run by democracy. Due to the way the offseason is unfolding, it is becoming apparent to us that, barring an unforseen miracle, the Mariners aren’t going to be contenders in 2007. Even in a best case scenario, where the young core takes a step forward and the aging veterans stave off decline, this is still an inferior team to that of the Angels, Rangers, and Athletics.
Given a public ultimatum to win or lose their jobs, the Mariners current baseball operations department will begin the year as underdogs, and it’s a distinction they’ve earned with moves like the Horacio Ramirez acquisition. Simpy put, this regime couldn’t afford to have a bad offseason following the Jarrod Washburn and Carl Everett debacles of last year, and while we have yet to see a disaster along the lines of those two signings, it’s fairly evident that the Mariners are not going to be able to sufficiently upgrade the team this winter in order to expect to challenge for the division crown next year.
So, we believe that a change in management is inevitable. While we will be the first to say that Bill Bavasi is a good person, and he’s been kind enough to spend time talking with us the past couple of years, we’re endorsing Chris Antonetti as his replacement. Like any good grass roots campaign, you can never start too soon, and this is a cause worthy of your support.
So, without further ado, an introduction to the man we hope is the next General Manager of the Seattle Mariners.
Who is Chris Antonetti?
He is currently the Assistant General Manager to Mark Shapiro, working for the Cleveland Indians. He is Shapiro’s go to guy on contract negotiations and evaluative analysis, as well as spear-heading most of the initiatives to create new programs that give the Indians a competitive edge on his opponents. The Indians have been the leader in using technology to their advantage for years, and they’ve leveraged their intellectual knowledge of systems into a sustained advantage on the field. Antonetti has been the man responsible for overseeing these areas and pushing for their use throughout the organization. A lot of the things that make the Cleveland Indians the best run organization in baseball are in place due to the work of Chris Antonetti.
Why is he qualified to be a major league GM?
Antonetti is going to be labeled as a “Moneyball” executive by the media, as he did not play professional baseball and has advanced degrees from elite universities. He got a bachelors in business administration from Georgetown and a masters in sports management from Massachusets, learning the academic side of how to be a successful manager. From there, he took a low level job with the Montreal Expos in their minor league operations department before joining the Indians organization in 1999 as, essentially, an intern. From 1999 until now, he has worked his way from the title of Assistant, Baseball Operations to Assistant GM (a position he earned in 2002), and has held numerous roles during that time. The Indians have had him work in both administrative and player development positions, and he’s spent numerous hours working with both scouts and statistical analysts.
No one understands how to use both subjective scouting information and quantifiable statistical data together as well as the Indians, and Antonetti has been successful in both sides of the baseball operations department. Under the leadership of John Hart and now Mark Shapiro, the Indians have become baseball’s most well-oiled machine. Antonetti has been a vital cog in that machine for the past seven years.
What are his unique strengths?
Antonetti has many things going for him, but a few notable traits set him apart. He’s brilliant, without a doubt, but there a lot of people in baseball who are extremely smart, and most of them would make terrible general managers. The most important responsibility a General Manager holds is to gain the respect of those who work for him and motivate them to do good work. In this respect, Antonetti is set apart from other executives with an academic background. He commands the respect of his employees, but also exudes humility with his soft-spoken manner. While he has his own set of convictions about truths as they apply to baseball, he seeks input from a variety of sources and seeks to find knowledge wherever it may lie, whether with new statistical research or old scouting truisms.
Antonetti isn’t the most outgoing person on earth, and he’s not the charasmatic figure that Billy Beane or even Bill Bavasi is, but he combines respect, humility, and intelligence in a package that makes him one of the best leaders of people in baseball.
Why do you want him to be the next GM of the Mariners?
The Mariners are an organization in transition and are looking for an identity. During the Pat Gillick era, the team focused heavily on the present success of the major league club at the expense of the farm system, and while they experienced short term gains on the field, the price was paid during the Bill Bavasi era, where the major league club was sacrficed in an effort to replenish the organization with young talent, both through trades and amateur acquisitions.
Now, however, the team has the foundation of a potential contender in place, with guys that can be built around in their pre-arbitration years and a nucleus of young talent that should form the basis for the Mariners in the near future. Bill Bavasi and his staff have done a very good job of changing the culture of the club towards valuing building from within, and he has helped get the team through the painful process of rebuilding. However, in all his years of running a franchise, both in Anaheim and now in Seattle, he’s yet to show a particular aptitude for surrounding that young talent with quality major league players.
Chris Antonetti understands player valuation at the major league level extremely well, and has had a hand in many of the Indians numerous good acquisitions over the years. While the Indians have shared the Mariners strong desire to build through the farm system, they’ve also been able to acquire quality players in trades and on the free agent market to put around their home grown talent, allowing them to contend in a competitive division despite restraints on their payroll.
The Mariners need a better philosophy of major leauge player acquisition. They need to do a better job of selecting pitchers, getting away from ideas of value based on minimually useful statistics such as W-L record and ERA and moving towards a more realistic understanding of how to project pitching ability. They need to stop collecting athletes with impressive skills and start collecting ballplayers who contribute runs on the field.
Most importantly, however, they need a philosophy that permeates the organization, from the parent club through the minor leagues. They need cohesiveness in what is being taught to their players as well as what is valued in terms of abilities. They need to establish a foundation to work from and a strong identity in what being a Seattle Mariner is all about.
The Indians have refined organizational cohesiveness, and while no one is perfect, they do it better than anyone.
Well, if he’s so great, then why does he need a grassroots campaign to get the job?
Chris Antonetti is 32-years-old, is unheard of by almost everyone who doesn’t cover baseball for a living, and has no experience as a professional ballplayer. In the eyes of most of the media, this will make him just another laptop-toting seamhead who focuses on what their computer tells them and has no respect for the establishment. For every Theo Epstein, who gained a modicum of respect after building a World Series champion, we see scathing rebukes written by local scribes when teams have hired guys with similar backgrounds, such as Paul DePodesta, Josh Byrnes, Jon Daniels, Andrew Friedman, or J.P. Ricciardi. In a city where Pat Gillick and his traditional ways are honored with the highest esteem, it’s going to be a very tough sell to get the Mariners to change directions and hire someone too young to be elected president.
In a division where Arte Moreno is willing to spend lavish amounts of money to leverage the Los Angeles market, Oakland is taking their highly efficient development strategy to a new ballpark, and Tom Hicks’ huge dollars in Texas are now being managed by a high quality team of executives led by Jon Daniels, the Mariners cannot afford to be behind the eight ball in terms of player evaluation.
The Mariners have the revenue streams and talent in place to build a contending baseball club. Chris Antonetti has the skills it takes to transform this club from a rebuilding process into perennial contender.
Antonetti in ’08. Spread the word.