So, What Did I Miss?
I’m back, unpacked, and amazingly, didn’t receive a single toaster. Apparently, while I was away, the Cubs decided to throw away their season, the Rays and Red Sox proved that the 2008 AL East is the best division we’ve seen in a long, long time, and lots of people told the M’s “thanks but no thanks”. I know seeing good candidates turn away is frustrating, but despair not – the Pirates ran into this same thing last year, getting turned down by several of their top choices before settling on the other Cleveland Asst. GM, Neil Huntington. He clearly wasn’t their first choice, but since taking over, he’s completely reshaped the way the Pirates were run, even hiring Dan Fox to run their statistical analysis department.
To be honest, in catching up on what happened in the last 10 days, I’m encouraged. The list of people the M’s have wanted to interview reads like a who’s-who of USSM approved thinkers. The M’s didn’t even bother to talk to the guys who were holding the Forst-Hahn-Hoyer-Depo roles the last time around, but this time, an older school guy like Bernazard stands out as unique among the candidates. The M’s are clearly looking at the young analytical types as the group they’d like to hire from, and I don’t see how anyone can take that as a bad sign. Even though we’re not going to get Antonetti, it looks very unlikely that we’re going to get a guy who will continue the current practices of the organization. It’s quite probable that the M’s are going to hire a GM who is much more in tune with how baseball teams should be operating in the 21st century.
Of the guys we know they’ve interviewed (thanks to Larry Stone, who has done great work covering this so far), I’m throwing my hat behind Peter Woodfork. From talking with a couple friends who have interacted with Woodfork, the consensus seems to be that he knows his strengths and weaknesses well and is more interested in organization building than legacy building. Due to his time in labor relations with the commissioner’s office and his various duties in Boston and Arizona, he’s become quite proficient in the contract/arbitration/rules aspect of the game, and he has a good grasp on real analytical processes. His degree from Harvard is in Psychology, however, and his perceptions of players as people instead of numbers helps him in his interactions with scouts and player evaluation types.
More than anything else, Woodfork has developed a reputation as a team guy – he’s not the Billy Beane from Moneyball, a one man show who does it all, but instead, he’s much more like Theo Epstein, who built a management group with perspectives varying from Bill James to Allard Baird. While Theo’s in charge, the Red Sox have a heavily involved ownership, not that different from the Mariners structure. Epstein has figured out how to leverage that involvement into a positive, building a team that can work well in such an environment, and that’s what’s needed in Seattle as well.
Woodfork has essentially grown up in baseball in two organizations that are running their teams the right way. He’s the mix of an analytical mind with the personality to integrate with Bob Engle and Bob Fontaine that the organization could really use. There need to be significant changes in how the baseball operations department is ran, but the amateur talent evaluators are a strength, not a weakness, and Woodfork’s ability to work with them is a real positive on his resume.
The Mariners need a GM that is willing to build a team of decision makers that focus on finding the right answer as often as possible, and Woodfork comes with the reputation of a guy who will do exactly that. For that reason, he’s my candidate, and the guy I’m hoping they hire.
Woodfork in ’09.