So, What Did I Miss?

Dave · October 13, 2008 at 6:51 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


37 Responses to “So, What Did I Miss?”

  1. Brent on October 13th, 2008 7:17 am

    Welcome back!

    From the reading I’ve done, he’s definitely the most intriguing. With his pedigree from the esteemed institutions in Boston and Arizona, he seems like the right choice.

  2. The Ancient Mariner on October 13th, 2008 7:35 am

    That sounds great. I know Derek’s been worried about Huck Lincstrong talking about wanting “collaborative decision-making” and whether any of these guys is really the next genius; but it seems to me that we don’t so much need the next genius as somebody who can tell who the geniuses are — both on the scouting side and on the analytical side — and build a team of them, then make Huck and Lincstrong feel like they’re included in the conversation so that they buy into the ideas of the folks who really know what they’re talking about. The money guys aren’t going to take being made to feel stupid, and they aren’t going to take “write the checks and go away,” after all; and really, if we have a GM who can keep them in the loop in a productive fashion, so much the better. It sounds like Woodfork’s humble enough not to care who takes the credit, so he’s a guy who could do that and build that sort of team; so now I have a guy I can really root for. Thanks.

  3. gwangung on October 13th, 2008 7:40 am

    Well, the conditions still have me VERY concerned, but the Ancient Mariner does have it right. If the new GM builds a good staff, and includes HowChuck in every decision and lays down solid reasons for doing what needs to be done, it’s not going to matter–they’ll be in the loop and they’ll be working off of good data.

    Hope they learn the RIGHT lessons from Gillick and Bavasi–don’t torpedo a decision for a measly million dollars if the decision is a good one and don’t check off on a multi-million dollar decision if its a bad one.

    (So…you really do want a toaster, hm? Where do we send it?)

  4. Colm on October 13th, 2008 7:55 am

    I really wanted a Dualit Toaster as a wedding present, until I realized that in this country they cost as much an entry-level bicycle (as opposed to England, where they merely cost as much as a good pair of shoes).

    I did, however, find a perfectly serviceable Hello Kitty toaster in the Good Will store for only $2.

    Perhaps there is a moral in this for the Mariners?

  5. msb on October 13th, 2008 8:14 am

    it is really hard to find a good toaster.

  6. vj on October 13th, 2008 8:33 am

    A good pair of shoes costs more than an entry-level bike, even in the UK. Maybe that was your point, Colm?

  7. joser on October 13th, 2008 8:53 am

    Colm, I don’t follow — in this country a good pair of shoes costs a lot more than an entry level bicycle (unless you’re one of these people who thinks “entry-level” involves exotic materials assembled in former MiG factories). So you thought you’d be letting your wedding guests off the hook by requesting a cheap gift?

    And the Hello Kitty toaster is awesome. But some home appliances are even better.

    Anyway, back to the GM roundabout — Dave, do you have a ranking of the rest of the field, ie if they don’t go for Woodfork, who would you be least disappointed to see as the actual pick, and so on? What if they go through these pro-forma interviews and it ends up being Lee P?

    And, since we’re on the subject of speculative ranking, what about managers? The Boston Globe seems to think Ken Macha will be given “strong consideration” — though I don’t know how they’d know that since the to-be-hired GM presumably would have strong input into the decision (unless, as I said, the interviews are pro-forma and they’re planning to go with Lee P “The best man for the job was already doing it all along,” said Howard Lincoln in announcing the removal of “interim” from his title…). Then again, on the next page the same Globe writer suggests Bobby Valentine “has his sights set on Seattle” — oh, and throws in a Ken-Griffey-to-Seattle rumor for good measure.

    So, yeah, maybe the point of this is “don’t read the Boston Globe.”

  8. joser on October 13th, 2008 9:02 am

    Just wondering out loud here, but is it possible some of the GM candidates who took themselves out of the running (ie Hahn) are hoping for a shot at the Cubs’ GM job if Cuban buys the team and ousts Hendry? Granted, you’d be working for Cuban, but that’s got to be considered a plum job. Then again, that’s the end of a pretty long chain of speculative circumstances, and good GMs don’t plan around a series of breaks going their way. That, of course, is a job for M’s ownership.

    And apparently there are toasters assembled from exotic materials in former MiG factories, but I wouldn’t call them entry-level. (Does anybody remember the artist loft / “toaster museum” that used to be down in the gallery area south of Pioneer Sq, back when rents in that area were low enough for there to be eclectic things like artist lofts / toaster museums?)

  9. Dave on October 13th, 2008 9:07 am

    Just so I don’t end up with a mailbox full of toasters, I didn’t want one – I already owned a far superior toaster oven.

  10. The Ancient Mariner on October 13th, 2008 9:09 am

    Yeah, all hail the toaster oven, no question. (Good ones, anyway.)

  11. PositivePaul on October 13th, 2008 9:39 am

    HAHAHA yeah!

    We put a specific brand toaster oven on our Christmas wishlist once, just so we could have all of our kitchen appliances be the same brand. My parents bought the first and only one they’ve ever seen. Of course this toaster oven pretty much rocks anyway, but we wanted it specifically for the brand-matching reason. Now that we’re in our new house, said toaster oven doesn’t match our appliances any more and the stainless steel sticks out like a sore thumb.

    With Engle being a candidate, I’m curious if he’d be willing to stick around in a lesser-role if he’s one of the runners up. ANY GM worth their weight should recognize his value to the team and I would hope they’d want to keep him and Fontaine around. It’ll be interesting to follow what happens to those two throughout this process.

  12. Colm on October 13th, 2008 9:49 am

    Piffle – good shoes = Red Wings
    Still made (substantially) right there in Minnesota and yours for under $200

    I’m not riding anything with two wheels that costs less than $400 in the shop (and that’s pushing it). Those “bikes” you see in Target and WalMart aren’t bikes at all, but BSOs

  13. msb on October 13th, 2008 9:49 am

    hoping for a shot at the Cubs’ GM job if Cuban buys the team and ousts Hendry? Granted, you’d be working for Cuban, but that’s got to be considered a plum job.

    of course, Cuban was floating the notion that the economic hits might slow the sale

  14. argh on October 13th, 2008 10:23 am

    didn’t receive a single toaster

    Of course you didn’t. You’re married now so get those thoughts out of your mind.

  15. Steve T on October 13th, 2008 10:53 am

    Woodfork also presents the best pun material, as in “stick a woodfork in ’em, they’re done”.

  16. argh on October 13th, 2008 11:07 am

    Not to mention children’s rhyme possibilities:

    How much wood could a woodfork fork,
    if a woodfork could fork wood?

    Bet he never heard that one before.

  17. Jim Thomsen on October 13th, 2008 11:15 am

    So, Dave … what’s your new last name?

  18. TomTuttle on October 13th, 2008 11:26 am

    hahaha, well, this definitely means we aren’t hiring Woodfork and will opt to go with Bernazard or Puppet Pelekoudas instead since you jinxed it Dave.

    At least, let’s hope that’s not the case. . .

    You’ve sold me though, I’m personally pulling for Ng or Woodfork at this point.

  19. Jeff Nye on October 13th, 2008 1:02 pm

    So, Dave … what’s your new last name?


  20. Otto on October 13th, 2008 1:22 pm

    Jeff That was brutal.

    I was hoping for Ng just to shake things up a bit here but I think my view has been swayed a bit to also accept Woodfork. Either way I need to see a better team that was Frankensteined together last year.

  21. VictorB on October 13th, 2008 1:49 pm

    Jim Hendry may be available.

    long link, please use the link button

  22. The Ancient Mariner on October 13th, 2008 2:37 pm

    Ick — why would we want Hendry?

  23. cheeseheadtransplantmax on October 13th, 2008 2:57 pm

    “Vidro”-I agree with Otto, that was brutal. What I want to see is a jersey with Bavasi’s sub-Mariners on the front, and a list of names on the back, like Speizio, Aurilia, Silva, Sexson…you get it, so I’ll stop tormenting you. First Post, BTW.

  24. DaddyO on October 13th, 2008 3:03 pm

    I’m nervous about the prospect of a Mariners GM whose last name begins with “Wood…”

    Except for 1995, bad memories.

  25. TomTuttle on October 13th, 2008 4:12 pm

    I’m nervous about the prospect of a Mariners GM whose last name begins with “Wood…”

    Except for 1995, bad memories.


  26. G-Man on October 13th, 2008 4:58 pm


    Isn’t it fun to watch both Varitek and Lowe in the playoffs, while the M’s sit at home?!

  27. Mid80sRighty on October 13th, 2008 5:20 pm

    As much as I despise both Lincoln and Armstrong, at least I’ve heard some good stuff come out of Lincoln’s mouth. He’s talked a lot about “soul searching” and wanting to take the team in a new direction by getting some “new blood,” that sort of stuff. And then we see the list of candidates and it looks like they might actually make a good decision here…maybe Lincoln has turned over a new leaf. Armstrong, on the other hand, is just spitting out the same drival we’ve heard for years…i.e. they want to be “kept in the loop.” To my understanding, Lincoln hasn’t made this kind of statement this time around. So, maybe there’s some differing points of view with the Mariner brass??

    Anyway, I’m still betting Ng gets the job, just a feeling. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Woodfork get it either….which wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

  28. Breadbaker on October 13th, 2008 6:00 pm

    Timlin’s in the playoffs, too, although I have to admit that the second they brought him in (with the graphic, “hasn’t pitched since September 28 versus NYY”), I turned to Mrs. Breadbaker (a/k/a Cookie Baker) and said, “The Rays have just won the game.”

    More on topic, let me second The Ancient Mariner. The qualifications of the new GM include “making Chuck and Howard feel they’re involved in decisions they wouldn’t have made in a million years.” If Woodfork can do that, that’s half the battle right there.

  29. joser on October 13th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Isn’t it fun to watch both Varitek and Lowe in the playoffs, while the M’s sit at home?!

    And Moyer. And Dobbs.

    And Breadbaker: as soon as Timlin came in, all the Red Sox fans sitting around me at the bar said essentially the same thing (well, that seemed to be the gist peeking through the polysyllabic profanity).

  30. Dayve on October 13th, 2008 9:14 pm

    Say what you want about Gillick, but he’s once again in the playoffs and once again is one game from a World Series.

  31. msb on October 13th, 2008 9:39 pm

    Kirby Arnold has a blog entry pointing out that the M’s are actually have fewer former players in the post season than other teams… the entry is now preceeded by an entry on the discussion around the M’s GM job in “baseball circles”

  32. Humongo on October 13th, 2008 10:14 pm


  33. msb on October 14th, 2008 12:43 pm

    Baker is back, and blogs his two cents about the candidates

  34. msb on October 14th, 2008 1:29 pm

    and ESPN does a little editorializing with its headlines:

    “Mariners struggle to find GM”

  35. Breadbaker on October 14th, 2008 2:55 pm

    Baker does a good job of making the Armstrong quote about autonomy seem innocuous. I still think it’s leading with your chin, though. The right person for this job should have the ego to think that his or her decisions will be so good that management will simply rubber-stamp them out of respect. I read Armstrong’s quote as saying if you interview like that, you’re wasting your time.

  36. Dave on October 14th, 2008 3:27 pm

    If somebody really had the ego to think that his or her decisions were so good that they didn’t want any outside advice, I’d have no interest in hiring them either.

    The best run organizations are the ones where collaboration is encouraged. Boston, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Arizona – there isn’t one guy running around making decisions in a vacuum. Beane’s probably the most autonomous GM in the game, and he still has a team of assistants that are heavily involved in decision making. It’s not like David Forst is just shining his shoes.

  37. Adam S on October 14th, 2008 9:19 pm

    Welcome back and congratulations. As a Cubs fan, trust me, you didn’t miss much 🙁

    I hope the M’s choose wisely. As you’ve said this time and least 1/2 of the list represents a new line of thinking, rather than 90% old school guys.

    P.S. I have a DeLonghi toaster oven I got as a wedding gift. It rocks.

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