Thursday, July 25, 2013

Assessing The Royals General Managers

Cedric Tallis

196974 • 460-503 (.478)
2 winning seasons 0 playoff appearances

10+ rWAR acquisitions (13): Paul Splittorff, Dick Drago, Al Fitzmorris, Frank White, Al Cowens, Amos Otis, Freddie Patek, John Mayberry, Hal McRae, George Brett, Steve Busby, Dennis Leonard, Willie Wilson

Wow. That list of acquisitions speaks for itself. The original GM put together a 1969 team that finished well ahead of the other three expansion babies (Expos, Pilots, Padres), and had a winning team in just his third year on the job. His players came from a nice mix of drafts and one-sided trades. He laid the talented foundation that made the Royals a model franchise for a quarter century. Why Ewing Kauffman let him go I do not know. (Click here for Steve Treder's more in-depth review of Tallis's time with KC.)

Joe Burke

197581 607-468 (.565)
6 winning seasons • 5 playoff appearances

10+ rWAR acquisitions (5): Dan Quisenberry, Larry Gura, Darrell Porter, Bud Black, Mark Gubicza

Burke deserves plenty of credit for having the highest winning percentage among Royals GMs, a stunning five playoff appearances, and the 1980 AL pennant. But he was also riding on Tallis's coat tails to some extent. With some notable exceptions, the nucleus of those great teams was made up of Tallis guys. Still, Burke had to fill in plenty of pieces, and he did so well enough. His drafts were pretty dreadful however, with Mark Gubicza being his only real hit. (He also drafted David Cone in '81, but it was only after the re-acquisition of Cone in the '90s that the Royals got value out of him.)

John Schuerholz

1982—90 • 754-702 (.518)
6 winning seasons • 2 playoff appearances

10+ rWAR acquisitions (10): Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt, Kevin Seitzer, Danny Tartabull, Mike Macfarlane, Tom Gordon, Steve Farr, Jeff Montgomery, Danny Jackson, Kevin Appier

Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Remarkably, Schuerholz acquired seven of the top 20 rWAR pitchers in team history, including the top two in Appier and Saberhagen. How a GM who seemingly knew pitching so well also made the horrendous David Cone trade is a puzzle. But Schuerholz's overall results are impressive, obviously highlighted by the team's lone championship. 

Herk Robinson

1991—2000 • 727-824 (.469)
3 winning seasons • 0 playoff appearances

10+ rWAR acquisitions (8): David Cone, Joe Randa, Mike Sweeney, Johnny Damon, Jose Rosado, Jeff Suppan, Carlos Beltran, David DeJesus

Robinson's tenure bridges the gap from the team's continued respectability through Kauffman's death in '93/the '94 strike and the wheels falling off ever since. Robinson was unable to continue his three predecessors' success in stocking the team with elite pitching talent. He did acquire some offensive help, but in the end, wasn't able to overcome the challenges of the ownership mess after Kauffman's death.

Allard Baird

2001—06 • 386-586 (.397)
1 winning season • 0 playoff appearances

10+ rWAR acquisitions (3): Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon

And things get really ugly. But it's difficult to know how to separate the blame between Baird and ownership. New owner David Glass tied Baird's hands by offering no support, and possibly even direct meddling with baseball decisions. Baird had an impossible task, but at least managed one fluke winning season that gave the fans a thrill late into 2003. That the savvy Red Sox front office scooped him up right away, and continues to employ him, suggests Baird did/does have potential as a GM, if only given some resources to work with.

Dayton Moore

2007—13 • 505-629 (.445)
1 winning season • 0 playoff appearances

10+ rWAR acquisitions (3): Gil Meche, Joakim Soria, Salvador Perez

Moore has operated under the same owner as Baird, but under completely different circumstances. To Moore's credit, he convinced Glass to spend freely on scouting and signing promising amateurs. And Moore did put together a universally lauded collection of talent in the minors. And the book is still being written on many of Moore's acquisitions, but we are past the point when his players should be bearing fruit in the form of winning major league games. Other GMs have done more, quicker, with less than Moore has had to work with. Amassing minor league talent is but one part of a GM's task, but it seems to be the extent of Moore's abilities. His prospects have not been developed well or quickly enough, and they have not been augmented by the necessary astute moves at the major league level. It took seven full seasons before a Royals team merely won more than they lost under Moore's leadership. He has been given more than enough time and resources to put the Royals back in the post-season. 

Winning percentages by year. Yellow dots indicate playoff appearances.

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