Orioles fans, this is your time. This week, we’ll present three of the four GMs who brought you the awesome O’s of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. The ones who made the Orioles into a team rivaled by only the Dodgers for the best organization in baseball by creating “The Oriole Way.” We’re talking today about Lee MacPhail, Harry Dalton, and Frank Cashen. All three had long, successful careers after Charm City: MacPhail resurrected the Yankees then became AL President; Dalton brought Harvey’s Wallbangers to the only World Series in Brewers history; Cashen turned the laughing-stock Mets into the dominant team of the late 1980s. These are guys with long, impressive resumes.
Behind the scenes, we are working very hard to bring you more info about important GMs. There are probably 100 or so team builders eligible through 2016 with substantial careers. We’ve completed 20, and about 15 strong candidates. The number of strong candidates out there is probably about 30. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing information on well-known GMs including the great Ed Barrow as well as Sandy Alderson, the Tigers’ Jim Campbell, the Giants’ Chub Feeney, and the Indians’ John Hart. We’ve also got a couple of not so well thought of GMs in the offing, the White Sox’ Ed Short and Toronto’s Gord Ash. Meantime, in the background, we’ll be working on the following to round out our initial burst of great team builders:
- George Weiss (1950s Yankees and HoMEr)
- Joe Burke (1970s/1980s Royals)
- Bing Devine (1960s Cardinals)
- Barney Dreyfuss (1900s Pirates and NL President)
- Charlie Finley (1960s/1970s A’s)
- Warren Giles (1930s/1940s Reds and NL President)
- Walt Jockey (1990s/2000s Cardinals)
- Dick O’Connell (1960s/1970s Red Sox)
- Paul Owens (1970s Phillies)
- Hank Peters (1970s/1980s Orioles)
- Bill Veeck, Jr. (Hall of Famer)
- Cedric Tallis (1970s Royals)
If there’s anyone that you think we’re leaving out, please drop their names into the comments below!
Without further ado, let’s visit Birdsland.
- RECORD: Won-Loss record while GM was in office
- PCT: Winning percentage
- vs EXP: An adaptation of the expected wins formula Bill James introduced in his managers book. Except we use pythagenpat records instead of actual records to calculate it.
- OCT: Postseason apperances (starting in 1969).
- OCT v EXP: Measures postseason appearances against the basic probability of any random team making it.
- WS APP: World Series appearances
- WS APP v EXP: Similar to OCT v EXP
- WS WINS: Championships won
- WS WINS v EXP: Ditto
- MGR PYTH: This is the team’s variance against its Pythagenpat record as a measure of how much value the GM’s manager brought to the team.
|NAME||RECORD||PCT.||VS EXP||OCT||OCT VS EXP||WS APP||WS APP VS EXP||WS WINS||WS WINS VS EXP||MGR PYTH|
Dalton and MacPhail get a lot of credit for improving their squads. They were well above expectations. Cashen’s first job was maintaining those great early 1970s Orioles teams, and it’s hard to do better than 109 wins. Of course, a big stumbling block for MacPhail is the lack of October baseball on his resume. A mitigating factor in that, however, is that both the O’s and the Yankees went to the World Series soon after he left due to the talent he had assembled. Most of Dalton’s post-season resume, in fact, can be seen as an extension of MacPhail’s work. Even Frank Robinson. MacPhail set the trade up and left it in Dalton’s lap to say yay/nay to. Harry chose….wisely.
Now let’s look at how the GMs themselves did at constructing competitive clubs. BASE: Talent in WAR that a GM inherited
- GM: Talent in WAR that a GM acquired
- CONT GOAL: The amount of talent the GM needed to acquire to field a contender, a .550 team
- %GOAL: How close he got, a career average of the seasonal averages
- med%GOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL
- WS GOAL: The amount of talent the GM needed to acquire to field a typical WS entrant in his era
- %GOAL: How close he got, a career average if the seasonal averages
- med%GOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL
|NAME||BASE||GM||CONT GOAL||avg%GOAL||med%GOAL||WS GOAL||avg%GOAL||med%GOAL|
MacPhail’s major shortcoming is his inability to get his turnaround teams into October quickly enough to get the credit. In both Baltimore and New York, his slow, patient progress failed to yield a winner for him in a timely manner, but in both cases his acquisitions fueled dynasties. The long times spent in the desert by his teams shows up primarily in how far from World Series contention his teams were on average. In fact, no team of his had enough WAR to be viewed as a team of typical World Series strength.
Dalton has unusually large gaps between the average and median percentages for meeting our contention and World Series goals. This is a direct result of those great Oriole teams mentioned above. He made great moves for those teams, and they already had about 40 WAR of value baked in from players acquired before his ascension to the GM chair. The result is a tremendous amount of surplus value from 1969 through 1971. That does skew things a bit when we look at averages. The median cuts out some of the noise to give us a little more reasonable look. That said, Dalton also made some good moves around the margins with Milwaukee, taking a young and highly talented team, and pushing them over the top.
Cashen’s record looks like Dalton’s in this record if we mentally adjust for the puffiness of those late-60s Orioles squads. Cashen had to deal with the decline of both the Robinsons, Dave McNally, and a few other key contributors. He had effectively addressed these issues by 1975 before he departed, leaving Hank Peters the goods to build a strong team from in the ultra-competitive AL East of the time. In New York, the rebuild took time. Cashen, as we’ll soon see, drafted better than few others and made strong trades at the right time so that by 1984, the Mets had returned from the depths of baseball horror to the legitimate contention. In other words, he took Lee MacPhail and Harry Dalton’s playbook and applied it in New York to excellent result.
OK, let’s see what these guys actually did to build their teams.
- AM FA: Amateur free agent
- PUR: Purchased from another pro team
- FA: Free agent (includes the short-lived free-agent compensation picks of the early 1980s)
- AM DF: Amateur draft (any time of year, only players who signed with the team and played in MLB)
- R5 DF: Rule 5 Draft
- ML DF: Minor League Draft and First Year Draft
- ML XD: Expansion Draft
- TR: Trade
- WV: Waivers
- SLD: Players sold to other teams
- REL: Players released
- NOTE: Unkown transactions not included except in TOT
|NAME||AM FA||PUR||FA||AM DFT||R5 DFT||ML DFT||EX DFT||TR||WV||TOT|
|NAME||SOLD||REL||R5 DFT||ML DFT||EX DFT||TR||WV||TOT|
Cashen was all about the draft and the trade. Dalton chose from a wider menu of options, especially free agency. MacPhail, with much of his career before the draft, made outstanding use of the amateur free agent market, as we’ll see below, but overall used most of the player-acquisition channels.
|NAME||AM FA||PUR||FA||AM DFT||R5 DFT||ML DFT||EX DFT||TR||WV||TOT|
|NAME||SOLD||REL||R5 DFT||ML DFT||EX DFT||TR||WV||TOT|
Cashew’s drafting was really good. Here’s a quick list of the WAR each good GM got from the draft divided by how many drafts he participated in:
- Bavasi1: 59 WAR/draft (4 drafts)
- Quinn: 20 WAR/draft (7 drafts)
- Brown: 19 WAR/draft (12 drafts)
- Cashen: 15 WAR/draft (16 drafts)
- MacPhail2: 14 WAR/draft (8 drafts)
- Dalton: 12 WAR/draft (26 drafts)
- Gillick: 11 WAR/draft (27 drafts)
- Schuerholz: 11 WAR/draft (26 drafts)
- Campanis: 10 WAR/draft (18 drafts)
- Howsam: 7 WAR/draft (14 drafts)
Cashen is the second best drafter among GMs with long draft histories. And he got there with the Mets, right? Wrong. Even though Cashen’s teams routinely picked among the last several teams each year thanks to their excellent records, he actually picked 91 WAR of value from Eddie Murray, Mike Flanagan, and Rich Dauer. Then with the Mets came Strawberry, Gooden, Dykstra, Magadan, McDowell, Jeffries, Aguilera, Hundley, and even one of the Bobby Joneses.
MacPhail on the other hand, split his career between the pre-draft era and the draft era. His amateur free agents were pretty darned good: Jim Palmer, Mark Belanger, Dave McNally, Davey Johnson, Merv Rettenmund, Andy Etchebarren, and Eddie Wyatt. For the Yanks he drafted Munson and Guidry, but maybe his best drafting moment was in the old first-year draft of the early 1960s. Like the Rule 5 Draft, it was designed to keep teams from hoarding good young players. He swiped Paul Blair in this draft.
Dalton, as we mentioned took a little from every pot. Sign Dave Nilsson as an amateur free agent. Buy Gorman Thomas and Teddy Higuera away from their teams (the latter from a Mexican league squad). Draft Bobby Grich, Al Bumbry, Bill Wegman, Dan Plesac, B.J. Surhoff, Darryl Hamilton, Doug Decencies, Cal Eldred, Jeff Cirillo, Greg Vaughn, Chris Bosio, or Carney Lansford here, sign a Bobby Grich (with another team), or trade for a Frank Robinson, Don Buford, Mike Cuellar, or, most famously, Nolan Ryan there.
Of course, what’s most fun is to look at their trade record because that’s where they compete against their fellow GMs. All three were shrewd traders. Because of how we assess trades (by calculating departing value as all WAR after a player left until he either returned to the team or was granted free agency), it’s very hard for GMs to come out even over the long haul in swaps. Well, both Harry Dalton 285/284 and Lee MacPhail 195/166 did better than even, and Frank Cashen wasn’t all that far away 270/304. They join Larry MacPhail and Swapper Phil Seghi (a bad GM) as the only traders we’ve seen who finished in the black. Let’s take a look at their best and worst deals, any that fall into the range of being +10/-10 WAR for them.
You’ll see below that Cashen was aggressive in putting together key pieces during 1983 and 1984 because he knew that his young talent was about to arrive in force. Then by the last couple years of the decade, his magic touch had worn off and a certain desperation appeared to set in. Three of his worst trades occurred from 1988 onward, and his stupidest deal by far was one of them. Let’s be honest, Cashen did a great job, but dealing away a really good prime-aged centerfielder for a second baseman that you then convert to a centerfielder is the very definition of stupid. The Viola trade, on the other hand, was an attempt to win now, and you have to applaud that Cashen knew his core was aging out and wanted to get into the playoffs one last time before the window shut.
- 12/4/74 (+33): Received Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez (33) for Bill Kirkpatrick, Rich Coggins, and Dave McNally (0)
- 12/8/83 (+27): Received Sid Fernandez and Ross Jones (29) for Bob Bailor and Carlos Diaz (2)
- 6/15/83 (+23): Received Keith Hernandez (26) for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey (3)
- 3/27/87 (+23): Received David Cone and Chris Jelic (22) for Rick Anderson, Mauro Gozzo, and Ed Hearn (-1)
- 4/1/82 (+18): Received Ron Darling and Walt Terrell (21) for Lee Mazzilli (3)
- 12/7/84 (+14): Received Howard Johnson (22) for Walt Terrell (8)
- 1/16/86 (+10): Received Pat Crosby and Tim Teufel (9) for Billy Beane, Joe Klink, and Bill Latham (-1)
- 6/18/89 (-27): Received Juan Samuel (1) for Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, and Tom Edens (28)
- 7/31/89 (-24): Received Frank Viola (10) for Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, David West, and Jack Savage (34)
- 4/2/85 (-15): Received John Young and Angel Salazar (0) for Mark Davis and Jose Oquendo (15)
- 5/29/81 (-13): Received Ellis Valentine (0) for Dan Norman and Jeff Reardon (13)
- 11/30/72 (-12): Received Taylor Duncan and Earl Williams (5) for Pat Dobson, Roric Harris, Davey Johnson, and Johnny Oates (17)
- 1/18/85 (-12): Received Frank Wills (0) for Tim Leary (12)
- 3/26/88 (-12): Received Tim Drummond and Mackey Sasser (2) for Scott Henion and Randy Milligan (14)
- 8/28/84 (-11): Received Ray Knight (2) for Gerald Young, Manuel Lee, and Mitch Cook (13)
- 12/11/86 (-10): Received Adam Ging, Kevin McReynolds, and Gene Walter (16) for Kevin Armstrong, Kevin Brown, Shawn Abner, Stan Jefferson, and Kevin Mitchell (25) [ed’s note, it rounds to a 10 WAR deficit]
Much of Dalton’s fame rests on two all-time famous heists: The Nolan Ryan trade and the Frank Robinson trade. The Ryan deal was truly lopsided. Even if Ryan hadn’t been in the trade at all, the swap would have gone mildly toward California because Leroy Stanton himself outproduced Fregosi. A note: I feel bad for Fregosi who as a really wonderful player and was about one or two more good years away from a HoME plaque. So history is absolutely right about that one.
But the Robinson trade turns out to be a tad more nuanced than the pundits tell us. Robinson famously captured the AL triple crown and the MVP as he pushed the O’s into the World Series. His addition surely did make the difference, propelling a young team into October a couple years ahead of schedule. The base of talent in Baltimore was considerable, though. Peak Brooks Robinson, mid-career Luis Aparicio, young Boog Powell, the Baby Birds rotation, and ace relievers Moe Drabowsky, Eddie Fisher, and Stu Miller all had good years. These backed by emerging young stars such as Paul Blair, Davey Johnson, and Curt Blefary, all of whom were under 24. The O’s slipped to sixth in 1967, rose to second in 1968, then finally all the talent arrived and aligned at once, and they went on one of history’s greatest runs from 1969 to 1974 with Robinson around through 1971. They won the AL East by 19, 15, and 12 games from 1969 through 1971. Robinson at that point was no longer putting them over anything. Even had he been replaced by an average right fielder, the team would have won the East. Then he was gone, but the team carried on. It finished in 3rd, five games back in 1972 then won the East in 1973 by 8 games and by 2 in 1974. Robinson obviously was awesome, averaging 6 WAR a year during his tenure in Baltimore, and Dalton absolutely won the trade. The thing that history forgets is that the trade ultimately wasn’t as imbalanced as it appeared. Dick Simpson and Jack Baldschun were nothing but Milt Pappas was a very good pitcher. He went on to chalk up 22 WAR through 1973. He was no Frank Robinson. Obviously. His value was more widely dispersed over time; he was not an impact player like Robinson. But to say the deal was decidedly lopsided misses the point that Pappas was a very good pitcher after the swap.
Instead I see this as a great win-now deal, probably one of the best moves of its kind (in the era before free agency). The O’s dealt the future from a deep stable of young studs, coughing up a good arm in his prime for a guy who’d just turned 30 but filled a specific need in the lineup. Branch Rickey, for one, would have balked at a deal like that given his predilection for being on the selling end in trades of the sort. But Dalton pulled the trigger, paid a fairly steep price, and was repaid with four pennants in short order. The World Series appearances are why the deal is retrospectively seen as lopsided. Even though 1966 is probably the only year where Robby’s presence was absolutely necessary to win the pennant. Flags fly forever, and we have to give Dalton and Robinson their due for 1966. But had the O’s not reached the World Series so often in the late 1960s, or had they not won immediately in 1966, would we remember the deal as a steal? Or merely as a good baseball trade.
- 12/10/71 (+42): Received Don Rose, Frank Estrada, Leroy Stanton, and Nolan Ryan (45) for Jim Fregosi (3)
- 12/9/77 (+19): Received Ben Oglivie (21) for Jim Slaton and Rich Folkers (2)
- 12/4/68 (+15): Received Tom Johnson, Enzo Hernandez, and Mike Cuellar (16) for Curt Blefary and John Mason (1)
- 12/9/65 (+12): Received Frank Robinson (32) for Dick Simpson, Jack Baldschun, and Milt Pappas (21)
- 12/11/75 (-19): Received Bobby Bonds (7) for Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers (26)
- 6/15/70 (-14): Received Dick Baney, Buzz Stephens, and Moe Drabowski (0) for Bobby Floyd and Dave May (14)
- 4/4/77 (-14): Received Randy Sealy for Mike Easler (14)
- 8/30/82 (-10): Received Don Sutton (5) for Frank DiPino, Kevin Bass, and Mike Madden (15)
- 6/12/86 (-10): Received Tim Pyznarski (0) for Randy Ready (10)
MacPhail made numerous trades, but typically, he was adding at the margins. Fred Stanley for George Pena or Willie Kirkland for Fuzzy Smith or an aging Harvey Haddix for someone called Richard Yencha (I think Streisand was in that film). He made the seven big trades you see below and made out a little above par overall. There’s a couple others that are close to 10 win margins in his favor as well, including Pat Dobson for stuff, and Dick Hall and Dick Williams for other stuff. MacPhail did not seem to suffer from late-career trade issues like Frank Cashen, Clark Griffith, and some others. Then again, he left the Yankees well before he needed to so he could run the American League.
- 11/27/72 (+40): Received Jerry Moses and Graig Nettles (44) for John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes, and Rusty Torres (4)
- 10/19/59 (+15): Received Jim Gentile (15) for Bill Lajoie and $50,000
- 3/22/72 (+13): Received Sparky Lyle (15) for Danny Cater and Mario Guerrero (2)
- 12/15/62 (+12): Received Mike McCormick, Stu Miller, and John Orinso (16) for Jimmie Coker, Jack Fisher, and Billy Hoeft (4)
- 1/14/63 (-44): Received Luis Aparicio and Al Smith (18) for Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward, and Hoyt Wilhelm (62)
- 12/2/71 (-12): Received Rich McKinney (-1) for Stan Bahnsen (11)
- 12/6/65 (-10): Received Jack Baldschun (0) for Jackie Brandt and Darold Knowles (10)
So that’s three more very interesting GM candidates. Keep watching for more. I know these ain’t sexy, but we think they may be adding something to the study of team builders, and we hope you agree.