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Pioneers/Executives

GM Update #12: The league presidents

Who knows what league presidents do? Actually, did. MLB did away with the league offices and placed it all under the aegis of the commish a couple decades or so ago. What we do know is that running the front office of a baseball team often led to a corner room with a view at the league offices. Lee MacPhail, Barney Dreyfuss, and Joe Cronin all did it. So did Chub Feeney and Warren Giles whose GM careers we’ll look at today.

To the GM cave, Robin!

Team Performance

  • 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.
TEAM PERFORMANCE
NAME RECORD PCT. VS EXP OCT OCT VS EXP WS APP WS APP VS EXP WS WINS WS WINS VS EXP MGR PYTH
BARROW 2281-1394 .621 +160 N/A N/A 14 +11 10 +8.5 +72
BAVASI 1 2386-2166 .524 +54 2 +0.2 8 +5.1 4 +2.5 +42
BROWN 1816-1625 .524 +48 5 +2.5 2 -0.2 2 +0.9 -5
CAMPANIS 1576-1280 .552 +44 6 +4.9 4 +2.5 1 +0.2 +8
CAMPBELL 1733-1605 .519 +40 1 -1.5 1 -0.8 1 +0.1 +31
CASHEN 1342-1177 .533 +27 4 +1.2 1 -0.3 1 +0.4 -1
DALTON 2175-1965 .525 +64 4 +1.4 5 +3.0 2 +0.9 +9
FEENEY 1956-1655 .542 +64 0 -0.2 3 +0.3 1 -0.3 +14
GILES 1136-1165 .494 +2 0 N/A 2 +0.1 1 +0.1 +11
GILLICK 2276-1993 .533 +95 11 +5.7 3 +1.0 3 +2.1 +23
GRIFFITH 2967-2964 .500 +24 N/A N/A 3 -1.88 1 -1.44 +35
HOWSAM 1331-1049 .559 +63 5 +3.3 4 +2.8  2 +1.4 +44
MACPHAIL1 904-777 .538 +69 N/A N/A 2 +0.6 1 +0.3 +6
MACPHAIL2 1181-1036 .526 +54 0 -0.7 0 -1.4 0 -0.8 +31
QUINN 2147-2126 .502 +20 0 -0.5 3 -0.1 1 -0.5 -7
RICKEY 3265-3015 .520 +87 N/A N/A 8 +2.7 4 +1.5 +46
SCHUERHOLZ 2348-1794 .567 +140 16 +10.8 6 +3.4 2 +1.1 +69
WEISS 1503-1303 .536 +28 N/A N/A 10 +7.9 7 +5.9 +3
BAVASI 2 756-869 .465 -41 0 -2.9 0 -0.6 0 -0.3 -6
ROBINSON 683-772 .469 -6 0 -1.5 0 -0.5 0 -0.3 -5
SEGHI 883-989 .472 -11 0 -2.0 0 -0.9 0 -0.5 -4
SMITH 566-776 .422 -49 0 -2.1 0 -0.6 0 -0.3 -38

Warren Giles is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s plaque gallery for his contributions at the league level. Must be true, because it’s obvious he didn’t merit it on his front-office record. Among those I’ve grouped under “good” (aka: above the gray line), his team record is the worst overall in nearly every respect. He did a good job getting the Reds that Larry MacPhail had begun to build into the World Series in 1939 and 1940, but he failed to keep the team in contention thereafter as the war and then simple baseball again decimated his roster. Chub Feeney, on the other hand, appears to be a somewhat unsung hero. His winning percentage is very good, and at 23 years, his front office career was quite long. If he didn’t make the World Series as often as you’d like to see, well, he had some especially tough competition during the integration era from Branch Rickey’s Dodgers machine, from the Aaron/Mathews/Spahn Braves, and from the Buzzie Bavasi Dodgers. But as you’ll see in just a moment, he did an excellent job of keeping his team generally in contention year in and out.

GM Performance

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
  • 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
  • med%GOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL
GM PERFORMANCE
NAME BASE GM CONT GOAL med%GOAL WS GOAL med%GOAL
BARROW 217 923 719 119% 959 94%
BAVASI 1 373 690 791 100% 972 88%
BROWN 281 552 557 101% 696 81%
CAMPANIS 342 407 364 119% 469 90%
CAMPBELL 354 386 493 89% 596 68%
CASHEN 255 361 370 85% 462 61%
DALTON 500 426 337 84% 449 68%
FEENEY 185 766 728 101% 913 66%
GILES 144 320 441 69% 591 55%
GILLICK 385 684 671 107% 807 91%
GRIFFITH 198 1025 1313 79% 1703 60%
HOWSAM 338 229 243 81% 350 53%
MACPHAIL1 183 193 257 46% 356 36%
MACPHAIL2 300 185 258 69% 346 57%
QUINN 222 729 824 97% 1066 72%
RICKEY 428 879 1132 78% 1580 58%
SCHUERHOLZ 487 576 539 105% 667 88%
WEISS 252 358 460 107% 615 67%
BAVASI 2 191 128 234 52% 282 47%
ROBINSON 124 183 260 73% 315 60%
SEGHI 115 239 350 72% 420 60%
SMITH 97 114 247 55% 293 47%

Chub Feeney’s profile could simply be stated as nearly always being competitive, rarely being the best team in the league. There’s something to be said for that. The Giants finished under .500 just four times in his 23 years. They finished over .600 just three times. Warren Giles couldn’t make the same kinds of claims. His Reds weren’t built to last, and he didn’t turn the roster over quickly enough after the team’s breakthrough World Series appearances, and after 1944 they never finished near .500 for him again.

Transactions Detail

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
TRANSACTION DETAILS: NUMBER OF INBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME AM FA PUR FA AM DFT R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 49 45 13 N/A 4 2 N/A 74 6 294
BAVASI 1 101 42 48 69 6 15 29 135 2 455
BROWN 93 27 20 49 7 7 0 85 3 294
CAMPANIS 40 10 38 79 5 2 0 69 2 247
CAMPBELL 35 30 25 95 7 5 0 92 7 303
CASHEN 31 8 46 97 4 2 0 116 3 313
DALTON 36 37 91 127 15 2 0 141 7 461
FEENEY 112 28 20 28 10 21 0 77 15 343
GILES 42 40 10 N/A 11  5 N/A 45  9 232
GILLICK 71 40 207 148 19 8 0 130 31 663
GRIFFITH 36 72 18 N/A 35 2 N/A 115 23 608
HOWSAM 33 23 14 50 7 1 0 95 1 228
MACPHAIL1 45 73 18 N/A 10 1 N/A 43 14 246
MACPHAIL2 47 38 18 33 13 6 0 82 7 255
QUINN 137 70 33 25 16 15 0 113 8 436
RICKEY 174 78 32 N/A 25 11 N/A 108 24 748
SCHUERHOLZ  62 14 265 142  7 1 0 150 17 659
WEISS 131 66 17 13 9 8 22 70 9 360
BAVASI 2 16 15 157 43 4 0 0 69 16 322
ROBINSON 11 15 130 70 4 1 0 58 15 309
SEGHI 10 14 33 38 4 1 0 106 5 212
SMITH 11 7 103 34 9 2 0 65 22 254
TRANSACTION DETAILS: NUMBER OF OUTBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME SOLD REL R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 65 16 14 2 N/A 74 13 213
BAVASI 1 49 59 27 13 6 135 10 308
BROWN 46 51 14 15 12 85 6 218
CAMPANIS 13 63 12 5 0 69 8 179
CAMPBELL 52 59 6 4 11 92 7 237
CASHEN 21 45 16 4 0 116 3 208
DALTON  33 89 16 2 11 141 0 300
FEENEY 62  41 17 23 11  77  13 268
GILES 52 30  5  3 N/A 45 9 157
GILLICK 25 127 22 2 6 130 21 337
GRIFFITH 69 36 3 1 N/A 115 21 304
HOWSAM 22 24 11 3 5 95 1 164
MACPHAIL1 37 27 3 0 N/A 43 6 129
MACPHAIL2 28 30 14 0 14 82 3 178
QUINN 82 51 21 15 0 113 5 300
RICKEY 111 50 36 9 N/A 108 34 388
SCHUERHOLZ 6 170 11 2 6 150 18 366
WEISS 37 44 18 7 0 70 9 207
BAVASI 2 6 83 0 0 2 69 3 169
ROBINSON 4 66 3 1 5 58 13 155
SEGHI 10 39 2 0 0 106 1 165
SMITH 4 53 5 3 0 65 15 151

Feeney’s great strength as a GM was the acquisition of amateur talent. He signed a lot of it, and a lot of it was good to transcendent. He made very few trades, which is a good thing because he was a terrible trader as the next tables will show. The amount of talent the G’nts had on board, however, also caused them to lose a lot of it in the Rule 5 and Minor League Drafts. And they lost a good chunk of value in those Feeney failed to protect while getting relatively little value in return via those mechanisms.

Giles on the other hand spread the love around the different channels. He used each at his disposal, but didn’t seem to play a heavy favorite with any of them.

TRANSACTION DETAILS: VALUE IN WAR TO TEAM OF INBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME AM FA PUR FA AM DFT R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 297 124 154 N/A -1 0 N/A 480 7 1216
BAVASI 1 430 70 36 235 1 0 54 257 -1 1106
BROWN 313 2 3 228 2 4 0 216 -2 765
CAMPANIS 48 40 2 171 -1 1 0 257 0 518
CAMPBELL  9 13 7 352 1 -1 0 164 29 580
CASHEN 56 2 9 251 -1 0 0 270 3 590
DALTON 18 47 65 313 4 1 0 285 2 733
FEENEY 556 6 59 52 -1 13 0 189 24 911
GILES 178 63 8 N/A -1 11 N/A 139 5 452
GILLICK 132 62 194 295 60 -1 0 228 -2 978
GRIFFITH 95 233 26 N/A 39 -1 N/A 416 11 1087
HOWSAM 98 7 2 104 6 0 0 228 0 445
MACPHAIL1 116 100 38 N/A 19 0 N/A 219 48 632
MACPHAIL2 244 0 16 113 13 0 0 195 8 632
QUINN 443 45 183 141 25 2 0 480 1 1318
RICKEY 794 116 211 N/A 122 1 N/A 262 0 1898
SCHUERHOLZ 117 9 142 298 -1 0 0 246 7 818
WEISS 480 70 5 21 -1 -1 11 168 7 764
BAVASI 2 27 9 96 131 0 0 0 24 5 290
ROBINSON 7 14 69 98 6 0 0 59 8 264
SEGHI -4 14 4 32 2 2 0 275 -1 323
SMITH 3 -2 27 36 -2 3 0 140 10 215
TRANSACTION DETAILS: VALUE IN WAR OF PLAYERS IN OUTBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME SOLD REL R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 158 3 50 26 N/A 440 75 794
BAVASI 1 15 20 129 20 30 438 19 674
BROWN 18 10 4 29 59 343 -2 471
CAMPANIS 22 13 4 23 0 298 17 374
CAMPBELL 39 9 -2 0 29 154 1  239
CASHEN -3 8 8 4 0 304 -1 330
DALTON 18 0 7 0 42 284 0 354
FEENEY 36 2 27 37 29 415 3 575
GILES 74 24 -2  0 N/A 147 36 303
GILLICK 16 20 25 0 -2 285 10 357
GRIFFITH 157 -2 0 0 N/A 528 73 832
HOWSAM 8 4 27 -1 -3 251 0 286
MACPHAIL1 45 39 9 0 N/A 146 4 395
MACPHAIL2 37 -2 15 0 95 166 1 332
QUINN 75 38 3 81 0 496 25 711
RICKEY 337 10 62 -4 N/A 573 8 1040
SCHUERHOLZ 7 46 2 -1 26 246 6 332
WEISS 28 22 13 51 0 326 17 463
BAVASI 2 1 8 0 0 -1 147 0 154
ROBINSON 3 10 2 3 12 92 8 129
SEGHI 2 3 16 -2 0 253 0 272
SMITH 2 1 0 0 0 141 0 144

OK, so now we’ll see why Chub Feeney’s Giants didn’t stomp on the heads of the NL like the Dodgers did. It comes down to one simple thing: he got creamed, just creamed in trades. Had he been even halfway closer to even, the Giants would likely have won a lot more often than they did. To set the stage, check out the talent he acquired just through amateur channels and how much WAR they provided the team:

  • Willie Mays (1950): 155 WAR (though technically, he was property of the Negro League Birmingham Black Barons)
  • Juan Marichal (1957): 64
  • Willie McCovey (1955): 59
  • Bobby Bonds (1964): 38
  • Gaylord Perry (1958): 35
  • Orlando Cepeda (1955): 30
  • Jim Ray Hart (1960): 25
  • Jim Davenport (1955): 18
  • Felipe Alou (1956): 18
  • Bobby Bolin (1956): 16
  • Frank Linzy (1960): 11
  • Dick Dietz (1960): 10
  • Ken Henderson (1964): 10

One hell of a haul. Factor in that they also drafted Gary LaVelle (1967, 19 wAR) and Gary Matthews (1968, 13 WAR), and you see how impressive Feeney’s operation was at finding both young players that would become the cores of World Series teams and good contributors as well. As if this weren’t enough, he also signed Negro League and Latin professionals such as Hank Thompson (1949, 25 WAR), Monte Irvin (1949, 19 WAR), and Ruben Gomez (1953, 16 WAR). Heck, he even got Hoyt Wilhelm in the 1947 Minor League Draft, netting 11 WAR in the transaction. The Giants of this era found gems in the dirt everywhere they looked. In 1950 they paid the waiver fee for Jim Hearn, and he brought them 12 WAR. They did it again in 1953 with Marv Grissom whose return for the waiver fee was 13 WAR. See what I’m saying here? This organization could sniff out talent if it was buried in a landfill full of cow dung.

Too bad Feeney was allowed to trade it.

Here’s his best and worst trades. Every deal that went 10 WAR in his favor or against.

WINNING TRADES

  • 2/1/54 (+33): Received Johnny Antonelli, Billy Klaus, Don Liddle, Ebba St. Claire, and $50,000 (36) for Sam Calderon and Bobby Thomson (3)
  • 12/3/58 (+16): Received Jack Sanford (13) for Ruben Gomez and Valmy Thomas (-3)
  • 12/14/49 (+14): Received Al Dark and Eddie Stanky (40) for Sid Gordon, Buddy Kerr, Willard Marshall, and Red Webb (26)
  • 10/11/56 (+14): Received Stu Miller (13) for Jim Hearn (1)

LOSING TRADES

  • 12/2/65 (-39): Received Don Landrum and Lindy McDaniel (1) for Bill Hands and Randy Hundley (42)
  • 2/26/57 (-37): Received Whitey Lockman (-1) for Hoyt Wilhelm (36)
  • 3/25/59 (-29): Received Don Choate and Toothpick Sam Jones (7) for Ray Jablonski and Bill White (36)
  • 12/15/62 (-21): Received Jimmie Coker, Jack Fisher, and Billy Hoeft (-2) for Mike McCormick, Stu Miller, and John Orsino (19)
  • 12/3/63 (-21): Received Del Crandall, Bob Hendley, and Bob Shaw (6) for Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey, Billy Heft, and Ernie Bowman (27)
  • 12/1/65 (21): Received Joe Gibbon and Ozzie Virgil (1) for Matty Alou (22)
  • 11/30/62 (-17): Received Joe Amalfitano (0) for Dick LeMay and Manny Mota (17)
  • 10/8/58 (-16): Received Hobie Landrith, Billy Muffett, and Benny Valentine (2) for Ernie Broglie and Marv Grissom (18)
  • 11/21/64 (-16): Received Jack Hiatt (6) for Jose Cardenal (22)
  • 5/8/66 (-16): Received Ray Sadecki (4) for Orlando Cepeda (20)
  • 12/15/59 (-14): Received Don Blasingame (2) for Daryle Spencer and Leon Wagner (16)
  • 6/13/49 (-12): Received Ray Mueller (0) for Walker Cooper (12)
  • 7/12/68 (-11): Received Bill Monbouquette (0) for Lindy McDaniel (11)

If you read the dates closely, what you’ll discover is that Feeney wasn’t a terrible trader through the first half of his career. Through 1958, he scored 121 WAR and gave up 129, a very normal trading record. After 1958, however, the wheels completely fell off. For the next 12 years he acquired 68 WAR at the cost of 285 outgoing WAR.

Now I’m not going to pretend I know what happened in his mind. My guess is that he saw an opening in the late 1950s and tried to break through it. With so many young sluggers coming along to complement Willie Mays, he saw his moment as the 1958 team took a big step forward after two years below .500.  The Dodgers were transitioning from Campy and company to Koufax and comrades. The Braves, thanks to Fred Haney and the loss of John Quinn, stayed stuck in fourth gear after 1958 and couldn’t make the leap to a dynasty. In 1960 and 1961 the Bucs and Reds stepped into the void, while Feeney was making his move. The Giants finished 3rd in 1958, 3rd in 1959, 5th in 1960, and 3rd in 1961. But McCovey, Cepeda, and Marichal were maturing around the four straight ten-WAR seasons of Willie Mays, and in 1962 the Giants hit their stride, reaching the World Series thanks to 103 wins. But all the bad trades started to take their toll, just as the Dodgers found their mojo and the Bob Gibson Cardinals swooped into contention. The team needed the depth these lopsided trades took away to keep up, and they didn’t have it. For example, Bill White in 1959 was an extraneous asset thanks to Cepeda, McCovey, and Alou, all of whom played the same OF/1B role as the twenty-four year-old White. But Feeney cashed him in for guys that just didn’t help much. In fairness to Feeney, White had just done a two-year hitch in the military following his breakout 22-homer 1956 rookie season. But Feeney simply chose wrong. And he did it again and again and again, losing depth and quality all the way down the line.

The team finished 3rd in 1963, 4th in 1964 (though just 3 games behind the Cards), and then came in second every year from 1965 to 1969. The first two years were close shaves, but the next two were distant finishes. In 1970 with the later blossomings of the now departed Feeney’s talent still coming through the system, the Giants finished third, then in 1971, in a last gasp, they won the NL West, though with a somewhat mediocre 90-72 record. Mediocre for a first-place team that is. Through the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s they were a nonfactor.

So Feeney’s record overall is quite mixed. On one hand, his teams were always in contention thanks to the amazing core talent he acquired. He transitioned the Giants from the Mel Ott squad in the late 1940s into the early integrating Willie Mays bunch of the early 1950s. And he successfully transitioned from the early Mays team to the late Mays team. He also correctly read the league wide competitive situation in the late 1950s and moved seized that moment. On the other hand, once his core was in place, he didn’t have the ability to push it over the top. Especially late in his career. I would argue that his poor trading probably cost them multiple pennants. Your mileage may vary.

Now as for Giles…well, he didn’t do much, did he? He tended to sit on his hands, and he has fewer transactions per year than either Larry or Lee MacPhail who had comparably long or shorter careers. Worse, however, Giles got very little value out of those transactions. He gave up more in player sales and waivers than most of our GMs, and his latter years were a series of losing seasons that he seemed powerless to stanch. Ultimately, he’s not as bad as the guys below the gray line, but he’s not nearly as good as those above it. I should probably put him in between, but for now I’ll keep him where he is.

So long story short: Feeney and Giles are flawed GM candidates. Feeney due to his singular inability to trade well. Giles for the team’s sudden collapse and his inability to actively fix it. Narrative is more important with GMs than players, and each has some narrative going for them. But ultimately, it’s unlikely to be enough.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to roll out more GMs, including one terrible one to add to the motley crew below the gray line. Another who will go there as well, but who we thought for sure would end up above it. And two that kept a relatively low profile but have had a pretty sizable impact anyway.

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Institutional History

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