NL General Manager Movements

Last time, I looked at on-field staff changes across the Senior and Junior Circuits. Now, we'll check on some of the recent changes in the National League front offices.

Earlier this month, at the General Managers' Meetings at Indian Wells, CA, all the spots at the table were filled for the National League except that of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, there were new faces sitting in two of the seats, with new GMs representing Arizona and Philadelphia. And since then, the Dodgers' job has been filled.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers – DePodesta loses battle of numbers, Colletti up next

 

After only being given the first two years of his five-year contract to lead the Dodgers to the promised land, sabermetric darling general manager Paul DePodesta was fired by owner Frank McCourt late last month.

 

While it was crazy to sack the 32-year-old DePo so quickly, it's not as if former manager Jim Tracy deserved to take the fall alone. After all, DePo let many good players depart, such as Paul Lo Duca, Adrian Beltre, Steve Finley, Alex Cora and Shawn Green. Tracy was given iron men and noted team players like J.D. Drew, Milton Bradley and Jeff Kent to work with. Not surprisingly, they lost 91 games in the process, the team's first losing year in Tracy's five.

 

Still, DePo's departure was a blow to saber-friendly fans everywhere, as was Epstein's departure from Boston.

 

Those who were interviewed include Dodgers Assistant GM Kim Ng, who would have been the first female general manager in the history of the game. Pat Gillick, before signing with the Phillies, had permission to interview, as did former Cleveland and Texas GM John Hart. Orel Hershiser expressed interest in the manager's job, as well as the GM role. He's apparently not particular.

 

But the winner of the sweepstakes was San Francisco vice president and assistant general manager Ned Colletti, who had been Brian Sabean's righthand man for nine years. Colletti is now in the process of interviewing manager candidates that include a pair of former skippers with ties to the Angels - internal candidate Terry Collins and Jim Fregosi.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks – A new whiz kid in the land of little water

 

Now that DePo and Theo Epstein are at least temporarily unemployed, the newest GM whose name will always be preceded by his age has set up shop in the desert. "35-year-old Josh Byrnes" was given the Diamondbacks job previously held by Joe Garagiola, Jr. Garagiola resigned to become senior vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

 

Byrnes was this year's "hot" candidate and previously was Theo's assistant in Beantown. Prior to that, Byrnes was scouting director of the Cleveland Indians before serving as assistant general manager of the Colorado Rockies for three years.

 

Among the other candidates were former Colorado general manager, former Cardinal assistant GM and current D'backs assistant Bob Gebhard, two other sitting GMs, San Diego's Kevin Towers and Washington's Jim Bowden plus White Sox director of player development Dave Wilder.

 

While some believed that Byrnes missed out on replacing Epstein by taking the Arizona job, I like his chances in the Valley of the Sun better than in Boston. At least, he'll have a better chance to make his own mark and surely any Diamondbacks success will surely be more attributed to him compared to taking over for an already-certified genius in Epstein.

 

Philadelphia Phillies – Standing Pat had better not

 

68-year-old Pat Gillick assumes his fourth general manager role, this time replacing the fired Ed Wade at the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies. Gillick, given the derisive moniker "Stand Pat" for his perceived lack of personnel moves in his previous Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle stops, should provide the Phils with a front-office upgrade, despite being older than Byrnes and DePodesta combined.

 

Gillick has been an executive consultant with the Mariners after "retiring" as their GM and had previously been given permission to interview for the Dodgers opening this off-season.

 

In eight years at the helm, Wade's Phils had a losing record and missed the playoffs every year, so it's not as if he wasn't given a fair chance. Seven other general managers have been in charge of their current team since Wade was hired in 1998 and each of them has made multiple postseason appearances. They are Brian Cashman - Yankees, with eight postseason appearances since ‘98, John Schuerholz - Braves (eight), Walt Jocketty - Cardinals (five), Billy Beane - Athletics (4), Brian Sabean - Giants (3), Terry Ryan - Twins (3) and Kevin Towers - Padres (2).

 

Phils president Dave Montgomery made it clear he was looking for experience and someone who could handle the tough Philly environment. Other candidates included former Houston GM Gerry Hunsicker, a local product, along with former Wade lieutenants Ruben Amaro, Jr, and Mike Arbuckle.

 

Before ending up in a weird arrangement in Tampa Bay that we'll highlight next time, Hunsicker practically ran all the way to Philadelphia for his interview. Arbuckle was a hot GM candidate a few years ago, but may have stood pat too long in the City of Brotherly Love. Politically speaking, Montgomery was expected to go outside the organization all along, anyway, which is exactly what he did with the hiring of Gillick.

 

San Diego Padres – Another one stands pat

 

Kevin Towers, the long-time general manager, asked for and received permission to interview for the Arizona job, but ended up staying home in San Diego. The once-hot rumor had Towers being replaced by another of the new-wave saber-GMs, Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi, while another variation had Epstein heading west.

 

However, with both Towers and Ricciardi under contract through the 2007 season, someone would get stuck buying out a couple of hefty contracts to pull this off, likely current Padres and former MLB and Oakland executive Sandy Alderson. More likely none of this will happen, though, and Towers will return for his 11th season as head Padre.

Milwaukee Brewers – Have another round

 

General Manager Doug Melvin negotiated a three-year contract extension with the Milwaukee Brewers to cover the years 2007-2009. Melvin has done a nice job presiding over the development of one of the better minor league pipelines around.

 

New owner Mark Attansio inherited Melvin from his predecessor, Commissioner Bud Selig. Or was it the silly blind trust that he put his daughter in charge of? Yeah, right… Oh, well…

 

Washington Nationals – Bowden not confused with Alston

 

While Selig, Bob DePuy and the rest of the MLB buffoons, …er owners, drag out the ownership transfer process in Washington as long as humanly possible, the contract of current general manager Jim Bowden was extended until the end of April.

 

Wow, a six-month extension! We're not exactly talking about a Walter Alston-kind of situation here… (For reference, Alston managed the Dodgers for 23 years, signing a one-year deal every season. His teams also won four World Series titles and seven NL pennants in the process.)

 

Earlier in the off-season, the former Reds GM Bowden had also been given permission to interview for the Diamondbacks opening and has had two interviews with the Boston Red Sox for Epstein's old job.

 

San Francisco Giants – Sabean counter?

 

Even before Epstein bolted Boston, speculation about candidates to replace him included San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean. He has been successful in San Francisco for years, but might be tiring of the constant controversy and might welcome a new challenge. Word among the Red Sox Nation seemed generally positive, but later Sabean ruled himself out as a candidate.

 

There had been little speculation on who might replace Sabean if a new GM were to be needed in San Francisco. But, with Colletti leaving, it looks like Sabean is staying. One thing I am pretty sure of is that Greg Anderson and Victor Conti are unavailable.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net

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