As far as off-season get-togethers go, the GM meetings usually fly under the radar. The 2012 edition in Indian Wells, California were no different. A lot of bluster and a lot of shameless rumor mongering generally gets chalked up to “laying the groundwork” but in the end, nothing happened.
A backup catcher signed, a utility middle infielder got a three-year deal, a Korean star posted and a Canadian dud hit rock bottom. That’s it. For all we were told about the “timeline accelerating” and this year’s meetings taking a different shape…nothing.
What the meetings lack in flashy signings or trade announcements, they make up for it in access to the often-cloistered managing generals to get their winter message into the public sphere. Lots of talking point massaging and expectation dulling and vendetta squaring.
Perhaps it is time to reflect on the amount of attention and devotion we give to the men and women charged with assembling the local baseball nines. The nature of the passive arm of the baseball biz — the media and rabid fans consuming any morsel of baseball info deep in the heart of winter — and what we expect or even demand from man who are still hired to be fired.
So many fans and writers/bloggers focus intently on The Process, carefully parsing moves and cryptic quotes from front office types as it relates to future roster moves and hidden ideologies. The notion of an uneven economic playing field forces teams to improve their team creatively, putting ultimate trust in their ability to put competitive pieces in place by sheer will of intellect and due diligence.
Has this dedication to the process, the intense risk aversion among fans on behalf of their for-profit obsessions, warped the ability of some baseball fans to see the forest for the trees? As Matthew B. Crawford wonders in his self-help book for the Ayn Rand set Shop Class as Soulcraft, has “the process become more important than product?” Managers are fungible, relievers are fungible, players are temporary and volatile: they’re all just pawns for the all-powerful GM to move around the board.
Is it possible that they whole thing is a hoax? That these lifetime baseball men, insanely knowledgeable and accomplished as they are, remain at the mercy of good fortune or just dumb luck? In a results-based business, the process is important but how often does the result seem completely independent from the process – especially when the process is so often limited by outside forces?
At what point does the repeated failing to see expected results suggest a flaw in our knowledge of the process? Or, better yet, who cares?
Rogers’ Keith Pelley: The most important sports fans are the ones who go to games because it is fashionable.
— Steve Ladurantaye (@sladurantaye) November 12, 2012
The general managers we fawn over are still just corporate managers. Middle men with bosses and stakeholders and action plans and annual performance reviews – the same garbage the vast majority of people rush to baseball in an effort to forget. There is no magic and there are no ninjas. They have incredibly complex decisions to make and that’s the extent of their impact on the game: they make a tough decision and hope like the rest of us.
The nature of their work is not unlike the players are on field: they’re all at the very top of their game, the distance between the good and bad is not so much that a little bit a good luck can’t make cover the extra ground. How many people, fans or media or whoever, would say Brian Sabean is the best GM in the game? Is Dan Duquette a better GM than Jack Zduriencik or Josh Brynes? Please, show your work.
The entire rosterbation industry works off the assumption that these savants all operate three moves ahead, never deviating from their master plan. Which is nice and all but hardly realistic. Again: they’re no different from the rest of us: totally making it up as they go along.
And the Rest
Speaking of those general managers, Ben Nicholson-Smith interviewed a mess of them for MLBTR. Go ahead, this one time. [MLBTR]
Great stuff on the impact of psychology and mental health as it relates to key free agents Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke [Baseball Prospectus (Free!)]
Cliff Lee’s 2012 will long be remember for being super duper weird. [Neyer, SB Nation]
Keith Law warns about signing Mike Napoli as your everyday catcher. Understandably, Mike Napoli wants to catch as much as possible because $$$$$$$ [ESPN ($)]
So the Mets are broke? This is all going to end so LOLMetsy, I cannot wait (if it is true.) [Amazin Avenue]
The Marlins should make Giancarlo Stanton an offer he cannot refuse. He can and will refuse lest this entire world be rendered meaningless. [SweetSpot]
The Green Monster should treat new Red Sock David Ross very well indeed. [Baseball Analytics]
First overall pick in the 2012 draft Carlos Correa puts in work in the Puerto Rican league. [MLB.com]
Top ten Rockies prospects. Dream a little dream. [BP]
Cardinals top 15 prospects. Dream immense, world-beating dreams. Dream a dream of conquest and riches. [Fangraphs]