By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Right now, internet boards are lighting up about whom the Angels should hire as their new GM. As I read post after post about the merits about one candidate over another, I think that most fans are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking who they want for their new GM, fans should be concentrating on what skills they want their new GM to have.
Hiring a new GM isn’t so much about the person as it is about the philosophy and skills necessary for the job. As a fan, I don’t care so much about who runs the team as I do about the performance of the players on the team he assembles. Watching the Angels win on the field is what I care about most, not who runs the organization.
So, as a fan, here’s my list of what I want a new GM to bring to the team. Whichever candidate best fills this list should get the job.
An Outside Man
For more than a decade, the Angels have been run by either Bill Stoneman or his protégé Tony Reagins. It’s time for some outside blood in the organization.
Successful GMs have relationships in other organizations and know a great deal about the needs, talents, and surpluses that other organizations have. They can leverage their relationships with other organizations to make more or better trades. They can look at the talent within the organization and see how an outsider would view it and make more realistic offers.
It’s time to bring in someone new who will rely on honest evaluations of our needs, talents, and surpluses and give a fresh perspective to the team.
An Improved View of Offense
Bill Stoneman was right that pitching wins championships, but he was wrong to ignore the importance of offense in getting there.
The Angels have a desperate need for offense. The Angels have played (and in 2011 lost) too many close games. The Angels had a losing record in 1-run games (27-31), and were held to 2 runs or less 51 times in 2011. From their high of 883 runs scored in 2009, they shed 216 runs by 2011.
The Angels have most of the pitching pieces in place (sans a 4th starter and closer) and seem to do a good job developing pitching internally. However, the same cannot be said about offense. A new GM needs to bring in fresh ideas about developing and playing a better offense at the Major League level. Playing “small-ball” against teams like New York, Boston, and Texas will not cut it in the American League—even with the Angels pitching. This needs to be a systemic improvement. Fixing the offense will go a long way towards fixing the bullpen because it won’t be so taxed over the course of a season.
A Multi-Tasking Approach to the Offseason
Under Tony Reagins, the Angels seemed to operate as serial thinkers. They’d approach the offseason with Plan “A” and then wait to see if it worked before moving onto Plan “B” (if Plan “B” even existed). It’s time to change that, and a new GM is the way to improve this weakness.
This offseason, the Angels have a few ways that they could dramatically improve themselves. They could pursue an impact slugger like Fielder, or, they could pursue an impact pitcher, such as Wilson. They could go about making trades for Zimmerman or Wright.
What they should be doing is all of the above. They should have offers out to Fielder and Wilson (and other key free agents) and be working the trades in concert with each other. As they make success in one area, they adjust accordingly. Instead of offering only one free agent a contract at a time (leaving all other free agents in the cold while they wait on one target) they should have multiple offers out to multiple free agents and then pull back as they make progress.
There’s no doubt that manager Mike Scioscia is one of the most powerful managers on the field (and deservedly so). However, the GM needs to be the boss, and he needs to have the ability to get the job done.
Additionally, the new GM needs to have the gravitas to deal with elite agents such as Boras. If the Angels wish to be perennial contenders, then that means that they will need elite talent to get there. Boras represents many of the best players in the game. Whether Arte Moreno likes him or not, the Angels need to deal with Boras. The new GM will need to know the games that Boras plays and will need to be able to sign some of the players he represents.
Finally, the new GM needs to insist that he be given the flexibility to make an initial and important stamp on the team this offseason. He needs to have the cajones to demand the payroll to sign a premiere free agent and the ability to trade developing players (regardless of their popularity). In short, the new GM needs to command authority and needs to deliver an improved product to the fans.
While baseball jobs are never as long as other professions, both Arte Moreno and the new GM need to view this as a long-term commitment. Constant turnover in the front office is never good for the fans or for the team. It makes it harder to sign free agents and it leads to many reckless trades. The new GM will need to understand that he is a steward of a ship on a voyage that will outlast him, so, he needs to leave the ship in a better position than when he found it.
In war, loose lips sink ships. And, under many laws such as HIPAA, the front office cannot reveal any medical information about any of the players without their express consent. However, that does not mean that the front office has to act as if it’s on red alert all the time.
Baseball is about entertainment. The marketing for the 2012 season begins before the 2011 season ends. The offseason is a great time to develop buzz about the team. Revealing some information about the Angels plans would make for a better marketing and PR campaign than acting in steely silence.
And, throughout the year, fans want to know why some of their favorite players aren’t performing at peak levels. It makes fans fume when a player such as Torii Hunter struggles mightily for a majority of the season only to find out months later that he was injured. The new GM needs to know how and when to reveal more information to keep the fans happy and to create more buzz for the team.
Rather than thinking about who should be the next GM, Arte Moreno and John Carpino should first come up with a list of what they want in their new GM. They need a multi-tasker who will bring a new and outside vision and approach to the offense. They need someone who will have the stones to run the organization and the wisdom to do so over the long-term. And, they need someone who won’t call out his players publicly, but will do a better job explaining what is going on with the team.
While it might be very tempting to go with a “big-name” general manager, there is a risk in doing so. The high-profile GMs may have more to prove as they try to live up to the hype. That could be dangerous. The Angels have plenty of talent in development, and the team does not need a radical overhaul. A “big-name” GM might be more reckless in his moves this offseason as he tries to justify the reputation he has earned.
At the same time, though, the Angels don’t need someone who is too naïve and views the team as a gussied pig or will be milquetoast. They need a leader who will get the team back to playing October baseball. They need to go bold.
Whoever best fills these needs should be the candidate that the Angels hire regardless of name, reputation, or current occupation in baseball.