Executive Perception

The nature of the job in being a baseball executive is such that it’s no longer a “baseball guy” who can sit behind his desk, try to do his job and avoid the media until he has no other choice.

He has to be part salesman; eloquent spokesman; charmer; spin-doctor; in addition to smart baseball guy.

It’s how we’ve gotten style over substance; perception over truth.

You have to sift through the muck to get to that reality, but once you do you’re able to separate fact from fiction; truth from puffery.

Royals GM Dayton Moore is one such case where he’s suddenly receiving accolades from opposing executives, media and fans for the great farm system he’s developed.

The word “he” is the operative term.

How much influence Moore had in the drafting/acquisitions of said players is unknown, but I have a question: why is Moore given the credit for the players the Royals have accumulated and the likes of former Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar, former Phillies (and current Astros) GM Ed Wade and Giants GM Brian Sabean are ridiculed because their work on the whole was considered poor or they don’t talk a good game?

I find it laughable that the Phillies current crop of prospects are credited to former assistant Mike Arbuckle, but Wade is considered little more than an afterthought to the juggernaut that succeeded after Wade was long gone.

The Devil Rays became the Rays; the new front office became the stuff of legend and now the subject of a book—The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri; I just received a copy in the mail; a review will be forthcoming. But the foundation of draft picks—B.J. Upton; Jeff Niemann; James Shields; Carl Crawford—was already there when they arrived. He also traded for Scott Kazmir. Does LaMar get a footnote in the way the Rays have been built? Or is he simply considered a fool who took advantage of the annual top picks in the draft because the big league product was so rancid under his watch?

Sabean has made a habit of finding pitchers and developing them. Because he overspent for Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito and doesn’t indulge in the numbers racket baseball has become in certain arenas, he’s savaged as an old-school thinker who got lucky. Did he get lucky with Tim Lincecum? With Matt Cain? With Brian Wilson? With Madison Bumgarner? Was he an ancillary part along for the ride while others made the calls? Or should he receive similar congratulations as Moore is getting now?

I’m sorry, it doesn’t work the way it’s framed.

The totem for the all-powerful executive—Billy Beane—is seen as such because of Moneyball and his skills with the language. Recently Jerry Crasnick wrote this piece about Beane and the Athletics solid off-season.

Beane’s a smart guy but he’s also highly manipulative and cultivating of his reputation as that CEO. The “zero-sum game” line comes straight out of Wall Street; his twisting of language makes it sound as if he’s saying something profound when he’s speaking in circles as if every word warrants applause. Such verbal gymnastics like the A’s are dictated to what they can’t do sound nice—they make great snippets—but are more-or-less sprinkled trickery to tilt the heads of the listeners and intimidate them with his well-rounded approach—an approach whose objective reality has been poor in recent years by every metric other than his ability to talk and that there are those clinging to the myth out of selfish interests.

In an extreme example, Beane would get credit for the “genius” of Wilson’s beard; Sabean would get blame for letting his players look so unkempt.

No executive is an island—they all have help from others in the front office—whether that’s good or bad help is the key to their success, but if a club is successful or unsuccessful, it’s not only the titular head who is responsible for the results.

There has to be the protagonist of any story, it’s easy to take a Beane, Moore, Wade or whoever and make them the hero/villain; but it’s not accurate. Nor is it fair.

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  1. #1 by norm depalma on March 4, 2011 - 4:44 am

    Lovely Q & A article in yahoo sports with our man, Billy Beane, discussing such matters as stolen bases, bunting, healthcare plans and the upcoming movie.

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