Baseball91's Weblog

July 17, 2008

Give Me An All Star Break

Today there is an article by a one-time writer of Baseball America in the New York Times on a brewing scandal in baseball about the signing of Latin American ballplayers. In reading the article it struck me of the problem I had always had with this writer and his own conflicts of interest. In this piece he discusses scouting, the cost of signing free agents, the politics in the game between what spin doctors call “small market” teams competing with big market teams. But one paragraph really struck me in the piece:

“In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, with greater scrutiny of visa information, falsified documents lessened and the need for greater oversight of the ages of a player in a system where ages were lied about, falsified so they could appear younger and more promising,” had diminished.

The Allan Schwartzs of the world go about their business with a blind eye to the morality off modern baseball. I think it is safe to conclude he actually believes that baseball players are worth the average $3 million they earn in 2008. It was not just the pay scale that had changed over the years. The culture, the environment had changed. Those who had grown up in the players’ association, the Joe Torres, the Ted Simmons, the Paul Molitors, those who had been led by Donald Fehr and his predecessor, were given jobs in management. Little wonder that front office people looked the other way in the era of steroid use. Not many general managers took their players to arbitration any more.

The Allan Schwartzs of the world do not tell you Andy MacPhail’s track record on arbitrations in Chicago. The Allan Schwartzs of the world do not tell under the current owner how many times the Baltimore Orioles had gone to arbitration. Those national writers never offered criticism of the local sports hero. That was why they now could break the big news story. Players had a way of snuggling up with those who never were critical. Those Allan Schwartzs of the world who were not true journalists. The Allan Schwartzs of the world, snuggling up to power, were manipulated by the Donald Fehrs, the Bud Seligs.

MacPhail’s reward was to work on the most recent basic agreement, achieved with peace. I have not done the research but from what I have read I think MacPhail never has been to arbitration since he left Minnesota more than once. If even that. Which makes him a perfect fit with the Orioles.

And it was not just MacPhail. He was just emblematic of the age. Where sports teams now are owned by conglomerates, the culture had changed. Cost containment does not apply to baseball operations. The passions seem to have burned out in the owners’ boxes. So what does this change in culture all mean? How baseball really changed was the acceptance that these guys really were superstars, who could do anything. Ticket prices kept escalating because the environment had changed, some executive well were eligible for benefits from the players’ association, and everyone deserved what they got. Ballplayers were no longer like the neighbor kid next door. A-Rod and his wife cavorted with the gods of music. Ticket prices kept escalating because no one challenged the superstars.

In this environment, the ball players were not punished for the use of steroids. What exactly had changed with the Mitchell Report in 2009? And those reporters who had been around clubhouses during the days of the Roger Maris chase, those Allan Schwartzs, where were their breaking stories?

And by the way, that spotlight sure has burned out in Congress since the Mitchell Report. Since no one was doing anything about steroid, including punishment, it was time for Congress to provide oversight on the issue, and remove it permanently as an issue from labor negotiations.

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2017 POST SCRIPT: #andy macphail

Back in the day when Public acceptance was good. Into his third season in Philadelphia, who is this guy, with the trail of losses mostly in his organizations after his departure, and always the roller-coaster ride:
YR __W _ L _ pct_ games out
1997 68 94 .420 18.5 4th place 1,413,064 people
1996 78 84 .481 21.5 4th place 1,437,446 people
1995 56 88 .389 44.0 5th place 1,057,668
1994 53 60 .469 14.0 4th place 1,398,565 Baseball Strike
1993 71 91 .438 23.0 6th place 2,054,523
1992 90 72 .556 6.0 2nd place 2,482,188 people
1991 95 67 .586 ___ 1st place _ 2,293,842

Sabermatics. Fifth place in the division in 1989; a seventh place finish in 1990, in his fifth season on the job in Minnesota. The 1991 World Series. Then the descent like an Elroy Face fork ball. Sixth place in 1993, with seven teams in two divisions. The descent, thereafter, with only 5 teams in three division after 1994. Over 10 seasons in Minnesota, his teams were 5 games over .500. Leaving town, for Chicago. Before losing face. Before heading to Baltimore. And then Philadelphia. And a lot of times, the best evaluation of an executive “is after he has left and you can see if they’ve done their work capably … or not,” said Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette. So, yes, look at the record in the years after 1994. When he left.

Per an article by Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun:
“Andy MacPhail said. ‘What made that chapter in my life difficult was that you essentially are announcing a rebuilding plan after 10 years of not being over .500. That’s hard. You have to be realistic and understand where you are. It’s one thing to come in and sort of signal you’re doing a rebuilding for a team that has won five championships and has won a World Series in the not-so-distant past. I think people understand that one. That one [in Baltimore] was an essential and almost easy decision because it was the only viable alternative we had.’

“Of course, in one of America’s toughest sports towns, with MacPhail in charge, it [Philadelphia] has to be an easier sell since he has already proved his approach is successful[?]. He is working with much of the same executive brain-trust that helped bring the Orioles back to respectability. But this one in Philadelphia is still a daunting public relations challenge. Former Orioles assistant Matt Klentak is his general manager. Ned Rice [player information analyst] and Scott Proefrock are his assistant GMs. Joe Jordan is his director of player development. Proefrock and Jordan already had jumped to the Phillies before MacPhail took over.

“‘I obviously was a part of bringing Matt in. Matt was responsible for bringing [player information analyst Ned Rice] Ned in. But from my standpoint, there is a level of comfort,’ MacPhail said, ‘because they all understand what the game plan is. It’s something they’re convicted about and believe in. You don’t have to persuade them. They understand what has to happen. They’ve seen why it’s the right approach. Not just from ‘our’ experience in Baltimore, but just paying attention to what other successful teams do.’

Per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune;

“The Cubs began the MacPhail era with the unfortunate marketing campaign — ‘We’re Working On It.’ Eventually, the fans began to get impatient in Baltimore, a lot line in Chicago, because MacPhail’s plan took a season longer than expected, but he never apologized for his patience.

“The Cubs were still working on it eight years after his exit. When he was hired as team president in 1994, after two World Series titles as the Twins general manager, MacPhail was hailed as a bright, young executive who would rebuild the Cubs’ farm system and end the championship drought, kind of like, well, you know who. [Theo]

“MacPhail’s career has had many highs and lows, including a roller-coaster ride with the Cubs, followed by his five seasons as the Orioles’ president of baseball operations.

YR___ _W _ L _ pct_ games out
1986 Twins 71 91 .438 21
1987 Twins 85 77 .525 1st place***
1988 Twins 91 71 .562 13
1989 Twins 80 82 .494 19
1990 Twins 74 88 .457 29

Per Peter Schmuck, ‘Coming over from Minnesota, if I didn’t at least get to the World Series I didn’t accomplish our goals. We came within five outs (in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS),” he said. “The one thing I can take some pride in is we had to be doing something right because the last three years were we were drawing more than 3 million, in Chicago. So the public acceptance was good. I think our highest attendance prior to ’94 was in the 2.4 range, and we were routinely drawing more than 3 million.’

Per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, “When Andy MacPhail departed Chicago in 2006 after two postseason appearances in 12 years running the Cubs, he left with one of the more memorable exit lines in franchise history: ‘It’s time,’ he said. ‘The clock on the MacPhail-o-meter has run down to zero.’

“The Cubs began the MacPhail era with the unfortunate marketing campaign — ‘We’re Working On It.’

“A lot of times, the best evaluation of an executive is after he’s left and you can see if they’ve done their work capably … or not,” said Dan Duquette, who helped build the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won its first World Series in 86 years, just two years after he was fired as GM. That had been so true for the people who he replaced in Minnesota. The Minnesota Twins went dry after 1992 and then for the next nine years.

Per Peter Schmuck, “Said Dan Duquette, who replaced MacPhail in Baltimore, ‘In THIS case, Andy did his work. There were some lean years, but there was some light at the end of the tunnel. We went out and got some pitching and changed the culture. So we were able to win over the last few years.’

MacPhail clearly is proud of the contribution he made in Baltimore, but careful not to take too many bows, like he had done in Minnesota. From 2007 to 2011, MacPhail’s Orioles compiled a 307-432 record and finished last each of the last four seasons.

Per Peter Schmuck: ‘The one thing I should say, at the time I left Baltimore, it was no sure thing they would go on and have the seasons they had,’ MacPhail said. ‘Dan and Buck have done a nice job continuing to augment those things that were necessary to do for the Orioles to have the success they’ve had over the last five seasons. Finding the starting pitching is not an easy thing to do, and he found it.’

“MacPhail had been out of the game since leaving the Orioles, but still served on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and was in Cooperstown, N.Y., last July for Maddux’s Hall induction. He has spent his time traveling around the world with his wife, Lark, and still resides in the Baltimore area. It’s his kind of town. There were always rumors MacPhail one day would become commissioner, but that turned out to be idle speculation.

“‘Great franchise, good area and good ballpark,” he said. “They have become such a football town here, but they still like their baseball team.”

“Dan Duquette replaced MacPhail after the 2011 season and built the bulk of the team that’s competing with the Royals for a chance at their first World Series since 1983. But MacPhail deserves an assist for putting some of the key pieces in place.

“‘We did good,’ MacPhail said. ‘For whatever reason we made some great trades that turned out for us. But when my contract expired, I wasn’t having any fun. My dad (former American League president Lee MacPhail) was dying and it was a chance to spend some time with him.’ — Per Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun

#Andy Macphail

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2 Comments »

  1. Comment by baseball91 — April 20, 2012 @ 5:04 AM | Reply

  2. In the Age of free agency, did you see the affect on an organization when the general manager keeps leaving, to those left behind? How can you establish a winning culture, like any blueprint for building a great university, if you do not pay attention, in a fundamental sense, to the faculty which are the Institution. Greatness in player development comes from the instructors. At what point did Andy Macphail discover, if he ever did, that it was not all him? Many a Baltimore Oriole student of the game was able to see that the wisdom of Harry Dalton was developing a loyalty of people to home — when you are good to work for. The Dalton Gang followed Harry, to California and Milwaukee, like very few did ever follow Andy in his wanderings.

    Comment by baseball91 — July 25, 2017 @ 11:55 AM | Reply


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