There are only two directions a baseball organization can go: Up or down.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh fans, I see the Pirates trending up. We don’t know how long this trend will last, or how far they will rise. However, the boosted farm system and the clear direction of the organization’s rebuilding efforts don’t tell us how far a team will rise.
There are two roles for an MLB General Manager, based on the organizational direction. When the organization is going down, the General Manager is responsible for turning things around as quickly as possible. When the organization is on the rise, the General Manager is responsible for keeping the organization on that rise as long as possible.
I was thinking about these roles when thinking about how a General Manager could be graded on the 20-80 scale.
When we use the 20-80 scale for players, we focus mostly on the results of stats that have a strong correlation to winning. Baseball is a team game, and no one player will be responsible for any team win.
An MLB General Manager carries more one-man responsibility than anyone in the organization when it comes to that organization winning.
Therefore, a 20-80 scale for a GM should have direct ties to winning.
Pirates’ General Manager Ben Cherington prefers the word “build” rather than “rebuild” to describe what the Pirates are doing. There’s a philosophical correctness to that word, especially when you imagine literally every long-term economic model, where the goal is to consistently and gradually and endlessly improve long-term — despite any short-term falls.
In terms of an MLB team, the goal is winning. So, there can only be two modes for a team, and two responses for a GM of said team.
1. The team isn’t winning, and the General Manager needs to get them back to winning ASAP.
2. The team is winning, and the General Manager needs to keep them winning ALAP.
Rebuilding or maintaining.
In each case, if you’re not “building” you aren’t doing the job. Building is like running, and contending long-term in MLB is a marathon.
So, how would I evaluate an MLB GM on a 20-80 scale, based on rebuilding or maintaining?
Here are my Sunday thoughts on the subject. These grades are mostly geared toward small markets, as large markets have less concern with the rebuild process, and more resources to maintain their rise.
Rebuilding 20-80 Scale
The rebuilding scale should be simple, focusing solely on how long it takes to turn an organization around. In the past, this scale might have looked different, with a five-year rebuild being a 50-grade. I feel that organizations have gotten better about rebuilding faster, and that has been reflected below. I’d probably bump pre-2013 General Managers up a grade here, as that was around the time organizations started tanking and choosing one direction or the other.
80 – An MLB GM can turn an organization into a playoff team in his first year on the job.
70 – Two years
60 – Three years
50 – Four years
40 – Five years
30 – Six years
20 – Seven Years
Maintaining 20-80 Scale
The maintaining scale is a bit more difficult. You have several levels of contending once your organization is rebuilt. Some contenders might never make the playoffs. Some might contend for years with only one playoff appearance.
20 – An organization contends, but never actually reaches the playoffs
30 – An organization contends, reaching the playoffs once.
40 – Multiple years contending, reaching the playoffs once
50 – Multiple years contending, multiple years in the playoffs
60 -Multiple years contending, advancing in the playoffs
70 – Multiple years contending, multiple years advancing in the playoffs
80 – Multiple years contending, multiple years advancing to World Series
MLB General Manager Rating
Average the two grades above and you get the MLB General Manager rating.
This probably isn’t perfect, and might need adjustments. It also doesn’t really matter, as GM grades are the same as prospect grades: The only thing that actually matters is what the person actually does going forward.
Feel free to weigh in on the subject in the comments.