Thursday, April 28, 2005

Should the Guillotine Fall on AB?

An 0-6 homestand in April tends to bring those sentiments to the surface. The short answer is: of course not. At least not NOW. Firing Baird 1 month into the season would just leave them rudderless for the rest of the year, potentially ruining a very important draft. But I'm ambivalent about AB. He's made good, if not great, strides as a general manager since he began, but he spent three years cutting his teeth as a GM before he turned the corner. Meanwhile, the organization continues to suffer from a lack of top-shelf talent in their minor league system.

I don't have any readily available tool for assessing what constitutes a "great", "good" or "bad" baseball draft. For starters, let's compare the players rated B or above in Minor League Ball's organizational top 20s OR in the major leagues from the 2001 to 2004 drafts.

A's: Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Wood, Neal Cotts, Dan Johnson
Royals: None

A's: Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Mark Teahen
Royals: Zack Greinke

A's: Omar Quintanilla
Royals: None

A's: Huston Street, Kurt Suzuki, Richie Robnett, Danny Putnam
Royals: Billy Butler, J.P. Powell, Billy Buckner

Have the A's produced more players and current prospects? Yes. But Bonderman and Greinke are the best talents on that list, and the A's gave up Bonderman (and Carlos Pena, who is at least a regular if not a star) for Ted Lilly, who became Bobby Kielty, who hasn't been very good for the A's. Otherwise, its Crosby and a bunch of maybes. Of course, Beane just parlayed Mark Mulder into two A-grade top prospects in Daric Barton and Dan Meyer. But Baird gave away nothing to land Bautista, Sisco, Huber and Nunez, so that's basically a wash. There are also a few other prospects like Costa and Burgos who didn't make the cut. And Baird DID have a good 2004 draft.

In fact, I think Baird accomplished more in 2004 than he did in 2001-2003 combined. Based largely on his heists and 2004 draft, John Sickels rates the Royals' farm system as "good", in the second tier (behind Oakland). The top picks are the most high profile and Baird is feast or famine: Greinke and Butler vs. Lubanski and Griffin. The A's haven't bombed on any of their top picks.

So I'm back where I began -- ambivalent about Baird. At this juncture, I'm just weary of the Royals' parochialism and willingness to let their leadership learn on the job. They've hired 5 straight managers with no prior MLB managerial experience. Their GMs have always been promoted from within. I shouldn't let an early season superfunk change my thinking, but maybe after 2005 its just time for regime change. This team has been operating in a cocoon for practically their entire existence. It served them well in the 70s and 80s, but its been nothing short of disastrous in the 90s and 00s.

But that's on David Glass. If he wants a high powered GM, he's going to have give him autonomy and resources. That doesn't mean an $85 million payroll. But it might mean running the franchise with a greater sense of urgency and desire to win than has been the case for longer than all of us care to remember.


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