Monday, March 05, 2007

Forbes Ranks Pro Sports GMs

Forbes Magazine, which likes to print lists of all different kinds of stuff (i.e. richest people, richest celebrities, value of sports franchises, etc) has come up with another interesting list. This time, Forbes has ranked the GMs in the four major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL).

According to Forbes, each GM is graded in two ways; First, on regular season winning percentage and post season wins versus the regular season winning percentage and post season wins of their predecessor. Second, they are graded on their relative payroll compared with their predecessor’s relative payroll.

The magazine only included GMs with at least three years of experience. And because winning is more important than payroll, winning percentage was double weighted.

Of all of the GMs in all four sports, Kevin McHale of the Minnesota Timberwolves was ranked first. The top five in all of sports looked like this:

1. Kevin McHale (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2. Jay Feaster (Tampa Bay Lightning)
3. Billy King (Philadelphia 76ers)
4. A.J. Smith (San Diego Chargers)
5. Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey Devils)

Two things strike me about this top five list. First, there’s no one from MLB on the list. In fact, the highest ranking MLB GM is ranked #26. The other thing is, how many championships have the top five GMs won with their current teams? As best I can tell, the answer is zero. The Tampa Bay Lightning won a championship a few years ago, but that was before Jay Feaster became the GM. So obviously, winning championships doesn’t enter into the rankings, although in my opinion it should since that is what every team is built to do.

In any case, now that we understand the shortcomings of the rankings, let’s take a look at the rankings of the MLB GMs.

The top five MLB GMs according to Forbes are:

1. Billy Beane (Oakland A’s)
2. Omar Minaya (New York Mets)
3. Theo Epstein (Boston Red Sox)
4. Brian Sabean (San Francisco Giants)
5. Pat Gillick (Philadelphia Phillies)

Considering the top five names on the MLB list, it seems to me that this whole exercise is flawed. Of the top five, only Theo Epstein with Boston has won a World Series. The thing that helped Epstein so much in the rankings is that his predecessor was spending a lot of money (but not getting the commensurate winning percentage), so Epstein is not gigged for having such a high payroll.

Our beloved (or hated) Jim Hendry came in 58th overall and 14th among MLB GMs. Since there are only 23 MLB GMs with three or more years of experience, Hendry is in the bottom half of the rankings for MLB GMs. Although I don’t agree with the top five, I really can’t argue with Hendry’s ranking. Of course, a successful 2007 season could substantially upgrade his ranking.

Interestingly, Ken Williams from the White Sox is ranked 19th out of the 23 MLB GMs. I’m no fan of the White Sox, but it seems to me that Williams deserves better. He has built some excellent teams (especially over the past 3-4 years) and he won a World Series. Winning a World Series should count for something.

Not surprisingly, the bottom three GMs are:

21. Jim Bowden (Washington Nationals)
22. Dave Littlefield (Pittsburgh Pirates)
23. Bill Bavasi (Seattle Mariners)

Honestly, Dave Littlefield probably deserves better, but since he doesn’t have much to work with, I guess he’s stuck at the bottom.

The Forbes listing is interesting, even if I don’t agree with the way it was done. Winning a championship in any sport is the ultimate goal. Building a team that is consistently good, but never wins it all is nice, but it still falls short of the goal. For this reason, Forbes should have considered and weighted for championships won.

The article and rankings from Forbes can be found here.


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