The proverbial buck usually stops with the General Manager, as the architect who puts together each team. Sure, the field manager is usually the first to go, but increasingly it's become clear that to have a real change on the direction of an organization, you have to aim higher. Ben Cherington's departure from the Red Sox is already the fourth change at the General Manager spot since the start of the season, and as Matt Goldman pointed out yesterday, we could see even more changes before the offseason begins in earnest. Indeed, the three following general managers should feel awfully uncomfortable:
Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners
Jack Z has led the Mariners through two different rebuilding projects across seven seasons using vastly different philosophies, both of which collapsed after a single year. His teams are 501-591 overall and have never finished higher than third. He has also burned through three managers, so the Mariners' corporate overlords may finally be willing to make changes at the top.
Since acquiring Franklin Gutierrez in 2009, his trades haven't worked out either. He dealt away Doug Fister, Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard, and Michael Pineda, and got little in return. He willingly dealt for both Milton Bradley and Josh Lueke, and had the temerity to admit he hadn't done any homework on the latter. His acquisition of John Jaso for Lueke was fantastic, but then he ruined it by dealing him for Michael Morse. Other recent acquisitions like Austin Jackson, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, J.A. Happ, and Mark Trumbo have been disasters. And while they acquired an interesting young pitcher in Mike Montgomery, they gave up Erasmo Ramirez, who has been rejuvenated in Tampa.
Add to that the lingering rumors about Jack Z'd lack of professionalism and high profile draft failures like Dustin Ackley, Mike Zunino, and Nick Franklin, and it seems clear that the Mariners need someone else to make the big decisions and chart a new course in Seattle.
Mike Rizzo, Washington Nationals
There has been a lot of discussion about Matt Williams's job status, but Rizzo has steadfastly stood by his manager. So if you're looking for someone to blame for the Nats' underwhelming 2015, that gives you carte blanche to pin it on the guy who left a club rife with brittle players with little depth.
Rizzo gets a ton of deserved credit for building the Nats from a joke into a playoff competitor for the fourth straight year, of course. He draftered Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and Drew Storen. He made deals to acquire Denard Span, Yunel Escobar, Wilson Ramos, Gio Gonzalez, and the aforementioned Doug Fister. And he signed Max Scherzer to a massive contract this offseason.
However, the Jayson Werth signing has turned toxic, and the Ryan Zimmerman extension has been awful. With Jordan Zimmermann, Span, and Fister all set to become free agents this year, and with Strasburg, Storen, and Ramos set to leave after next year, however, the Nats are on the verge of seeing their window close without getting past the NL Division Series, a huge disappointment for a club that was supposed to be a favorite to reach the World Series. And before anyone starts to scramble to patch holes, maybe a different vision is necessary to get the next good Nationals team over the hump.
Terry Ryan, Minnesota Twins
It would seem almost cruel to replace Ryan just as the talent he and his team have assembled is on the verge of breaking through, and after the Twins took a big step forward in 2015. But Ryan has consistently shown that he will prefer veteran mediocrity over trying out young players. His attempts at giving out mid-level free agent contracts to Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana, and a contract extension to Phil Hughes, has left the starting rotation and the disabled list stuffed with mediocrity while promising starters like Trevor May and Jose Berrios are either in the bullpen or blocked at triple-A. The bullpen is a mess. His inaction at the deadline and his hesitancy at recalling Byron Buxton until Aaron Hicks got hurt both betray a fatal lack of ambition that prevented the Twins from advancing in the playoffs during their first run of success under Ryan as well. He simply isn't willing or able to go for the throat when his team needs him to. And now his Twins are mired in a three-month tailspin, playing just as poorly as they did from 2011-2014.
Terry Ryan is a hell of a good GM for building up a franchise in need of an infusion of talent. That's just not what needs to happen if the Twins are going to take the next step. That said, the entire Twins organization is, from top to bottom, tremendously loyal, and it would probably be an upset to see him oustered before he wanted to go.