I used to fish a lot, and my grandfather would teach me about using the right bait. He’d also tell me the right times to catch different kinds of fish. Which were active in the early morning. Which came out at night. It wasn’t a matter of just sticking hook in the water with a worm on it. You needed to know when and how to catch what you wanted.
Dangling the chance to run a Major League Baseball team is pretty good bait. You get paid a lot. You get to be in control of a professional sports team. You get the praise when things go well. In theory, baseball executives should be practically trying to jump into the Twins’ boat, especially since the franchise has provided unprecedented in this era job security for its front office staff and has a young and developing core of promising players.
So it’s pretty funny to see qualified candidates barely nibbling at the Twins’ bait. Last week, we found out that former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos would rather remain in Los Angeles as some kind of assistant GM to Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi. Today, multiple sources are reporting that the Twins were rebuffed by both former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and by current A’s GM David Forst.
Instead, Forst is going to remain in Oakland, where he has tremendous freedom under the perpetually bored Billy Beane, and Cherington will serve as the vice president of baseball operations under Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins in Toronto. All of their positions are, in point of fact, lower on the depth chart than the one they would be able to step into in Minnesota.
Darren Wolfson suggests that there might be something more to Cherington’s decision, like the Jays would allow him to telecommute and spend extra time at home in New York:
@MikeBatesSBN have to go case-by-case. I'd say Ben to Toronto is unique. He may even stay living in NYC. Told rest of family is.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) September 14, 2016
That certainly wouldn’t be the case if he took over the Twins. However, feeling the rejection of three potentially strong candidates for the position before they even offered the chance to interview for it should signal to the Twins current regime that something is dreadfully rotten in Minneapolis.
Now, the only question is where that smell is coming from. The smart money is on how the job is being structured within the Twins’ front office. While the Twins purport to be going with a newfangled two-handed front office structure, with a President of Baseball Operations and a General Manager. However, those new showrunners in baseball generally have a free hand and report directly to the club’s ownership. The Twins, on the other hand, have reportedly decided to have their new hire report to current president Dave St. Peter instead. St. Peter, a capable business executive (an area where the club has generally excelled), has no baseball decision or scouting expertise, and is a strange choice as a go-between between the new boss of the team and the club’s owners.
Now, even the some oversight might be reasonable if a candidate was paid enough. But perhaps the Twins aren’t offering a competitive enough salary to make up for the headache of not having a free hand. Front office executives at this level do make some pretty good money, but it’s still far below what the players on the field typically earn. Smart clubs, presumably, can get a leg up on their competitors by stockpiling top baseball minds. The Cubs, for instance, have several GM-type talents at the top of their depth chart. The Dodgers have at least five former GMs on the payroll in some way or another, counting Anthopoulos. Presumably, they’re paying these top minds enough so that they don’t terribly mind not having the final call.
Whatever the problem is, it’s incumbent on the Twins to change the way they’re pitching the job to potential candidates. To make it more attractive somehow. Because too many top minds are getting away, and if the club isn’t careful, it will be left with whichever fish was dumb enough to get caught. One they’d be better off throwing back.