SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — We have lost a giant of baseball and an important figure in Cubs history.
Dallas Green has passed away. Great baseball man. RIP.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 22, 2017
Dallas Green was named general manager of the Cubs October 15, 1981, not long after the Tribune Company completed its purchase of the team. If you think the Cubs were in bad shape before Theo & Co. took over in 2012, things were much worse at the end of the Wrigley era. They’d just finished a 98-loss season in 1980 followed by a 38-65 season in strike-interrupted 1981 which almost certainly would have been a franchise-record year for losses if not for the strike. The farm system was largely empty; recent first-round picks included Brian Rosinski, Randy Martz, Herman Segelke and Bill Hayes, none of whom had any significant big-league career.
Green set about revamping the franchise. As you certainly know, one of his first deals, completed January 27, 1982, brought a kid shortstop from the Phillies system, where Green had worked for many years, to the North Side. Ryne Sandberg put up a Hall of Fame career for the Cubs and was named league MVP in 1984, the year the Cubs finally broke through and made the playoffs for the first time since 1945.
That 1984 season might not have happened if not for a 13-game losing streak the Cubs suffered during spring training. Back then, ST games meant more than they do now, and Green, sick of losing, pulled off a deal just before Opening Day that brought Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier to the Cubs at a very small price (Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz, neither of whom did much after the deal). The Cubs probably don’t win the division without the contributions of Matthews and Dernier.
We don’t have to rehash the 1984 postseason, not now, not after last year’s World Series win. The Cubs seemed primed to win again in 1985, but injuries to the entire starting rotation did them in. They had another losing season in 1986 and Green fired Jim Frey, who had managed the team so well in 1984.
1987 brought one of Green’s signature achievements, the signing of Andre Dawson, who presented a blank contract to the Cubs GM at the start of spring training. After calling that a “dog and pony show,” Green signed Dawson for $500,000, under-market even in those days. Dawson responded with an MVP season, though the Cubs again failed to make the playoffs. Dawson is beloved by Cubs fans to this day.
After the season a shakeup seemed necessary; manager Gene Michael, who never really fit in, had been fired and replaced by Frank Lucchesi. A news conference was called in late October, but instead of naming a new manager, Green abruptly resigned as GM:
John Madigan, executive vice president of Tribune Co., owner of the Cubs, announced that he will assume the position of chairman of the club until a director of baseball operations is named.
Madigan said the Cubs will not name a field manager until Green has been replaced.
Green said: "I've been in baseball 30 years now, and I know that when philosophical differences pop up, as they will from time to time between ownership and field people, there's only a couple of routes to go.
"One, you get fired, or you resign. I've resigned."
He walked away without answering questions.
Madigan said: "We had some differences on the structure of the organization. My first job will be to name a director of baseball operations . . . and his first priority will be to name a field manager. We hope to do that as soon as possible."
He said Green resigned "after a long discussion," adding, "I can't get into details."
Talk at the time was that Green wanted to be named team president (and the Cubs really should have done that); when he was refused the position, he decided to quit.
George Dallas Green was born August 4, 1934 in Newport, Delaware and attended the University of Delaware. He was signed by the Phillies in 1955 and made his big-league debut in 1960. In eight major-league seasons with the Phillies, Washington Senators and Mets he posted a 20-22 record, 4.26 ERA and 1.501 WHIP in 185 games (46 starts) with a total of 2.3 bWAR.
He managed in the Phillies organization for several years before joining the Phillies’ front office in the mid-1970s, eventually becoming farm director. He didn’t really want the Phillies’ managing gig when it fell to him in 1979, but he made the most of it with the World Series title.
Green brought the Cubs into the then-modern age of baseball after it had been mired in 1940s-era thinking in the last few decades of the Wrigley regime. In the end, Tribune Co. should have made him team president; Green understood what was needed to win and, except for a very short time, didn’t really get the resources to do so. Here’s a more complete bio of Green from the SABR BioProject.
Condolences to his family and many friends. Dallas Green was 82.