It’s a parlor game, really, or what used to be called that: Complaining about the ownership and/or front-office management of your favorite baseball team.
Cubs fans are no different than any other in this regard; rightly or wrongly, Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer get their share of criticism from fans (and baseball writers).
I’m here to tell you that as Cubs fans, we’re very lucky right now because we’ve got among the best of both, while several other teams range from “What are they doing?” to absolute dumpster fires.
Let’s take a look at where some MLB teams stand in terms of ownership and management, in no particular order.
Okay, I’m going to begin with this team because they’ve made news this week.
The Marlins just made the postseason for the first time in a 162-game season in 20 years (not including their postseason appearance in 2020, when they dispatched the Cubs in a wild-card series). Sure, Miami got whipped by Philadelphia, but there was definitely promise in their season and hope for the future.
What do they do? Why, they parted ways with general manager Kim Ng, who made history three years ago when she was hired as the first female head baseball operations executive.
Why did they do this?
The Miami Marlins wanted to hire a president of baseball operations over general manager Kim Ng, leading to her departure from the organization, sources told ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 16, 2023
When reached, Ng declined comment. But sources said she would've been the No. 2 after constructing a playoff team.
That makes no sense whatsoever. It would have been like the Cubs demoting Theo Epstein after 2015.
Ng is a smart and savvy executive who made several key trades for the Marlins, including acquiring Luis Arraez from the Twins for Pablo Lopez.
She should have no shortage of suitors for her executive talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if she winds up in Boston. Speaking of which...
Boston Red Sox
It’s beginning to look like the Theo Epstein/Ben Cherington era in Boston is going to be their Golden Age, because the five years under the recently-dismissed Chaim Bloom were pretty much a disaster. After 10 postseason appearances and four World Series titles in the 16 seasons from 2003-18, the Red Sox have had two winning seasons under Bloom and one playoff appearance (a loss in the 2021 ALCS).
Mostly, Bloom’s going to be remembered in Boston for trading away Mookie Betts and getting not much in return, and letting Xander Bogaerts walk for draft pick compensation.
With the Orioles resurgent in the A.L. East, the Blue Jays and Rays perennial contenders, and the Yankees likely to be angry after their mediocre, injury-filled 82-80 season, the Red Sox have a lot of work to do.
At least they’re not an utter tire fire like the...
Chicago White Sox
The disastrous season the Sox had — 101 losses after a 93-win playoff season just two years earlier — prompted Jerry Reinsdorf to, at last, fire Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn. Reinsdorf has been known for years to be too loyal to his favorites, just as he was with John Paxson and Gar Forman with the Bulls.
With the Bulls he went with an outside hire, with mixed results so far.
With the Sox... he elevated Hahn’s assistant, Chris Getz. The Sox needed to clean house and a) they didn’t, and b) Getz seems inclined to work with folks from the Royals, including keeping manager Pedro Grifol, who seems way over his head as a manager. Oh, and the Royals’ 106-loss season in 2023 was the only thing keeping the Sox out of last place.
And that further leads to things like this:
On the field and in their clubhouse, the White Sox have a lot of work to do this offseason.
So what will that mean? It might start by making an offer for veteran Royals catcher Salvador Perez on the trade market and with a pursuit of second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield in free agency. The White Sox have discussed both of those possibilities at length, sources said.
So to fix their problem, the Sox want to acquire two expensive older players, both of whom have declined in performance over the last couple of seasons. This is the sort of thing the Cubs did in the 1950’s when they were flailing around trying to find anything to stop the losing. (NARRATOR: “It didn’t work.”)
The Sox are a very long way from returning to contention.
Los Angeles Angels
The joke that went around last March during the World Baseball Classic, when the final-out at-bat between Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani captivated the world, was: “Imagine if one team had both those players.”
Oh. Well, of course you know Ohtani and Trout have been teammates since 2018, during which time the Angels have not had a winning season, much less contended for a playoff spot. In fact, the Angels have had only one winning season since 2014, which is their last postseason, and Trout’s only postseason — they got swept by the Royals.
So Trout’s never been in a postseason win, and Ohtani’s likely gone as a free agent. The Angels have been talking trading Trout, which would likely mean a rebuild, or maybe a “rebuild we’re not calling a rebuild.”
This is the sort of thing that can likely only be fixed by a team sale. Arte Moreno reportedly had the Angels on the block for a while this past year, but withdrew and now isn’t selling.
Speaking of teams with ownership issues...
New York Mets
The Mets have an owner, Steve Cohen, with very close to unlimited funds. Cohen spent so much of that money over the last couple of seasons that the new luxury tax levels got nicknamed the “Steve Cohen tax.” The 2023 Mets payroll, per Spotrac, was about $75 million more than the next closest team (Yankees) — that figure, $75 million, is more than the entire estimated payroll of three teams (Orioles, Pirates, A’s).
All that money helped the Mets buy Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and both of them are in this year’s postseason!
Uh... on opposing teams in the ALCS, where the Mets traded them AND paid most of their salaries.
All that got the Mets was 26 fewer wins this year (75) than in 2022 (101) and finishing far out of playoff contention. It might be a while to get back no matter how much Cohen spends.
The Mets did hire a competent executive to run their operation, former Brewers GM David Stearns. He’s got to hire a new manager first, and then there’s the mess of a roster to clean up.
Ask any Rockies fan about his/her team and you will get the biggest ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you have ever seen. No one can figure out this club.
The biggest mystery is why they signed Kris Bryant to the deal they did (seven years, $182 million), and further, why Bryant went to Colorado when other, better teams (Mariners, in particular) wanted him. The Rox were coming off three straight losing years when Bryant signed there, weren’t particularly close to contention and already had a third baseman. That put Bryant in left field, where his numbers are good but not $182 million worth of good, and then he couldn’t stay healthy.
For those who say, “Bryant signed there because it’s closer to his home in Las Vegas!” ... uh, no. The “close to home” thing for a free agent really only applies if the player’s family literally lives in the city where he’s signing. Otherwise it’s a plane ride. Yes, a plane ride from Denver to Vegas is shorter than Chicago to Vegas or Seattle to Vegas, but... still a plane ride.
All of that helped lead the Rockies to the first 100-loss season in their 30-year franchise history. Owner Dick Monfort installed his son Sterling as director of pro scouting despite the younger Monfort really having no relevant experience for that job.
The Rockies are a mess and they aren’t getting better any time soon.
So there are at least six teams whose ownership and front-office management teams are markedly worse than we have on the North Side of Chicago. Tom Ricketts stays out of baseball decisions and while Jed Hoyer has done some things we can question as Cubs fans, in general he’s done a pretty good job of building back a team that was falling apart two years ago into one that should be a serious contender for the N.L. Central title in 2024.
Count your blessings. The Cubs are heading in the right direction.
Give Cubs ownership and front office management a grade.
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