Fangraphs ranking, the fallout, and historical revisionism

By now, you have probably seen the carnage on twitter regarding the Fangraphs organizational rankings. Specifically, the Front Office ranking within the overall evaluation. Dave Flemming fired the first shot across the bow

An interesting exchange between Henry Schulman and Wendy Thurm ensued. I’ll skip the actual detailed exchange, but I will quote Henry’s final judgment on this topic :

Want an analytic to judge f.o.? Here are the two factors. One of you math whizzes can devise the formula. 1. Won-loss record adjusted by Injuries. 2. Payroll. (I guess that's 3 factors).

We’ve often heard the term “revisionist history” used in conversations, mostly in a negative light. What exactly is Historical revisionism?

Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. – Wikipedia

But let’s go back to Henry’s quote about judging front office. One of you math whizzes can devise the formula. 1. Won-loss record adjusted by Injuries. 2. Payroll

F(x) = ((result on field) – (Luck))/(resources)

Looks reasonable enough, right? Well, not to me. Not quite. When you push all in with A-K and run into A-A, you made a bad decision. The fact that you hit runner runner and end up with a straight and winning the pot means you were rewarded despite making a bad decision, not because you made that decision. How you arrived at the decision matters a lot more than the eventual outcome. Speaking of that…..

Now, let’s look back a bit at the tail end of the Bonds Era.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Gary Matthews Jr. reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday on a $50 million, five-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels following a career year with the Texas Rangers.

"It came down to the Angels and the Giants," Scott Leventhal, Matthews' agent, told The Associated Press. "The deciding factors were that he was so familiar with the American League, its pitching, the Western Division, and his roots in L.A. with his family."

Matthews must pass a physical before the deal is completed.

Leventhal said Matthews made his decision Wednesday morning. Matthews also had been sought by the San Francisco Giants.

"They were right there," Leventhal said. "It was a very difficult decision. More than 10 teams kicked the tires. Everybody couldn't be more pleased."

San Francisco also was said to be offered $50 million over five years before the Angels matched that package.

Gary Matthews Jr. Totaled negative 0.6 WAR during that contract. A pile of poop. Hooray Brian. A career .299 BABIP hitter hitting .343 BABIP in a contract year. Remember, as long as there is ONE general manager dumber than you with more resources, you are saved! Bill Stoneman was fired the year after this signing, replaced by Tony Reagins. Who was then fired for trading Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells.

Fast Forward 4 days. Andrew Baggarly wrote :

The Giants swung and missed at another free agent, and this time they took the mightiest of cuts.

According to a well-placed source, they offered Carlos Lee what would have ranked as the largest contract in franchise history -- $112 million over six years -- but the All-Star outfielder rebuffed them to sign a six-year, $100 million deal with the Houston Astros on Friday.

The Giants might be close to making contact with a few other players, though. They continued to negotiate with the agents for infielder Rich Aurilia and outfielder Dave Roberts, and the two players reportedly are close to signing three-year contracts.

Once again, Brian was saved. Except this time we weren’t so lucky. Tim Purpura beat Brian Sabean to the punch by offering 12 MORE MILLION and snatched up Carlos Lee. Tim Purpura was then fired because he made decisions like signing Carlos Lee. He was replaced by Ed Wade who was then fired because he made decisions like signing Pedro Feliz for 4.5M. Of course, Brian Sabean then signed Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, who were instrumental in contributing to the drafting of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey.

Fast Forward a month, from Henry Schulman :

The Giants have reached deep into their wallets and agreed to pay $126 million to bring longtime A's ace Barry Zito across the Bay Bridge, signing him to a seven-year contract that not only adds a Cy Young winner to the rotation but heralds a new era for a franchise that was built around another Barry for the past 14 seasons.

Read more:

Brian finally got his man. Hooray!!!

It is interesting yet frightening to think : if he had 4 times the resources at his disposal, would Brian Sabean have signed Gary Matthews Jr, Carlos Lee, AND Barry Zito in 2006? If he had half the resources he had, would he have ONLY signed Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia? Does resources even matter in the evaluation of a general manager as long as it isn’t pitifully small?

Brian Sabean is the longest tenured GM in baseball. What does that mean? It means since the moment Brian Sabean took over the helm as the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants, every other team has fired their general manager at least once. Every team. Except the Giants. Brian Sabean stands alone on top of the mountain. A beacon of immortality, if you will, seemingly immune to the winds of change that seems to blow every November. Fangraphs evaluation of the Giants front office is a snapshot in time. AT THIS MOMENT. Not last year. Not the year before. The decisions those front office made are irrelevant. The Cubs replaced Jim Hendry with Theo Epstein. The Astros replaced Ed Wade with Jeff Luhnow. The Blue Jays replaced J.P. Ricciardi with Alex Anthopoulos.

You are not comparing Sabean’s current front office with Bill Bavasi’s Mariners. Why would you? Bill Bavasi sucked. That’s why he was fired. You are comparing Brian Sabean against the other General Managers that are CURRENTLY EMPLOYED by major league ball clubs. I have three names that come to mind.

Kenny Williams. Dayton Moore. Ned Colletti.

You can convince me that those three men have less of an idea of what contributes to a winning baseball club. I will not argue with you. They rank as #28, #29, and #30 in my book. No problem.

So is Brian Sabean* #27? I don’t know. I can’t evaluate the Astros yet. I don’t know what the new Red Sox will be like. So Maybe Sabean’s Front Office is #22. Or #24. I don’t know. But I do know that if you want to put him down at the bottom of that pile at #27, I won’t argue too hard against it.

*Yes, I realize the front office is more than just Brian Sabean. Sabean ultimately is the final decision maker, and I am using the head man to define front office.

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