Former Indians third baseman Al Rosen passed away on Friday, but around these parts we mostly know him for being the Giants GM between 1986 and 1992. In that time, he made some spectacular moves, and it seems appropriate to honor that.
Trading for Rick Reuschel
I'm sure that a few of you have heard of Scott Medvin and Jeff Robinson, but a lot more of you know about Rick Reuschel. There's a good reason for that: Medvin's major league career consisted of 28 ineffective outings, and Robinson, while a good closer for a time, was generally mediocre during his career. Rosen did a great job selling high on Robinson's outstanding 1987 season and getting Reuschel in return, who anchored the pitching staff for two years before injuries and age took their toll. Without Reuschel, the 1989 team doesn't make the World Series. Without Robinson and Medvin, the 1989 team made the World Series. It seems fair to say that Al Rosen won that one.
Calling up Robby Thompson and Will Clark
In retrospect this seems like a sure thing, obviously, but at the time, Rosen was calling up a first baseman who dominated A-ball and a second baseman who was decent in AA. Imagine if last year, the Giants started Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker in the outfield, and you'd have a pretty good sense of how much of a risk that Rosen was taking. But it worked out, because either Al Rosen knew what he was doing, or he just really liked those kids.
Drafting Matt Williams
Despite generally poor first rounds, Rosen was able to find at least some value in most of his drafts, but taking Matt Williams in 1986 was undoubtedly his biggest coup. Not only was Williams a great player with the Giants, but when Brian Sabean traded him for Jeff Kent, they got another great player out of that pick. Value!
Hiring Roger Craig
Do you know how Rosen introduced the Giants job to Roger Craig? SABR's website has the 30-year-old scoop:
"In the middle of the  season, Al Rosen called me," Craig said. "He asked if I was interested in becoming his manager. Bob Lillis was the manager with Houston then and I told Al I wouldn’t take his job. Al told me, ‘You won’t be taking his job, I’m moving to the San Francisco Giants and they’re about to lose 100 games.’"
Look at the prescience there. Rosen wouldn't technically be hired until the season ended, but he still knew just how bad the team was going to be and who should manage them out of the abyss. Roger Craig, as we all know, went on to manage the Giants through their late-'80s renaissance, and has been credited with changing the culture of the team through his relentless positivity and refusal to allow players to complain about Candlestick. Thankfully, this prohibition did not apply to fans, who have always been free to complain as often as possible about everything ever.
His .558 OPS in the 1954 World Series
Is that too mean? That's probably too mean. Okay, I'll do another one.
Trading for Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky, and Craig Lefferts
Chris Brown, Keith Comstock, Mark Davis, and Mark Grant went over to San Diego in the deal, and the Giants won it. They won it easily, and it wasn't close. Even with Dravecky's injury problems (which weren't exactly foreseeable), he was an important contributor down the stretch in 1987, and the other two spent several excellent years in San Francisco, with Mitchell in particular playing like a superstar. And Rosen didn't give up much, either; Brown's best years were behind him, Comstock would have a couple good years with the Mariners after the Padres released him, and Grant had a long career as a below-average
blogger reliever. Davis was the only one who was special after the trade, but the Giants got a closer in Lefferts, so it's not like they lost too much at that position. Any time you trade for an MVP, it's probably going to be a good trade, but before I looked into it, I had no idea how good it was.
Like the Christian Science Monitor once said:
So, as good as Craig's managing has been (actually it's been super), no one should forget Rosen's contributions when handing out the plaudits for this year's success. Al couldn't have had a greater impact if he had dropped a pile driver on a cup of custard!
Al Rosen had an amazing impact on the Giants, and was highly thought of by people around baseball. He will be missed.