Palmateer: The actual facts of the GM demographic shift

From Dustin Palmateer at Baseball Prospectus on November 11, 2015:

As the role of the general manager has transformed over the years, so too has the background of the general manager. With the amount of money at stake, the advent and escalation of free agency, and the increases in front office size and responsibility, it’s not surprising that teams have dipped into the Wall Street hiring pool to find today’s prototype GM. But just how much has the GM profile changed over the years?

Go back to the 1970s and guess the profile of the typical general manager. Maybe you’re thinking about a former player turned scout turned front office executive, a hard-nosed traditional baseball type who probably had one (or two) of those Dogs Playing Poker paintings hanging in the old stadium office, and who probably looked like a slightly more athletic version of Jack Arnold from The Wonder Years. You’re not totally wrong—if that’s what you were thinking—but research has revealed that the ’70s were a crazy time in baseball front offices. Perhaps not surprisingly, one overarching stereotype doesn’t cover ’em all. Like, say, these guys:

  • Paul Owens, Phillies GM 1973-1982: St. Bonaventure graduate; low-level minor-league journeyman first baseman; manager; World War II veteran.
  • Frank Cashen, Orioles GM 1972-1975 (later Mets): Award-winning sportswriter; University of Maryland law school grad; director of publicity at Baltimore Raceway, a harness track owned by Jerry Hoffberger.
  • Stuart Holcomb, White Sox GM 1971-1973: Ohio State grad; college football and basketball coach at various schools, including Purdue; athletic director at Northwestern.
  • Eddie Robinson, Braves GM 1973-1976 (later Rangers): Paris Junior College grad; 13-year major-league career that included seven different teams and 172 home runs.
  • Roland Hemond, White Sox GM 1974-1985 (later Orioles): High school grad; Coast Guard; long-time Angels farm director.

The 1980s, too, provided a strange mix in contrasts, as Sandy Alderson (Dartmouth College/Harvard Law) was practicing early Moneyball techniques in Oakland while former player Whitey Herzog double-dipped as both manager and general manager in St. Louis—for two years, anyway. Even the ’90s featured a good bit of diversity (ignoring the whole white-male thing, which … well, Megan has you covered there): There was Dan Duquette (Amherst College, no playing experience) and Bob Watson (a 19-year major-leaguer) and Randy Smith (no college or playing experience).

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Originally published: November 11, 2015. Last Updated: November 11, 2015.