MMO Mailbag: Is Sandy Alderson Baseball’s Losingest GM?

An article by posted on June 12, 2013

sandy alderson

Last week I received an email asking me if it was true that Mets GM Sandy Alderson was on the verge of breaking some long held major league record for the most consecutive losing seasons by a GM. Actually, it was an accusatory email also suggesting that I’ve become a shill for the Mets and that’s why I never post anything critical of Sandy. Obviously, this reader has me confused with someone else, but his first question was worth investigating. Could this possibly have any truth to it?

Well I’m sad to say that I found no evidence either way that would support or refute the suggestion that Sandy is on the doorstep of becoming baseball’s biggest loser among general managers. There really isn’t a database setup to track executives by their won-loss records. Obviously, with a month’s worth of dedicated research one could pull up the won-loss records of every single GM in the modern era, but I wasn’t about to do that just to prove or disprove this prevailing theory that seems to be picking up more steam as this season is looking like another losing one for the Mets.

However, my time expended wasn’t a total loss as I was able to at least get a better grasp of Alderson’s history as a general manager while also coming across a nugget of information that you might all find somewhat surprising. I’ll start with that…

In a study conducted by Baseball Prospectus in 2010, Shawn Hoffman analyzed the best and worst general managers of the nineties using Payroll Efficiency Rating. PER was created in 2004 by the late Doug Pappas who wanted to find a simple way to evaluate how well each MLB team was spending their money. His formula shed light on how Billy Beane was consistently far ahead of all his contemporaries in getting the most production per payroll dollar.

Hoffman used this same formula to calculate which general managers were the most and least efficient from 1990-1999. The results even surprised him. Counting only GMs with three or more years on the job in the ’90s, Sandy Alderson finished with the worst mark. Of all the general managers in his study, these were the bottom five beginning with the worst:

  • Sandy Alderson, Athletics (1990-97) – 0.905
  • Ed Lynch, Cubs (1995-99) – 0.904
  • Fred Claire, Dodgers (1990-98) – 0.903
  • Bob Gebhard, Rockies (1993-99) – 0.889
  • Herk Robinson, Royals (1991-99) – 0.879

“Alderson is probably a surprise here,” he writes. “Alderson is known as the godfather of the modern sabermetric-savvy GMs, but the record is what it is. The A’s had a lot of bad years in the ‘nineties, and they spent far more on payroll than they really needed to.”

Of course the takeaway here is that there’s clear evidence to suggest that Alderson is at least as complicit as Omar Minaya when it comes to dead payroll dollars – that is not getting back in production what you paid for in payroll dollars. The trend continues now with the Mets as the biggest contracts that he’s doled out have been the least productive. This raises eyebrows only because Alderson was the one charged with turning around what many felt was Minaya’s biggest fault.

But getting back to the the string of consecutive losing seasons, here is what I come up with:

First, let me clarify that Sandy Alderson was never the GM of the San Diego Padres. He was their CEO from 2005 to 2009, and Kevin Towers was the general manager of the Padres during that period.

Prior to becoming the general manager of the New York Mets, Sandy Alderson previously held that position only once in his baseball career and that was with the Oakland A’s from 1983 to 1997. Using the Baseball America Executive Database, I compiled each season’s results in the chart below.

alderson

Of his 15 years at the helm of the Oakland A’s, Sandy produced five winning seasons, one .500 season, and nine losing seasons.

His last five years as GM of the A’s were all losing seasons.

Sandy was still with the A’s in 1998 when they finished 74-88, but in his final year with the organization he was promoted to president and Billy Beane took over as the new GM. So technically, Sandy finished with five losing seasons as GM and not six.

When you add in his first two seasons with the Mets, it brings him to seven consecutive losing seasons. By the looks of this current season, he will likely extend his losing streak to eight consecutive seasons.

Is that a record? I have no idea.

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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