Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed....and a man named Ben
by Mike Carminati
Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer were named co-GMs of the Red Sox Monday, a little over a month after Theo Epstein walked away from the post as well as a decent chunk of change. The lack of a GM didn't deter Boston from making as many deals as possible, however.
The co-GMs rein might be a bit short-lived. There are rumors like this one in the Globe that Theo Epstein will return as some sort of advisor to the budding GMs. He'd be the Liam Neeson character to the young Obewan and Annikan, and we all know how well that turned out. Then again, the Globe is the paper that brought us the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline that Epstein had signed a three-year deal just hours before he up and quithe did both things.
Anyway, let's assume that the GM'er Twins will be left alone to do what all GMs do, hang out and get snookered with Peter Gammons. How successful can we expect the pair to be?
It reminds me of the fantasy team in every league that starts with two equal partners joyfully approaching each facet of the game and ends with two guys who hate each other, are in last place, and call the rest of the guys in the league to complain about the other guy and delineate how things will be different next season.
They are also the guys you hate to call because no matter how sweet the deal you present is, there is always that moment of hesitation in which they consider whether to consult the other co-GM. And even when they do have the cajones to pull the trigger on a deal, you can hear the apprehension in their voice in the aftermath as they mull over how to present it to the other dude.
Who needs the aggravation?
Well, I also considered looking at something a bit more scientific and a bit, just a bit, less anecdotal. I am putting together a GM register for all teams since the dawn of time or Julio Franco's rookie year, which ever is earlier. I looked at the instances in which the job was shared among two or more men and how it turned out.
The earliest instance I could find was Charles Comiskey II and Johnny Rigney running the White Sox from 1956 to 1958. Their partnership was an outgrowth of the infighting and inbreeding among the various family members running the club after the Old Roman's death. Charles II was the original Comiskey's grandson and Rigney was the husband of his granddaughter (II's sister) Dorothy. II sued Dorothy to get her shares of stock in the club, and eventually the Sox were sold to Bill Veeck. The Sox were fairly successful under the incestuous GM tenure going 257-205 over the span. However, the would win the pennant in 1959 after Hank Greenberg, Veeck's GM, took over.
Next, Jerry Donovan and Spec Richardson were co-GMs for the bulk of the 1976 season for the Giants. It was an uneventful season, as many were for the Giants in this era. They finished 74-88. Spec become the GM thereafter but eventually relinquished the job to his old catcher Tom Haller.
Trader Jack McKeon and manager Jerry "What You Talkin' 'Bout" Coleman shared the GM job in San Diego for a week in July in 1980. After which the Padres realized how silly the idea was and handed the job to McKeon.
The Yankees had co-GMs in effect, later that season when Bill Bergesch (VP of Baseball Opeartions) and Cedric Tallis (executive VP) filled Gene Michael's shoes. This lasted until June of 1983 when Murray Cook took on the more conventional GM role. This was a particularly un-fecund period for the Yankees (229-202) and helped usher in the period over which all Yankee fans (except for the Don Mattingly parts), though I do not know how much can be planned on these two co-non-GMs.
The Phillies, however, in true second-banana style, did try the same thing in 1983 when Paul Owens stepped down from the GM chair to manage full time. Tony Siegle (VP of Baseball Opeartions) /Jim Baumer (VP & Director of Player Personnel and Scouting) at first replaced Owens. Their tenure evolved into a multi-headed beast of a committee that was "headed" (for lack of a better term) by Bill Giles, the genius who brought us Rocket Man.
This conglomeration brought about something even worse, the Ryne Sandberg trade, which Baumer vehemently opposed but which passed by some sort of committee vote. They also brought together a remarkable number of white, thin guys to play for the teamthink Randy Ready. Woody Woodward was named GM of the Phils for the 1988 season ending this arrangement but was fired in the first week of June. Welcome to Philadelphia. Again this little arrangement ushered in an era of frustration (or phrustration) after the best period in franchise history.
Next up is probably the worst pairing in the group, Whitey Herzog and Dan O'Brien in Anaheim. This is complicated. O'Brien was named to fill in for Mike Port who was fired April 30, 1991. His title was VP of Baseball Operations, however. On September 6, Herzog was hired as Sr. VP & Director of Player Personnel. For the next two years, both and neither was the GM. It was dubbed "an experiment in hell".
There are famous stories involving O'Brien's moves getting under Herzog's skin including signing a moribund Alvin Davis without consulting Whitey and trading for the wrong Patterson (Ken, not Bob) in 1993. Herzog took over solo but then lasted about four months before he quit. Their co-tenure led to a 143-181 record.
The last co-GM-ship was by Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie in Baltimore over the past three seasons, during which the O's failed to break .500. Again one GM (Flanagan) prevailed in the long run.
So what can we expect from the latest dynamic duo? We can expect the situation to be short-lived, two or three seasons at the most, probably much less. We can expect that one will prevail over the other and retain the title minus the "co" prefix while the other becomes a GM in your rotisserie league. They could have their fair share of success, but for some reason (do the dueling GMs ignore the minor-system for quick though more short-term fixes), they tend to be harbinger of bad times ahead for the team.
Of course, Larry Lucchino and his ego (his personal co-executive) will probably help egg these two on to failure. (Where's Grady Little anyway?) And he may have Theo back to help.
I am left wondering why most of America hates the Yankees when these pinheads can't even pick a GM without creating a soap opera.