I work in a factory. Actually, I supervise the people who do the real work, but you get my point. Every so often I have to go to meetings. Occasionally in those meetings one of my peers is asked whether he has figured out something that he was assigned at a previous meeting. Whenever the answer is no, awkward looks are exchanged around the room, as in “I’m glad that’s not me.”
I was reminded of that when reading Jordan Bastian’s article about Chris Antonetti the other day. Two months after the end of the regular season, Antonetti says he is still forming his plans for next year’s roster. At one point he said, “If there are opportunities to improve our team, we will be open minded about it.”
News flash: The other 29 clubs aren’t going to knock on your door and present you with moves that will improve your team. You have to figure out what you need and go get it. A large part of that is to figure it out before everyone else so you can identify opportunities before everyone else jumps on them and drives the price up. Bear in mind that figuring out how to make the team better is pretty much a general manager’s entire job.
You need a starting pitcher. How many starting pitchers are available with some kind of track record who make less than $10 million a year? Not many. Make a list and get on the phone. You need a left fielder. Same deal. There’s a Josh Willingham out there this year, someone who will sign a deal below-market value (my guess is Delmon Young) and then turn in an All-Star season. There are all kinds of analytical types in the front office who get paid to identify those players. If they need help, they could read Wahoo’s on First, because we’ve been making lists for months.
I get that the money is tight, and nobody expects Josh Hamilton to come here. But that makes it more urgent to be out beating the bushes, finding the undervalued guy who can hit 25 homers for $3 million. We spent all last offseason hearing that guys like Willingham were beyond our budget, then they signed for millions less than the rumors said, and we ended up with Shelley Duncan and Jose Lopez. There were also lots of young hitters, like Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso with loads of potential and years of team control, who were obviously on the trading block, and we didn’t get any of them.
The important point is that I am not just a fan, I am your customer. I used to be a Wendy’s customer. But a couple of times in a row they forgot to give me a straw and they put so much ice in my drink that I got about two sips of Coke. I am no longer a Wendy’s customer. Customers like me are the difference between the Indians drawing 1.5 million and 2 million. I’m not a season ticket holder, but some seasons I go to one or two games and some seasons I go to six or eight. It just depends on whether I have a good time. They don’t have to win the division, they just have to convince me that this is as important to them as it is to me.