Thursday, October 20, 2005

Candidate #6

(6) Josh Byrnes, Assistant GM of the Boston Red Sox

Byrnes has a nice mix when it comes to his educational background. He graduated with a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree from Georgetown and a Master's in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts. Business knowledge mixed with sports knowledge seems like a pretty good combination. Too bad Mr. Byrnes didn't pay close enough attention in any of his Business Ethics classes...

This is from Tracy Ringolsby's column in the Rocky Mountain News on August 1, 2005. Take it anyway you want, but with as little as we have to consider these assistant GM types on, little things like this can go a long way:

The Colorado Rockies thought they had the nucleus for the 2006 season in place.

They dealt Joe Kennedy to Oakland in a deal that brought back prospect Omar Quintanilla, a perfect left-handed-hitting complement for the middle infield mix that also will include Clint Barmes and Luis Gonzalez.And Friday night they felt confident that they had addressed the other areas of concern in the lineup, acquiring catcher Kelly Shoppach and center fielder Adam Stern from Boston, a right-handed complement for either Cory Sullivan or prospect Jeff Salazar.

The Red Sox told the Rockies they would trade them Shoppach and Stern if the Rockies could deliver outfielder Larry Bigbie from Baltimore, who the Rockies acquired for outfielder Eric Byrnes, another part of the Kennedy deal.

Only one problem.

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd thought the Red Sox word had value.

It doesn't.

Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan found that out 12 months ago. Part of a four-team deal that resulted in Nomar Garciaparra going from Boston to the Chicago Cubs, Ryan was supposed to get a prospect from the Red Sox. Boston reneged after the deal was made.

Florida general manager Larry Beinfest could have warned them. Two years ago, the Red Sox backed out of a deal with the Marlins for Kevin Millar. Then, when Florida put Millar on waivers so he could go to Japan, the Red Sox claimed Millar.

On Saturday morning, O'Dowd had a voicemail from Josh Byrnes, the Red Sox assistant general manager who had been handling the Shoppach negotiations. It said the Red Sox had reconsidered and wouldn't make the trade. It turns out Byrnes didn't have the authority he claimed to have had in negotiating with the Rockies.
That shouldn't be a total surprise.

Byrnes originally was hired into baseball by O'Dowd in Cleveland, came to Colorado as O'Dowd's assistant, walked out in the midst of his contract, negotiating a deal in Boston before he even mentioned it to O'Dowd, and has actively tried to get rehired by the Rockies several times since.

He's the guy who devised the statistical evaluation process that led to the Rockies acquiring third baseman Jeff Cirillo and unloading shortstop Neifi Perez. He orchestrated the trade of catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Jody Gerut to Cleveland for outfielder Jacob Cruz. He was in the middle of the muddled negotiations that led to the Rockies failing to sign Matt Harrington, their No. 1 draft choice in 2000.

In 1999, his one year anniversary as scouting director in Cleveland, he oversaw arguably the worst draft ever, and four years later not one of the players he signed in the first 10 rounds was in pro ball.

He's the one credited in the Red Sox media guide with the development of Jason Jennings, although upon coming to Colorado he berated original Rockies scouting director Pat Daugherty for wasting a draft pick on Jennings. The guide also mentions Byrnes oversaw the drafting of Jeff Francis, who actually was evaluated and selected by current scouting director Bill Schmidt.

He's also the guy who complained to a writer that he left Colorado because "you aren't promoting me" for a general manager's job.

__________________END OF ARTICLE_________________________

This is only one man's opinion. However, stories of the Red Sox showing signs of poor baseball trading ethics have been run in various outlets over the past couple of seasons. Let's pretend that stuff either doesn't matter or has been greatly exaggerated. Let's instead look at a few of the transactions mentioned in the Ringolsby's article.

Jeff Cirillo had two highly productive years with the Rockies after coming over in a trade that had Colorado move Justin Miller, Henry Blanco, and Jamey Wright. I see no way that can be considered a bad deal for the Rockies. Cirillo hit .326/.392/.477 his first year and .312/.364/.473 his second year in Colorado. His power numbers never jumped as much as I'm sure the Rockies would have liked (considering in the park factor of Coors Field), but he still had two good years for any third baseman on any team. He was even an All-Star in 2000 for Colorado. On top of all his production as a Rockie, Cirillo was even valuable on his way out - the team dealt him to Seattle for Jose Paniagua, Dennis Stark, and Brian Fuentes. Brian Fuentes was a 2005 All-Star for Colorado and has 269 strikeouts in 232.2 career innings pitched. Two good years out of Cirillo and potentially six good years of cost controlled quality relief out of Fuentes.

Unloading Neifi Perez is always a good thing - career line of .270/.301/.380. That is significantly below average. When a guy with numbers like that is your starting shortstop AND you are paying him $3,550,000 like the Rockies did in 2001, that is beyond terrible. The Rockies managed to convince the Royals to take him off their hands in return for Jermaine Dye, who was then immediately traded to Oakland for three prospects (Todd Belitz, Mario Encarnacion, and Jose Ortiz). At the time, this trade looked great for the Rockies as Ortiz was a big time 2B prospect and Encarnacion was thought to have all the tools to be a fine multi-talented OF. Neither panned out (Belitz was a non-factor), but the trade was still a success for the sole reason that Neifi Perez had played his last game as a member of the Colorado Rockies.

The trade Ringolsby mentions with the Indians was really not that bad for the Rockies. Gerut and Bard are both useful players if utilized properly and Cruz has been a flop, but it is hardly a deal the Rockies can look back on with regret. Gerut is a decent fourth outfielder (.263/.334/.434), maybe more of a fifth on a good team, and Bard is barely serviceable as a backup catcher and that is being quite generous (.238/.289/.370).

That is my defense of Byrnes. Truth be told, it is more of a knock of the poor examples given in the article than anything else. And it was totally unplanned and more of a random, rambling tangent about players of my era that I like writing about. Byrnes does have a spotty player acquisition record (as far as we can tell with him only being an assistant - notice the running theme of the last few days?) and an undeniably bad draft history. Where does this leave us? Well, I still have to rip Byrnes as thoroughly as I know how to further illustrate my overall disdain for him as a professional. Mr. Byrnes record of repeated displays of general attitude problems and subsequent temper tantrums to team officials working below him and members of the media do not scream qualified GM candidate to me (that is one ugly sentence, but it is too late to word it any better - sorry). His record of player development, something that should be of very high importance to the Phils on their search, is pathetic. He has not shown himself to be a good judge of young talent nor does he appear to have the leadership skills needed to be the main man in an organization. Big thumbs down to Josh Byrnes.

My first candidate, Dayton Moore, is still my personal favorite. I will go on the record now that he has a 0.0000% shot of getting the GM job with the Philadelphia Phillies. Prove me wrong, Davey, prove me wrong.

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