the best general managers in professional sports


Forbes produced a list of the top general managers in professional sports (in North America). To rank the GMs, they took into account two factors: winning percentage compared to that of the predecessor and relative payroll compared to the payroll of the predecessor. They double-weight winning percentage in order not to favor GMs that cut costs at the expense of winning. The results, I guess, aren’t that surprising. The top overall GM is Kevin McHale (NBA), who rescued the perpetually-losing Minnesota Timberwolves and turned them into playoff contenders while also keeping costs manageable. The top GM in baseball is Billy Beane of Moneyball fame (#26). The top GM in the NFL is A.J. Smith of the San Diego Chargers (#4). The top GM in the NHL is Jay Feaster of the Tampa Bay Lightning (#2).

One thing the list seems to tell us is that baseball GMs aren’t as good as their peers in basketball, football, and hockey. One potential problem with the ranking is that it favors GMs from teams that used to stink, which sort of discounts the skills and contribution of GMs who work for really successful teams. This might also be the reason that baseball GMs do not appear as highly on the list. Is it harder to turn around a losing team in baseball than in the other sports? Last year’s Detroit Tigers seem to contradict that idea, but then we also have the Kansas City Royals.

The rankings also reflect winning percentage but do not favor championship organizations. The value-added of a championship isn’t taken into account at all. But I guess that begs the question, how much value does a professional sports championship really add to a particular franchise? Are the New England Patriots much more valuable today than they were prior to their three Super Bowls?

Written by brayden king

March 6, 2007 at 5:01 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Some Kevin McHale highlights:
    – The “gentlemen’s agreement” with an aging and undersized Joe Smith that cost the franchise 5 years worth of first round draft picks.
    – Cassell for Jaric
    – Szerbiack for Davis

    Kevin Mchale is one of the 5 worst GM’s in the game. If his name was John Doe, he would have been fired years ago. If ever there was an organization that wins occasionally despite its GM, its the Wolves. I’ve had Kevin Garnett on my fantasy team in consecutive years; can I be top fantasy GM?



    March 7, 2007 at 3:05 pm

  2. The Forbes article is being blasted in sports journalism for being laughably out of touch. Billy King and Kevin McHale as top GMs? I’d say less than 1% of NBA fans would agree with that.
    Also, the longer you’re on the job the less you should be judged relative to your predecessor.


    Thorsetin Veblen, Esq

    March 7, 2007 at 5:28 pm

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