It wasn't too long ago that it was easy to make fun of all sorts of general managers around baseball. For example, this used to be a popular joke going around the internet:
It would slay them every time. All around the league, there were GMs who built their rosters through some amalgamation of batting average, RBIs, and scouting reports they found on cocktail napkins in the garbage of the visiting team's hotel bar. Had to be. That was the only way to explain some of the moves the GMs would make, and some of the contracts they'd hand out.
But with the Astros' firing of Ed Wade over the weekend, we're confronted with a vanishing species in our baseball ecosystem: the GM who is a self-contained punchline. That's not to say that Wade -- or any general manager -- deserves to be an instant punchline. The GM role is varied enough to allow for strengths to overcome weaknesses, and GMs are more than the sum of their acquisitions during the Winter Meetings.
There's a reason why Omar Minaya was in-demand for front offices around the league despite having a checkered time with the Mets. It's likely that the GMs we love making fun of are pretty smart baseball people, but if you're the world's 31st-best architect of a baseball team, well, you're probably a lousy GM. And when I say that Ed Wade is a punchline, it's with all due respect, but the popular "Brandon Lyon walks into a bar"-joke has to end somehow.
There's been a flood of GM changes this offseason, and the remaining GMs can probably be classified in one of the following categories:
Ruben Amaro, Jr.
Respected … for now, at least:
Old school who might not be future Hall-of-Famers, but they aren't especially amusing either:
New Astros GM
Listed as a GM for a team in Major League Baseball, but is actually a former mob informant under witness protection, so he would appreciate it if you didn't point him out
No, seriously. Michael Hill is the GM of the Florida Marlins, and he has been since after the 2007 season. If you're reading this right now, this is probably a surprise to you, especially if you're Michael Hill, and you thought you were working in a Crate & Barrel this whole time.
And there will certainly be arguments about the classifications up there, but my point is that you don't giggle when you think about Walt Jocketty making a transaction. Ruben Amaro, Jr. might be a little loose with the mega-deals, but it's hard to know how much of that is Phillies ownership. Dan Duquette isn't exactly beloved in Boston, but you have to admit that his strategy of acquiring Pedro Martinez at every stop is probably one of the greatest gambits in GM history.
That leaves four GMs who aren't on that list. Two of them, Brian Sabean and Kenny Williams, have won a World Series with the teams they built. Sure, you can make veteranophilia jokes about Sabean all day long, but he's not listening, mostly because that big ol' ring on his finger has a Green Lantern thing going on, and it has the power to repel nerd criticism. Williams can sure make some questionable moves -- Alex Rios and Juan Pierre, just to name two-thirds of an outfield -- but he has the same ring with the same powers.
We're down to two now. Dayton Moore has a history of bizarre moves at the major-league level for a team that couldn't possibly contend, but he's also responsible for the burgeoning young talent that could make the Royals relevant again. He's still okay to make fun of, especially if you double down with a Jeff Francoeur reference -- those two are the airplane peanuts and shopping-cart wheel combo of hack baseball comedians. But Francoeur is still young enough to be a bit of an unknown (no, really!), and he was pretty good last year. And if an Alex Gordon/Eric Hosmer/Mike Moustakas/Billy Butler middle of the order starts mowing through the AL Central, the Moore jokes will feel awfully dated.
Ned Colletti is basically the same GM as Sabean, except Colletti didn't have Cody Ross going nuts for him in either of the Dodgers' recent NLCS appearances. He probably should have gotten one of those.
We're down to four GMs who are pretty amusing, and two of them can flip you off with their ring finger. It's an ever-changing, post-Bill James world out there, and it's getting harder and harder for internet baseball nerds to conjure up overly smug, one-sentence dismissals of GMs based on the limited evidence available. It's not impossible -- us internet baseball nerds are resourceful, petty things -- but it's tougher. We'll miss Ed Wade, Jim Hendry, and Andy MacPhail. It's been a bad offseason for roster- and trade-related jokes.