With the firing of the Astros’ Ed Wade and the subsequent news of Houston’s interest in Rays whiz Andrew Friedman, I thought it fitting to examine the importance of a good general manager. It may seem obvious, the good ones equate to success, but what does a good GM truly mean to a ball club?
The San Diego Padres have had eight general managers before Josh Byrnes. What did they do for the club and how can they be remembered? Here’s the list:
Buzzie Bavasi 1969-72
Peter Bavasi 1972-76
Bob Fontaine 1977-80
Jack McKeon 1980-90
Joe McIlvaine 1991-93
Randy Smith 1993-95
Kevin Towers 1996-2009
Jed Hoyer 2009-2011
Josh Byrnes 2011-present
Buzzie gets a pass for the most part considering he was the club’s very first GM. Buzzie had great success with the Dodgers before taking on the expansion Padres. In addition to his general manager duties, Buzzie served as President and part owner of the team. After three years he relinquished the GM duties to his son Peter.
The team continued its struggles under Peter, never winning more than 73 games in a season during his tenure. When Peter moved on, he was replaced by Bob Fontaine.
Fontaine was a California guy, being born in San Jose and dying in Poway. He was the Padres first scouting director before becoming the GM. Yet his California connections and love for the team did little for the team’s success. The Padres had one winning record under Fontaine but never finishEd Higher than fourth.
Jack McKeon may be the second most well-known of the Padres general managers behind Kevin Towers. McKeon served at GM for ten years and also managed the team for two of those years. McKeon’s style, aggressive trades, an unrelenting will to succeed netted the Padres their first play-off appearance in 1984. In fact, that team made it all the way to the World Series before being steam rolled by the Tigers. McKeon helped the Padres to six seasons of .500 ball or better during his time as GM. However, after McKeon left, the Padres were back to their losing ways.
Under Joe Mcllvaine, the Padres found little success. In his three seasons as Padres GM, the team had two winning seasons, but never finished higher than third. The winning seasons were largely a result of left-overs from Jack McKeon’s time.
Randy Smith took over in 1993 becoming the youngest GM in history at the time. He was just 29 years old. While Smith’s work didn’t translate to wins immediately, he helped build the foundation for the Padres next wave of success. He was responsible for acquiring Trevor Hoffman, Ken Caminiti, Andy Ashby, and Steve Finley. His three years as Padres GM before moving on saw no winning seasons, but the team was moving in the right direction and was set up nicely for Kevin Towers to take over.
Towers took over in 1996 and promptly saw his club make its first postseason in twelve years, the second in club history. While the Padres were bounced in the first round, Towers was quickly making a name for the Padres. In 1998, after signing ace Kevin Brown, the Padres made it all the way to the World Series. They were swept by the Yankees, but they knew they could find ways to compete. After a fire-sale it took seven years to return to the postseason, but Kevin Towers and the club won back-to-back division crowns in 2005 and 2006. In all Kevin Towers became the second Padres GM to post six seasons of .500 or better baseball. With ownership changes in the air, Towers was fired and Jed Hoyer was hired.
Hoyer’s time in San Diego was incredibly short, but he did oversee a 90-win team in 2010. The club promptly went on to lose 91 games this season though. Hoyer was scooped up by Theo Epstein and the Cubs clearing way for Josh Brynes’ promotion. Byrnes has his work cut out for him. As you can see, the team is only as good as its GM.