I think you’re going to need a bigger room
The GM Meetings were held this week. Somewhere in Florida, I guess. Anyway, C. Trent Rosecrans answers a question that should have occurred to me already but didn’t: With the recent wave of title inflation in front offices, who’s actually getting a seat at these meetings?
Well, it turns out the official general managers have been sitting together at the front of the room, while their older, richer, more experienced bosses huddle together in the back, lobbing the occasional spitballs.
Okay, I made that last part up. But just the very last part. It’s getting sorta weird out there. Rosecrans:
What’s in a title anymore isn’t always easy to figure out. A total of 12 teams, including the Reds, have an executive on the baseball side that’s above the general manager on the organizational chart. Most are called "President of Baseball Operations" or something similar, while Arizona’s Tony La Russa has created his own title, "Chief Baseball Officer."
"Baseball operations departments have become bigger and it’s a broader universe as far as how baseball operations look at how it can impact the team on the field and the organization as a whole," said the Cubs’ Theo Epstein, who is listed on the Cubs’ website as "President, Baseball Operations." "There’s more going on and there’s still the same amount of time in the day, so increasing the size of the leadership group seems to make sense from that perspective."
Well, yes. Of course. But you can increase the size of the leadership group without title inflation. And we know it’s title inflation, because the 18 teams without "an executive on the baseball that’s above the general manager on the organizational chart" aren’t somehow doing without. They simply haven’t stopped calling their general managers "General Manager" yet.
There’s nothing wrong with any of this, by the way. It’s good for the executives, whether "President, Baseball Operations" or "General Manager" and on down the line. The more exalted the title, the easier to justify a more exalted salary. Looks better on your résumé, too.
The only "problem" is that it’s confusing as all hell for the public, which has been told for decades that the "general manager" is the guy in charge. Except now there are a dozen General Managers who aren’t in charge, and that number’s only going to increase. Probably to nearly 30 by the end of this decade.
Frankly, in the face of such prospective confusion, it’s the media’s job to make things clear for the audience. I don’t have any confidence that the media will bother much, because I don’t guess most of the media cares about the audience a whole lot. I mean, maybe that’s not fair. But I can only go by what I’ve seen and heard over the years. And I think most of us are more interested in pleasing those who make the news than those who consume it.
Of course I might be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. Anyway, there are ways to be clear. We could, for example, refer to Jed Hoyer as General Manager Jed Hoyer, with capital letters because that’s his actual title, but general manager Theo Epstein, since that’s not his title but does describe, in a historical sense, his professional duties. We could also just dispense with titles in most cases, retaining "general manager" for the Epsteins and Beanes of the world, but using the generic "executive" for the Hoyers and Hahns.
Of course, sometimes the delineation isn’t so clear; some General Managers have more power than others. But the writers and broadcasters who cover the teams know, and we should take our lead from them.
I know this is probably a one-man effort. That’s okay. Not the first, won’t be the last. Long live general managers.