GM: The Toughest Job in Professional Sports?

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IJune 24, 2008

We’ve all blamed our favorite team’s GM at some point for a pick he made in the draft.  That pick may have been someone who we didn’t see as being very useful to our team, or who turned out to be a bust.  But don’t be so quick to criticize.

          First let’s remember all that a pro sports GM does.  He is responsible for trading, releasing and signing players as well as evaluating many prospects (though some do more than others in this regard, but that’s for another article) and then narrowing them down until he gets to the draft picks (although he may complete that last task with the help of other front office personnel).  He is also in charge of firing, hiring, and re-signing coaches – including the manager.  Last but not least he matches salaries to fit under the salary cap when making a trade and sometimes has to clear enough roster space when signing a free agent or making a trade.  That’s a lot to handle.  But let’s focus on the drafting.

          Let’s say current Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren has a family emergency and, for some unfathomable reason, names me interim general manager of the Atlanta Braves on Draft Day.  What do I do?

          With my first two picks I take the best players available.  Their superior talent and overall skills will maximize their trade values if I decide not to keep them. 

          Beyond my second pick I draft players at my thin positions as long as I’m staying reasonably close to the player ranking that matches my number pick.  For example, if I’m short on catchers, I draft a catcher.  But if I probably won’t draft a catcher ranked 75th in the field if I have the 60th pick over a shortstop ranked 62nd.  That way I get still get quality players, but I don’t have to spend a lot of money to sign the players and I fill the team’s needs.

          But I wouldn’t decide all this by myself.  I’d get input from every other member of my front office personnel. This would broaden my overall perspective of any given prospect by magnifying the pros and cons of his game and allow me to make a better, more informed decision about a potential pick.

          Maybe after reading this you’ll think twice and consider this question before you rip into your GM for making drafting a player you don’t approve of: What would I have done differently if I was the one calling the shots?