General Managers: The Real MVPs

Andrew SilvaCorrespondent IJune 25, 2008

With the way franchises are being run today, the need for a great general manager has become the make-or-break factor for a team.

For a recent example, look at the most recent NBA Finals. 

First, we'll compare the coaches. Phil Jackson has nine NBA titles, including a 72-win season. Doc Rivers is only known because he's a nice guy to the media. 

So why did the Celtics crush the Lakers? Well simply put, the Celtics’ players were better. However, this is not college. The players do not choose where to go. 

Danny Ainge (the Celtics' GM) was responsible for the players on the court, more specifically, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who were teamed with Paul Pierce to make that title run. 

While the Celtics-Lakers comparison is a perfect example of the impact a GM can make, basketball GMs are not the most powerful of their kind.

Today, the baseball GM is what makes or breaks a major-league franchise. 

I will use the Boston Red Sox as an example. Prior to Theo Epstein's arrival in the front office, the Red Sox were the lovable losers, most well known for selling Babe Ruth and choking in big game after big game. 

With Epstein as general manager, the Red Sox have two World Championships, possibly the biggest baseball fanbase in the country (sorry Yankee fans), and are making their case for team of the decade in baseball. 

All of this was made possible because of the moves Theo Epstein was able and willing to make. Granted, having owners with deep pockets and a manager the players love never hurts, but it was Epstein who found them. 

It was Epstein who was willing to get rid of the biggest star in Boston at the time (Nomar Garciaparra) for little known Orlando Cabrera. It was Epstein who was willing got part with aging, overpriced stars such as Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon. 

Many people in his position would worry about what the media and fanbase are saying about such players; however, Theo simply calculated what they were worth and offered them that. 

With the Boston Red Sox having one of the highest payrolls in the league, let us take a peak at some small-market teams and what their front office can bring to the table. 

The Oakland Athletics are run by Billy Beane, who was made famous in the best-selling book Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. Beane is famous for finding cheap players nobody wants and making them stars. 

Granted, the A's have not won a World Series in years, and they are not the same team that had seasons of over 100 wins several years ago, but they still prove the importance of the general manager. 

While many small-market teams flounder under the lack of funds, especially compared to the teams in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, the A's simply tried a new method. They brought in a man who had a solid (more importantly cheap) plan for success. 

Everyone thinks they would be great to run their favorite baseball or football team, but could you do it with a payroll in the bottom half of the league? Could you turn a perennial loser into a winner if the market was Pittsburgh, not New York? 

That is why a general manager, in any sport, not just baseball, is crucial to a team's success. The best manager in the world could not win a World Series with a bunch of minor leaguers.  

With that being said, I also think managers and coaches take too much heat when teams go into slumps. 

Is it Willie Randolph's fault he's coaching a bunch of overachievers? Is Phil Jackson really that great of a coach, or did Michael Jordan and Shaq make him look good? 

Some out there may disagree with me and think GMs are just guys who negotiate contracts and get fired when the owner is upset, but if I was an owner in any sport, I would make sure I had someone with a clue running my team.