Much has been written in the past two weeks about the Twins’ front office search—specifically, that nobody wants the job. After Alex Anthopoulos, Ben Cherington, and David Forst all turned down invitations to interview for the President of Baseball Operations position, opting instead to stay in lower-level positions with other clubs, I think some speculation is fair. Why did these three turn down the invitations? Is there something inherently off-putting about the Twins position?
The problem is that idle speculation about the front office search has somehow turned into absurd and misleading exaggerations and misunderstandings. I’m going to go over three of these points I’ve heard repeated by multiple people.
Nobody wants the job?
First and foremost, it’s not literally true that nobody wants to interview for the Twins front office position. We know the names of at least five people who already have: Jason McLeod, J.J. Picollo, Derek Falvey, Chaim Bloom, and, according to LEN3, Rob Antony. That’s more confirmed names than the number who have reportedly turned down interviews. Not to mention, of the three known to have turned down interviews, their reasons for doing so have more or less been leaked: Anthopoulos and Cherington both apparently declined for person reasons (i.e., having to uproot or be away their families), and Forst only recently took over as GM of the A’s and didn’t want to leave.
Pile on top the fact that there are indications, according to LEN3, that some teams just didn’t let the Twins interview people from their front office. Other teams are perfectly allowed to do that, and it doesn’t mean those candidates wouldn’t have wanted to interview if they could.
The Molitor restraint?
There is speculation that candidates are turned off by not being able to choose next year’s manager. Jim Pohlad has made it clear Paul Molitor will be manager next year.
Maybe it’s true, but why is that so bad that nobody qualified would even want to interview? This is a high-level, high-paying front office job (only one of 30!) with a lot of resources. Plus, Pohlad just said Molitor will be the manager next year, not necessarily forever. He’s explicitly pointed out to reporters that Molitor is still under contract for a year, meaning they’ll have to pay him either way next season. Is the President of Baseball Operations only planning to be here a year?
“We’re not handcuffing the search,” Pohlad told the Pioneer Press. “We’ve searched, and no person has brought it up as a handcuff. I’ll make that definitive.”
I could see how the attempt to mettle might be disconcerting, but this seems pretty minor in the big picture of things, no?
Having to work under Dave St. Peter?
There seems to be this idea floating around out there that the new President of Baseball Operations would work under and report to current team President Dave St. Peter. I have no idea where this came from. It makes no sense. Anyone familiar with the Twins front office knows St. Peter has never had any influence over roster construction, scouting, or really anything to do with baseball operations. He’s a marketing, business, and communications guy, and always has been. I’m not even sure if he could name all of the players in the Twins bullpen right now if you asked him.
I can’t find any sources I know of with close connections to the team who have actually reported that the new hire would act under St. Peter. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mike Berardino, full-time Twins beat reporter for the Pioneer Press, remarked just last week in an article titled, “For Twins, GM experience could be key in new structure” (emphasis added below):
“While it’s still possible Twins owner Jim Pohlad and team president Dave St. Peter would install a talented up-and-comer in the role, the notion that they would hand the keys to the baseball side to someone who has never had the final say in trade talks and contract negotiations seems unlikely.”
Does that sound like Berardino is under the impression the Twins want to hire someone who would have to go through St. Peter, who has never done those things himself?
Judd Zulgad of ESPN 1500 has also noted:
Instead of having a general manager at the top of the baseball department, the Twins are planning to hire a president of baseball operations and that person will then hire the general manager.
This is the way of the baseball world for many teams in 2016 and it makes a lot of sense. One would assume the president of baseball operations would have complete control of the decision-making on that side, just as team president Dave St. Peter runs the business operation.
One would make that assumption because it’s both logical and practical. Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter want to hire a President of Baseball Operations precisely because they known they don’t know enough to run the stuff. Why would they go out and hire an independent consulting firm to help them find someone if they thought they knew enough to hire someone themselves? Why would they then require this person to act “under” St. Peter? Not even former GM Terry Ryan had to go through St. Peter to talk to Pohlad.
This isn’t some novel way to structure a front office in 2016. In fact, it’s more ordinary than extraordinary. Go look at the Cubs front office: They have “President, Baseball Operations” (Theo Epstein) and “President, Business Operations” (Crane Kenney). Go look at the Red Sox front office: They have “President of Baseball Operations” (Dave Dombrowski) and “President” (Sam Kennedy). Go look at the Dodgers front office: They have “President of Baseball Operations” (Andrew Friedman) and “President and CEO” (Stan Kasten). So on and so forth.
While the same title might not mean the same thing in different organizations, it’s not uncommon for two (or more) people to have the “President” title in a front office; and just because St. Peter has the title of just “President” now doesn’t necessarily mean a new president role would take orders from him, or “work under” him, or something like that.
So what is going on here? Why have multiple people brought up these same points then?
As mentioned earlier, I think most of this is just the product of idle speculation that has been magnified by the internet and the media world we live in today. People don’t have to get their news from reporters who get it first hand anymore. Someone can posit a theory about what is going on (“I bet people are turned off because they can’t pick the new manager.”), and then someone else can agree with that theory and repeat it (“People don’t want to interview because they can’t pick the next manager.”), until it is repeated so much it starts to feel like a strong fact someone actually reported (“Nobody wants to interview because they can’t even pick the manager!”). It’s like a perverted game of “Telephone”.
Don’t believe me? Dave St. Peter himself acknowledged it. As he told LEN3:
“We certainly understand and appreciate the high level of interest in our search,” St. Peter said. “We also recognize that a search of this nature is going to bring in a heavy dose of speculation. I will just say that it also brought a heavy dose of misinformation. Unfortunately, that is a product of the media world we live in today.”
They sky isn’t falling on the Twins’ front office search, people. At least not yet. Just have a little more patience.