"You're fired." Two words no one wants to hear throughout their career but it seems like an inevitable moment for some. The more responsibilities a person holds, the more blame gets put on them when their business begins to fall. Enter the role of a general manager. When a team is doing bad, who do people start to point their fingers at when looking for a scapegoat? Their worst performing athlete, the coaching staff, the team manager or the executive staff? Though an under performing team is probably the result of a combination of the core people involved, the general manager is usually the one to take the fall when a team is failing.
In the MLB, if a GM makes one wrong trade or misses a deadline, this can lead to a kiss of death. Sometimes, the GM is just the captain going down with its sinking ship, hoping someone else can come in and rebuild a team that was once filled with hope and potential. Other times, fans wonder if these GMs even have a brain when making season changing or more importantly franchise changing decisions. It's truly a shame when you watch a GM build a team from the ground up and pave the path to winning a championship, only to find the cracks in the integrity of the team breaks them down and causes them to be let go.
How long can a team lose or perform poorly before the GM starts to be questioned? What is the defining moment that ends a GM's career with their team? When is a resignation considered sketchy? Here are 15 MLB moves that got the GM fired.
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15 "Transitioning Into An Advisory Role" - Doug Melvin, Milwaukee Brewers
After 13 years as the Milwaukee Brewers GM, Doug Melvin resigned from his role. The resignation is questionable because it came after a series of bad moves by Melvin and having a losing season. The team finished in last place when the Brewers organization announced that Melvin would first continue to lead the baseball operations department and eventually transition into an advisory role. That's not to say he didn't do any good while he was GM- he did a lot of good- like acquiring Ryan Braun, but there were moments that could have been good and fell short. Acquiring CC Sabathia seemed great but he lasted half a season and moved on to the Yankees. When the resignation was made public, he told the MLBNetwork that he had a "gut feeling" that it was time to move on.
14 New Owners Promise Change - Ed Wade, Houston Astros
When an organization is going to be sold, everyone's job is on the line, including the general manager's. When Jim Crane took over the Houston Astros, he wanted to meet executives and make very quick changes. One of those changes was firing GM Ed Wade. This wouldn't be the first time Wade got canned. He was fired by the Phillies in 2005 and the team went on to make the post-season five times. With the Astros, the team initially made a 13-game improvement but that was pretty much it as far as victories for Wade go. He traded Lance Berkman, Michael Bourn, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence for young prospects. He got fired by the Astros in 2011 but said that he felt the system he was developing would eventually pay off for them.
13 A Toxic Relationship With the Manager - Jerry DiPoto, Los Angeles Angels
In 2011, the Los Angeles Angels hired Jerry DiPoto as their general manager. Owner Arte Moreno said one of the reasons they hired him was because of the way he viewed baseball analytics. Someone who disagreed with this analytical way of thinking was team manager Mike Scioscia. DiPoto and Scioscia did not get along and reportedly had a toxic relationship. The tensions may have started with analytics but grew when DiPoto fired the team's hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. Moreno seemed to stay out of the drama between his GM and manager but eventually he had to have chosen Scioscia's side. Allegedly DiPoto gave Moreno an ultimatum that backfired and led to him packing his bags and leaving the Angels organization. Albert Pujols told the media what happened in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse regarding the situation.
12 High Draft Picks Didn't Develop - Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners
Jack Zduriencik was the Seattle Mariners general manager for seven seasons. During those seven seasons, he had five high draft picks that just didn't develop into anything: Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. He also sent pitcher Doug Fister to the Tigers for Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak who also fell flat. Under his tenure, he only had two winning seasons and failed to end the team's playoff drought. In 2015, there was some hope for the organization and Zduriencik was even offered a contract extension. That was short lived and he was not shocked when he got word that he would be getting let go. Mariners President Kevin Mather felt like he let his optimism get to him and held on to Zduriencik for too long. There are no hard feelings between them.
11 Securing a Spot in Last Place - Terry Ryan, Minnesota Twins
People always leave, sometimes they come back, and sometimes they get fired. Terry Ryan initially was the GM of the Minnesota Twins from 1994-2007 and then returned in 2011 when his successor could not get the job done. In his first stint with the organization, he was able to turn the team into four-time winners of the AL Central division in five seasons. The same cannot be said for his second time around as the Twins GM. They relied a lot on young players that weren't able to produce. Despite the poor performance of the team, Ryan had a great relationship with the team and the rest of the front office staff from the top down. Owner Jim Pohlad respected Ryan immensely and let him know that they weren't going to bring him back in 2017. However, Ryan ultimately told Pohlad to let him go after the 2016 All-Star break.
10 Unable to Draft and Develop High Quality Players - Allard Baird, Kansas City Royals
Allard Baird was fired by the Kansas City Royals in 2006 after six seasons with the organization. Only two players that he acquired remained on the team's 25-man roster when he got the axe. In his first season with the team, the Royals led the MLB in hits but he also had three 100-loss seasons. You gotta take the ups with the downs, right? Well there were far more downs in the Littlefield era of Pirates baseball. Baird traded Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye much to the fans dismay and only time could tell if his farm system would show any promise. His dismissal from the team was not a surprise seeing that David Glass straight up said he was disgusted with the team's performance and was going to make significant changes.
9 Not Winning a World Series - Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers
What did Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski do wrong? He led a team that made two World Series appearances, five playoff appearances and won four consecutive division titles. He helped bring Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer and Prince Fielder to Detroit. Sure, he may not have ever been able to establish a solid bullpen but he still made great strides for the team. After spending 14 years with the Tigers organization, Dombrowski was in the last season of his contract and owner Mike Ilitch felt it was the right time to move forward under new leadership. People were shocked at the unexpected firing and seem to think that it was more of a personal move than a professional one. In his tenure with the Tigers, Dombrowski was able to turn the team around. From 1989-2001, the Tigers hadn't won a single playoff game. Once Dombrowski entered the picture, they won 25 (2002-2014). Now, he is working as the President of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox.
8 Restructuring the Front Office - Kevin Towers, San Diego Padres
When Kevin Towers joined the San Diego Padres in 2010, the team was off to a great start. In 2011, they won their first division title since 2007 and it was in large thanks to the moves Towers made as GM. You would think that getting rid of Justin Upton would have played a factor in the firing, but this was a move supported by manager Kirk Gibson. Gibson had a certain vision of a baseball player, one that Towers tried to emulate through the odd deals he made, and ones that didn't help the team win. Running their baseball operations, Tony La Russa stated that he had the utmost respect for Towers but when they decided to restructure the staff to improve their decision-making process that meant they had to let Towers go.
7 Philosophical Differences - Paul DePodesta, Los Angeles Dodgers
Paul DePodesta may have been the inspiration for Jonah Hill's character in Moneyball, but he did not inspire the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership to keep him as GM longer than the two seasons he spent there. Owner Frank McCourt said their high expectations were not met and that he couldn't pinpoint one reason why he dismissed him, but that it was something that happened over time. However, four weeks before he was let go, there were "philosophical differences" between DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy. In his first season, the team won the National League West but he also made some questionable trades and allowed players, like Adrian Beltre, to slip away in free agency. Moves like this ultimately led to his demise. Where can you find DePodesta now? Working as the chief strategy officer for the Cleveland Browns. I guess the romance of baseball just wasn't enough for him.
6 Showing No Progress on the Field or in the Farm System - Dave Littlefield, Pittsburgh Pirates
David Littlefield started the Pittsburgh Pirates general manager position in last place and ended his tenure there in last place. Some things never change, and when you're striving for change, sometimes the only change you can make is letting someone go. He served as the Pirates GM for seven consecutive losing seasons and the team never finished higher than 4th in the National League Central Division. It seems like the ownership couldn't wait for Littlefield to exit seeing that in the first two years after they fired him, they began to purge the roster full of players he acquired. The Pirates board chairman said he was not satisfied with the overall progress and performance of the organization so firing Littlefield was the right move and an important one.
5 The Shelby Miller trade - Dave Stewart, Arizona Diamondbacks
Dave Stewart, former GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said everyone kept bringing up the Shelby Miller trade after he got let go this year. He doesn't think that was the sole reason he got fired since he made many other trades, but the Diamondbacks fans may disagree. In the off-season, the Diamondbacks gave up the 2015 No. 1 pick, Dansby Swanson, prospect Aaron Blair and outfielder Ender Incariate for Miller who wound being quite a letdown. He was one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball during the time he did play- he was injured and sent down to the minors at one point. The team finished 69-93 this past season and missed the playoffs. Stewart only spent two seasons as the Diamondbacks GM but he did manage to sign former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke while he was leading the organization.
4 A Change in Ownership - Josh Byrnes, San Diego Padres
Josh Byrnes joined the San Diego Padres organization in 2010 and was promoted to general manager in 2011. In 2012, the Padres were sold to a group led by Ron Fowler and the group had their minds set on a championship. It makes sense, who doesn't want to own a winning team? But, when your team has one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball and minimal talent on the field, it's hard to see an instant change. In his tenure with the Padres, Byrnes was able to pick up Carlos Quentin, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Huston Street and Seth Smith while working with basically pennies. He wasn't perfect, but he did try to get the ownership to understand what limitations he was working with through reports and PowerPoints. In the end, the owners didn't think the on-field product was living up to their expectations and placed the blame on Byrnes.
3 The Cliff Lee trade - Ruben Amaro Jr., Philadelphia Phillies
Seven seasons, a lot of promise and some terrible trades are all factors in the firing of Ruben Amaro Jr. from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015. Letting Amaro go was not based on one decision, but more of a gradual build. However, if fans could pinpoint one moment, many would bring up the Cliff Lee trade. The same day he acquired ace Roy Halladay, he got rid of Lee for players who wound up bringing nothing to the table. During his tenure, he acquired big names like Lee, Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. He also got rid of Lee, Pence, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels. One thing you can say about Amaro is that he was not afraid to make big moves and tough decisions. With that being said, the team started to go down, down, down and with that, it was time for Amaro to leave.
2 Being Under Federal Investigation - Jim Bowden, Washington Nationals
Another shady resignation was by Washington National's general manager Jim Bowden. In 2009, he was under federal investigation regarding the skimming of signing bonuses given to Latin American prospects. Bowden was the first GM for the Nationals after their move from Montreal to Washington. Federal investigations aside, he also failed to resign Alfonso Soriano and was charged with a DUI in 2006. However, one positive aspect of his tenure with the Nationals was selecting Ryan Zimmerman with the fourth pick in the 2005 first-year player draft. In his four years with the organization, he struggled with the team and his personal life. He pleaded his innocence regarding the federal investigations and said the reason he was stepping down as GM was because he had become a distraction.
1 An Irreconcilable Division Within the Front Office - Walt Jocketty, St. Louis Cardinals
Like many Hollywood marriages, the relationship of Walt Jocketty and the St. Louis Cardinals ended in irreconcilable differences. Thirteen seasons, seven postseason appearances and a World Series Championship weren't enough to keep Jocketty in the Cardinals organization. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. decided to meddle with a system he could have stayed out of completely. DeWitt had a vision of spending less money, focusing on the farm system and using analytics which led to many disagreements with Jocketty. Jeff Luhnow's promotion to vice president of amateur scouting and player development, also did not help since Jocketty previously held some of the responsibilities that went along with that role. With another year left on his contract, sources close to Jocketty said the decision came as a surprise to him. I don't think anyone could argue with that.
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