On one side of the equation, you have a multi-billionaire with a desire to win a championship while making money. On the other side, you have a strong-minded person with a specific plan in mind to succeed. And, on both sides, you have an individual with an ego the size of Mount Diablo.
This is the general dichotomy of professional sports, an industry where it takes not only a knack for Xs and Os, but a keen sense for business. Naturally, it makes sense that a liaison exists between these two parties, and it follows that this job would be extremely hard. The preceding describe the life of a general manager — bringing everyone together, often even star players, to field a flourishing organization.
So who does it best in the Bay Area? Once again, the best way to answer a question is with a countdown.
6. Reggie McKenzie — Oakland Raiders
The franchise built by the late, great, not-so-great-late Al Davis is the Bay team with the least recent success. Other than an 8-8 season in 2011 (when McKenzie wasn’t even with the organization), the Raiders have been horrible. HORRIBLE. That’s not to say McKenzie can’t turn it around; he’s rebuilding the whole thing, but in the small sample size we have, the future does not look bright quite yet.
5. Bob Myers — Golden State Warriors
Much less of a mess to clean up than his Silver and Black counterpart, but Bob Myers is in a similar position. He has only been with the team for about a year, and despite a recent mental lapse, the 2012-13 team he put together has turned out quite nicely.
It’s too bad Tyson Chandler got away. Still, Andrew Bogut’s resurgence has been pretty encouraging. He’s off to a better start, and with new owners trying to also make their mark, the organization has an extremely bright future.
4. Doug Wilson — San Jose Sharks
All things considered, he has done a very good job with the Sharks over the last decade. Every year, the team is competitive, and in some years, they are legitimate championship contenders. He makes the big trades when he believes they’re needed (Joe Thornton) and is consistently smart about payroll and letting players go when the time is right (Ryane Clowe). The team does legitimately choke in the playoffs some years, but that must be due to some larger, uncontrollable power.
3. Brian Sabean — San Francisco Giants
The longest tenured of the Bay Area GMs, Brian Sabean is closing in on two full decades at the helm of the Giants. And, his work has culminated in two long-awaited World Series championships for the Orange and Black (which makes him the most successful of the group).
He has two rings, which is two more than anyone else on this list, but why is he not at the top? For one, the Barry Zito contract. He’s had his moments recently, but overall, that was one of the worst signings of the past ten years. And, he’s been doing this for almost 20 years! You would hope he would’ve improved if the team was willing to keep him around.
2. Trent Baalke — San Francisco 49ers
In a short time, he has made quite the impact. In his first year –and also Jim Harbaugh’s — the team won seven more games, going 13-3 and returning to the NFC Championship Game. To top it off, he was named Executive of the Year for the NFL. In his second season, they went to the Super Bowl. Niners’ fans hope this pattern continues.
Though his career is relatively fresh, he has made all the right moves, filling needs with trades for Anquan Boldin and trading up to draft Eric Reid to replace Dashon Goldson. There is no drop off coming soon, and though all the attention goes to Harbaugh, Baalke makes it happen for him.
1. Billy Beane — Oakland Athletics
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. He is at the forefront of the revolution which is completely changing the game of baseball and talent evaluation. The stadium his team plays in is horrible, and they also play in a market dominated by a team across the Bay that has won two championships in the past three years.
Though 2007-2011 weren’t the best years, he has made contenders out of teams with payrolls less than half the size of his competitors. Did you see the names on the 2012 team that won the division?
Oh, and there was a movie made about him that starred Brad Pitt. No championships, no problem — he has made an impact far bigger than anyone else on this list.