This is a continuation of a discussion that I was having offline with a group of Red Sox fans. Those fans, in the face of the team’s poor start, have taken to ripping Theo Epstein for the team’s performance, blaming his emphasis on pitching and defense for helping put a mediocre team on the field. Ignoring the fact that it is very early and the Red Sox have a roster full of players underperforming at a level that is unlikely to last, it lead to an interesting question that has often come up in the context of Brian Cashman and the Yankees: How do you judge a General Manager’s moves when the process is good but the results are poor?
To elaborate on this point, I thought Epstein did a great job constructing a contending roster this offseason, finding good value and refusing to overpay for limited players. Because I found his process to be logical and well considered, I do not think it would be fair to rip him or laugh at his “run prevention” strategy. Sometimes, real life does not work out as the probabilities dictate, and there is nothing the decision maker can do about that. Simply put, I value process over results when evaluating a trade or signing, because good process will eventually lead to consistently good results.
Others, however, believe that it is all about results. They contend that even if everybody agreed with a particular move, it is a blot on the GM’s record if reality steps in and renders the move a poor one. Essentially, this argument assumes that the GM has significantly more information than outsiders regarding a decision, and therefore should be judged by his output rather than a process that we are not entirely informed about.
An example of this might come to pass should Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez continue to underperform. Some will suggest that what matters is that these were the right moves at the time, and that poor luck and the vagaries of real life should not reflect badly on the GM. Others will contend that the results are what matter, and that Cashman should have known that Granderson was on the decline and that Javy is not cut out for this town. I am firmly in that first camp. Where do you come down on this issue?