Jeff Bridich wouldn't have been my first choice for general manager of the Colorado Rockies. In fact, he wouldn't have been on my list at all. That's nothing personal to Bridich. But I've been camped with those who believed that firing Dan O'Dowd and Bill Geivett was a necessary step, to be followed by the equally necessary step of hiring someone from outside the organization to bring in new ideas, approaches, and perspectives.
With that said, Rockies fans of my proclivity celebrated heartily -- albeit briefly -- when news came yesterday morning that O'Dowd and Geivett were out. The celebration proved short lived, alas, as the shoe dropped that Bridich would be taking over. Monfort opted to hire internally, without so much as a brief survey of external options.
On paper, Bridich fits the description of the modern baseball executive: young, hyper-educated, and eager to captain perennial sad sacks to the postseason. But his resume comes with a crushing burden for skeptics like me, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes: "Bridich ... has spent most of his professional life in the Rockies organization, serving as O'Dowd's right-hand man for much of that time." (Emphasis added.)
Bridich and his supporters insist that he's his own man, and not just a scrubbed-up version of the worn-out O'Dowd era. I'd say the same if I were in his shoes. No one wants to believe that they're merely new skin for old wine. Still, it's hard to shake the feeling that the Rockies missed an opportunity by failing to look outside the current front office for new leadership, no matter how unrealistic that view may be when you consider who's writing the checks.
But is this assessment fair? I decided to test whether my belief -- that hiring outside the organization was the natural thing for the Rockies to do -- was well founded. As it turns out, my belief wasn't well founded at all. In fact, most of the current general managers in baseball were hired internally. In some cases, they were promoted to replace GMs with whom ownership or fans had soured. And often, these former-right-hand-men-turned-current-general-managers led their respective clubs to success. There's support, as well as hope, for Bridich doing the same with the Rockies.
Of the 30 current general managers in baseball (including Bridich), 17 were elevated from positions inside their respective organizations. Ten of those 17 replaced GMs who resigned, were fired, or otherwise were forced out. So consider that a full third of the current general managers in baseball not only were hired internally, but were promoted from within the organization to replace someone for whom they worked, and who either failed or otherwise fell out of favor.
Several of these internal hires are notable, since their teams were (or still are) in the postseason this year: John Mozeliak (replacing Walt Jocketty, who left the St. Louis Cardinals over differences of opinion about player development), Brian Sabean (who replaced the unsuccessful Bob Quinn in San Francisco), Mike Rizzo (who was elevated to Nationals GM after Jim Bowden resigned), and Dave Dombrowski (a stretch, perhaps, since he was on the job with the Tigers for only a few weeks before replacing Randy Smith as GM).
While not in the playoffs this year, other internal hires have enjoyed terrific success reshaping their teams: the Rangers' Jon Daniels, the Rays' Andrew Friedman, and the Twins' Terry Ryan. It's probably fair to call Alex Anthopolous a bust with the Blue Jays, since the moves he's made are reminiscent of (and as unsuccessful as) those of his predecessor, J.P. Ricciardi. And of course it's too early to judge John Hart's new tenure in Atlanta (assuming that he ditches the interim GM tag).
On balance, however, these internal hires who succeeded toppled GMs have enjoyed a goodly share of October glory once they took over: 35 postseason appearances, 10 pennants, and three world championships. Not too shabby considering the conditions some of the teams were in before these internal hires took the reins.
It may well be that Bridich marches to the same beat that O'Dowd drummed the past 15 years. It may also be that, regardless of Bridich's own ideas, he comes into the job saddled with an overbearing owner, a top-heavy payroll, and unreliable superstars. But judging from the success of other GMs who've been hired internally, and how they've departed from the ways of their predecessors, there's good reason to believe that Bridich will tackle persistent problems with a new approach.
For a few of us, that's all we've ever asked.