Sunday, December 05, 2004

Reconsidering Hawk's Tenure As GM

It is a commonly held belief that Hawk's GM tenure in 1986 was a disaster. However, given that Hawk only had 1 year as the GM, how well can we even judge his tenure? And how well did he really do?

From Baseball-Reference.com, we know that the Sox made these moves before and after the 1986 season:

(1) November 25, 1985

Traded a player to be named later, Ed Correa, and Scott Fletcher to the Texas Rangers. Received Wayne Tolleson and Dave Schmidt. The Chicago White Sox sent Jose Mota (December 11, 1985) to the Texas Rangers to complete the trade.

Many complained that Harrelson was giving away a prime prospect in Ed Correa for Wayne Tolleson. The truth is that Correa had an OK 1986 - he was about a league-average starter, had a terrible 1987, and never pitched again. Fletcher was expendable at shortstop with Ozzie Guillen taking the helm with his Rookie-of-the-Year 1985 season, but did go on to have 3 good seasons in Texas in 86, 87, and 88 (here are his lines- .300/.360/.400, .287/.358/.374, .276/.364/.328).

Tolleson actually did not perform too poorly with the Sox. He managed a .350 OBP, but showed little power. Dave Schmidt, however, was a prize in the deal. Although the Sox traded him after 1986, he really performed well for the Sox - a 3.31 ERA in 93 innings, with an ERA+ of 130. For some reason, Schmidt was released at the end of 1986 - and he went on to have two more decent years in Baltimore before fading away.

Call this trade a draw at worst.

(2). December 10, 1985
Bobby Bonilla from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1985 rule V draft.

Bobby Bonilla for free. Pretty savvy move by Hawk.

(3). December 12, 1985

Traded Britt Burns, Glen Braxton (minors), and Mike Soper (minors) to the New York Yankees. Received Ron Hassey and Joe Cowley.

This was the Mike Sirotka deal of its time. Burns never pitched after the 1985 season. Cowley won 11 games and threw a no-hitter for a terrible 1986 White Sox club. Larry Himes then spun Cowley off for Gary Redus the next year - and Cowley bombed in Philly.

Hawk steals the Yankees blind. Good deal.

(4). February 13, 1986
Ron Hassey, Matt Winters, Chris Alvarez (minors), and Eric Schmidt (minors) to the New York Yankees. Received Neil Allen, Scott Bradley, Glen Braxton (minors), and cash.

Hassey, who had been picked up for Burns in the prior deal, is now spun back to the Yankees for Neil Allen, who pitched pretty well for the 1986 Sox - going 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA (an ERA+ of 113). Matt Winters did nothing for the Yankees. Scott Bradley however, would be critical to a later deal.

Another minor victory for the Hawk.

(5). April 15, 1986
Bill Dawley as a free agent.

Poor Bill Dawley. He went 0-7 in 1986, even though he had an ERA of 3.32 - for an ERA+ of 130. Larry Himes later traded him for Fred Manrique.

A good signing by the Hawkeroo.

(6). April 30, 1986
Juan Agosto to the Minnesota Twins.

Money? For Juan Agosto? You sure you want to do this Mr. McPhail? Sold!

Oddly enough, after getting slaughtered in Minnesota, Agosto turned his career around in Houston from 87-89 and was a pretty solid lefty reliever.

(7.) June 2, 1986
Scott Radinsky in the 3rd round of the 1986 amateur draft.
Matt Merullo in the 7th round of the 1986 amateur draft.
Mark Davis in the 12th round of the 1986 amateur draft.

OK, so the Hawk's draft would not go down as a memorable one. His first round pick, Grady Hall out of Northwestern, was a college pitcher, not a high school one. He wasn't very good, but Hawk did evidence a little bit of the Moneyball philosophy of drafting college pitchers. I'm just saying...

(8.) June 26, 1986
Scott Bradley to the Seattle Mariners. Received a player to be named later. The Seattle Mariners sent Ivan Calderon (July 1, 1986) to the Chicago White Sox to complete the trade.

Hawk absolutely stole Ivan Calderon from the Mariners. Calderon would be a rock of the Sox lineup for the next several years. Scott Bradley was mostly bad for the Mariners.

(9.) June 29, 1986
Tom Seaver to the Boston Red Sox. Received Steve Lyons.

Seaver wanted out, he got out. He didn't pitch well for the Red Sox and was done in 1987. Steve Lyons hung around and was a valuable utility player for the Sox for years. The problem was that Lyons got too many at bats and wound up hurting the Sox offense.

Marginal victory for the Hawkmeister.

(10.) July 23, 1986
Bobby Bonilla to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Jose DeLeon.

Whoops. Yep, Bobby Bonilla became a foundation for the early 90's Pirates teams. At the end of the day, though, Hawk got him for free from the Pirates and then made the Pirates give him Jose DeLeon to get him back. That's a net positive at the end of the day. DeLeon was a better-than-average pitcher for the Sox in 1986 and 1987, and then brought back Lance Johnson in a trade with the Cardinals before the 1988 season.

Net net, Hawk's decision to pluck Bonilla in the Rule V draft got the Sox: (1) DeLeon's 115 ERA+ in 1987; and (2) a fair leadoff hitter for 1990-1994. Not the worst deal ever.

(11.) July 30, 1986
Ron Kittle, Wayne Tolleson, and Joel Skinner to the New York Yankees. Received a player to be named later, Ron Hassey, and Carlos Martinez. The New York Yankees sent Bill Lindsey (December 24, 1986) to the Chicago White Sox to complete the trade.

Traumatic as the Kittle deal was for me at the time as a 13-year-old, this was a pretty marginal trade. Kittle would hit pretty well for the 1987 Yankees, but never do much else. Carlos Martinez had a decent 1989 for the Sox. Very little value exchanged hands here.

(12.) August 12, 1986
Steve Carlton as a free agent.

Hey, Steve Carlton did go 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA for the '86 Sox. For as cheap has he came, not a bad signing.

(13.) August 13, 1986
Craig Grebeck as an amateur free agent.

Little Hurt did produce pretty well for the 91-95 White Sox, peaking with a .281/.386/.460 line in 200+ AB for the 1991 Sox. A valuable backup player for that team, you should give Hawk credit for getting him signed.

(14.) August 15, 1986
George Foster as a free agent.

Well, he did hit a homer in his first Sox at-bat or something. It was ugly, otherwise.

That was pretty much it for the Harrelson tenure. I don't see anything remotely offensive in that list. And, although he traded away Bobby Bonilla, he did get Bonilla for a song in the first place.

As weird as it may sound, the trades he made improved the White Sox. An 85-77 team in 1985, they slumped to 72-90 in 1986. But the '85 team wasn't that good (83-79 pythagorean record) and the '86 team wasn't that bad (75-87 pythagorean record). Remember, the '86 team had lost Britt Burns - who would never pitch again no fault to Hawk - and Tom Seaver went down the tubes.

Despite the loss of two effective starters, the 1986 Sox team managed a 3.93 ERA, which was good for 3rd best in the American League. Hawk brought in Dave Schmidt and Bill Dawley, both of whom were effective in relief roles. Neil Allen and Joe Cowley were solid members of the rotation. Jose DeLeon had a sparkling 2.96 ERA after the Sox acquired him.

The offense, which had been decaying for years after the 1983 team, was just pathetic. They were at the bottom of the league in batting average, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage and scored the fewest runs in the American League. Carlton Fisk, after having a decent 1985 season, slumped to a horrid .221/.263/.337 season - a flat .600 OPS. John Cangelosi hit only .235 from the leadoff spot, but did manage to get on base with a .349 OBP, which led the team. Ron Hassey, acquired mid-season, actually was the best hitter on the Sox - he posted a .353/.437/.500 line in 150 at-bats. Kittle was awful, with a .213/.282/.422 line. As a whole, the team scored 92 fewer runs than the 1985 White Sox, even while allowing 21 fewer runs.

I guess you can fault Hawk for not getting the Sox any offense during the year. But I'm not sure you could say much about that. He did acquire Hassey and Calderon, who had fairly good performances after he acquired them. Fisk wasn't going anywhere, and Baines and Walker were OK in the 1B and RF spots. The Julio Cruz morass - spurred by a high contract - wasn't going to get resolved in 1986 (although he did have a .343 OBP, he had an absurd .215 batting average and .225 SLG. That's right, an ISOp of .010!). So I'm not sure how much more Hawk could do.

It strikes me that Hawk had a keen eye for marginal players who could help a ball club. For a team with a solid foundation, he would probably be a very good GM. He probably would not be the right guy to build a team, but it's very possible that he could make the moves to put a team over the top and into the playoffs.

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