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The 100 Greatest Angels - Bill Bavasi, #87

#87 - Bill Bavasi, - GM

Bill Bavasi made some lousy trades and had an unimpressive tenure as Genral Manager of the Angels. But two things he did give him presence on this list. The first is recounted below in detail by Rob McMillin - He drafted a good portion of the important core of the 2002 World Championship team, and in Angel lore that is a lot. 2nd, and in the big picture perhaps more importantly, he won the 1998 bidding war for a Venezuelan pitching phenom named Francisco Rodriguez - spending $900k for a signing bonus to ensure Frankie signed on Disney's dotted line. In addition to Frankie's critical role in the 2002 postseason and two subsequent Western Division crowns, he was the franchise's first foray into scouting and drafting Latin American players - if it seems ass-backwards that the team ignored this crucial cauldron of talent until late in the 1990s, just look at their record up to that point and understand the critical role Bavasi played in opening the eyes of this franchise to the fact that the game did not stop at the borders of Black and White America.

Love him or hate him, Bill Bavasi is one big reason why we have a trophy on the mantle and a global franchise future.

The 6 - 4 - 2 Baseball Blog's proprietor Rob McMillin fills in the details about Bill...

Bill Bavasi became Angels GM after a bloody power struggle between then-GM Whitey Herzog and former GM Dan O'Brien that resulted in O'Brien's firing in September, 1993. Herzog resigned on January 11, 1994, making Bavasi the last man standing. He had ascended from farm director to assistant general manager to general manager in the space of four months. Regardless of how he managed to arrive at the position, Bill had one of the best vantage points in the game to learn, sitting with his father (baseball legend Buzzie Bavasi) through three different organizations, and "literally willing to get his hands dirty" in his 13 years of prior service to the Angels. "I'm comfortable with it," Bavasi said later, "but maybe that's because I'm too dumb to know that I shouldn't be."

The Angels must have been praying for calm after the tempestuous offseason, but they wouldn't get it. Bavasi's first major act would be to fire manager Buck Rodgers on May 17. Despite the team's awful 16-23 record, they were only a game and a half back of division leader Texas. Rodgers had castigated underperforming players in the press, and in particular complained about the "recycled" pitching staff he had to work with. Rodgers subsequently called Bavasi a "paper man" in a Times interview four months after the firing, and described club president Richard Brown as a "cancer". After briefly holding a scouting job with the Phillies, he would never work in the major leagues again.

His next decision -- promoting pitching coach Marcel Lachemann to team manager -- proved a mistake. Lachemann, who had to be coaxed into the job, quit two years later. Bavasi, Brown said afterwards, "wanted someone he could be comfortable with" instead of someone who actually wanted the job, and the soft-spoken Lachemann lacked the stomach for the job. Bavasi tapped John McNamara as manager "for the remainder of the season", but a blood clot in his leg in late August brought bench coach Joe Maddon to fill out the season. He in turn would be replaced by Terry Collins for most of the remainder of Bavasi's tenure.

Bavasi's notable free agent signings and trades, excluding re-signings of then-current Angels in free agency:
1995: signed closer Lee Smith, future broadcaster Rex Hudler, Tony Phillips as free agents; traded McKay Christensen, John Snyder, Andrew Lorraine, and Bill Simas to the Chisox for Jim Abbott and Tim Fortugno.
1996: signed Eddie Murray (in the last year of his career); traded Chili Davis for Mike Bovee and Mark Gubicza; traded J.T. Snow for Allen Watson and Fausto Macey.
1997: signed RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa, INF Shawn Wooten, Rickey Henderson
1998: signed Mo Vaughn

Notable draftees from that era:
1995: Darin Erstad, Jarrod Washburn
1996: LHP Scott Schoeneweis
1997: Troy Glaus
1999: John Lackey, Robb Quinlan

While the appalling failure of the Mo Vaughn signing (on a six-year, $80 milllion contract) is probably Bavasi's best-known stroke of bad luck, his trading acumen generally fell in line with the kind of thinking that had led to problems before, acquiring washed-up veterans, pitchers in particular, for prospects. Bavasi was also often left out on free agent signings and trades. An example that illustrates both tendencies at once was the reacquisition of Jim Abbott. A reaction to his inability to trade for any of David Cone, Ken Hill, and Andy Benes, Abbott proved a 2-18 bust in his last year with the Angels, while Simas and Snyder became valued members of the White Sox bullpen.

Following the disastrous 1999 season, Angels president Tony Tavares demanded a purge that Bavasi refused to implement. Unimpressed, Tavares fired him, along with twelve of the club's senior scouts. Currently working as Seattle's GM, his record remains mixed.