Best all-time general managers: No. 9, Walt Jocketty

The #9 GM on our countdown of the best all-time general managers designed one of the great organizations in baseball before attempting to do the same with one of the game’s first ever franchises.

St. Louis Cardinals, 1995-2007; Cincinnati Reds, 2008-2015

Walt Jocketty’s shift from St. Louis to Cincinnati between the 2007 and 2008 seasons illustrates the impact a franchise can have on even one of the best all-time general managers, as opposed to vice versa.

During a 13-season tenure in St. Louis, Jocketty’s average short-term impact on the Cardinals was +2.92 games. During eight seasons as general manager of the Reds, his average short-term impact was +0.69 games.

Hired for the front office of a Houston Minor League team in 1974, Jocketty was appointed the director of minor league operations for the Oakland A’s in 1979. He joined the Colorado Rockies as assistant GM in 1994, leading to his appointment as St. Louis Cardinals following that season.

In St. Louis, Jocketty enjoyed three seasons when his moves provided the margin by which his team reached the post-season. He improved the Cardinals by 15.1 games in 2000, by 11.5 games in 2001,  and by 2 games in 2006. Their playoff margins in those seasons: 10, 3, and 1 games respectively.

Three of Jocketty’s Reds teams have reached post-season, and his moves helped those efforts, just not decisively. In 2014 and 2015, however, Jocketty fought through the two worst consecutive seasons of his two-decade career, his decisions having hurt the Reds by 4.4 and 5.3 games respectively.

Granted, Jocketty’s reputation in St. Louis was aided greatly by the arrival of Albert Pujols. But that only begins to explain Jocketty.  Look at the season of 2000, the year before Pujols’ arrival. Jocketty took a 75-win team in 1999 and added 15 victories to it, mostly by assiduous dealing. Among the catches were Jim Edmonds (+4.3) for Kent Bottenfield (-0.6) and Adam Kennedy (-2.7). That’s a 7.6 game turnaround right there. He picked up Darryl Kile (+2.1) and Dave Veres (+2.4) for four players with a cumulative +2.1 impact for their new team, a 2.4 game swing. Throw in a few more deals (Fernando Vina, +1.5), a rookie or two (Rick Ankiel, +2.3), and you’ve got one of only two dozen GM upgrades in history in excess of 15 games. He won the Sporting News Executive Of The Year Award for that one, repeating in 2004 and 2010 when the cases were more marginal. But that’s OK; he was passed over in favor of Cleveland’s Mark Shapiro in 2005

Jocketty became the Reds’ president of baseball operations following the 2015 season, and has since been named an adviser to the Reds’ CEO.

Like a lot of the best all-time general managers, Jocketty could be very bad as well as very good. In 2003 and again in 2007 his moves cost the Cardinals a post-season place. But that merely ratifies his status as an action figure. In 19 seasons, a Jocketty-led team either won or tied for the NL Central title nine times. That’ll work.

Walt Jocketty

In the first six categories, values reflect the standard deviation of the GM’s performance above or below the historical mean for that category. Category 7 awards or deducts points for seasons in which the GM’s short-term impact exceeded the margin by which his team either reached post-season or failed to do so. Category 8 represents post-season appearances; in categories 7 and 8 indicated points are based on numbers of teams and post-season berths.

1 Short-term average: +1.20

2 Short-term total: +1.45

3 Long-term average: +0.43

4 Long-term total: +0.86

5 Residual average: +1.68

6 Residual total: +0.96

7 GM’s post-season shares:

  • 2000 award +0.50: +15.1. Acquired Jim Edmonds, +4.3; acquired Darryl Kile, +2.1; acquired Dave Veres, +2.4; promoted rookie Rick Ankiel, +2.3. traded David Bell, -1.7; traded Royce Clayton, -1.4; acquired Fernando Vina, +1.5.
  • 2001 award +0.50. Jocketty aided the Cardinals by games; they qualified for post-season by 10. Key moves: Acquired Steve Kline, +2.0; acquired Woody Williams, +1.9; re-signed Jim Edmonds, +3.8; promoted rookie Albert Pujols, +5.4.
  • 2003 penalty -0.50. Jocketty hurt the Cardinals by -5.3 games; they failed to qualify for post-season by 3 games. Key moves: Acquired Bret Tomko, -2.2; signed Miguel Cairo, -2.2; signed Jeff Fassero, -1.5.
  • 2006 award +0.50. Jocketty aided the Cardinals by 2 games; they qualified for post-season by 1.5 games.
  • 2007 penalty -0.50. Jocketty hurt the Cardinals by -12.8 games; they failed to qualify for post-season by 7 games. Key moves: Acquired Mike Maroth, -3.1; signed Kip Wells, -2.9; signed Aaron Miles, -1.9; re-signed Mark Mulder, -1.5.

Category 7 total: +0.50.

8 Credit for post-season appearances (1996, +0.44; 2000, +0.50; 2001, +0.50; 2002, +0.50; 2004, +0.50; 2005, +0.50; 2006, +0.50; 2010, +0.50; 2012, +0.38; 2013, +0.38): +4.70

Grand total: +11.77.

Next: Best all-time GMs #10: Buzzie Bavasi

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That’s our #9 of the best all-time general managers, Walt Jocketty. So what do you think? Is he too high? Too low? Comment below!

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