The most unique aspect of the Texas Rangers’ World Series win has been widely publicized. After all, it’s the first championship in the franchise’s 62-year history.
But the second-most unusual aspect is almost totally overlooked. It involves the Rangers’ front office.
In overseeing the process of building the Rangers into a championship unit, Texas executive vice president and general manager Chris Young became the first former player in nearly two decades (and only the eighth ever) to lead a championship front office.
Young was named general manager after the 2020 season, and succeeded Jon Daniels as chief baseball officer one year later.
Young pitched for 13 seasons in the majors, compiling a 79-67 record for the Rangers, Padres, Mets, and Royals. In 2015, he was 11-6 in 34 appearances as the Royals won the World Series.
As a former player, he’s at the forefront of what may be a swing back to something that once was relatively common but has been abandoned for decades — ex-players as chief execs.
In the 1950s, as many as half of MLB teams were run by an exec who had come up through the playing ranks. But that trend diminished as free agency made money more of a driving force and analytics departments supplanted scouting in decision-making primacy. By 2019, only the Seattle Mariners (Jerry Dipoto) were run by a former player; most GMs held an MBA, often from an Ivy League institution.
In 2020, Young arrived as the synthesis of those traits. He was a former player with a degree from Princeton. In short order, that synthesis was replicated by the Phillies’ signing of former player Sam Fuld as GM, by the Dodgers’ promotion of former Rays pitcher Brandon Gomes as GM, and a week ago by the Red Sox’ signing of former pitcher Craig Breslow as president of baseball operations.
If the presence of former players in corner offices remains rare, Young’s accomplishment in winning a World Series is even more so. No former player has run a World Series winner since 2005, when Kenny Williams took the Chicago White Sox to the title.
In fact, the list of former MLB players who were chief execs of World Series-winning teams is a short one.
1942, Branch Rickey, St. Louis Cardinals
1967, Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals
1969, Johnny Murphy, New York Mets
1979, Harding Peterson, Pittsburgh Pirates
1981, Al Campanis, Los Angeles Dodgers
2002, Bill Stoneman, Anaheim Angels
2005, Ken Williams, Chicago White Sox
2023, Chris Young, Texas Rangers
For decades, the job description of a chief baseball officer has tilted heavily toward the business side. In the analytics-driven world, actual baseball credentials took a back seat compared with business credentials. Probably the most chronically successful front office of the past 15 years — the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays — has been run by Andrew Friedman, Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Peter Bendix. All four earned degrees from prestigious institutions, and none ever played a game of professional baseball.
Young’s success may mark a pivot point not so much back to former players exclusively, but toward players who also featured legitimate academic credentials. Fuld has a masters degree in statistics from Stanford. Gomes earned a degree from Tulane; Breslow studied biochemistry at Yale.