This Day in Baseball History: January 23rd, 1967

He was just a winner. Simply put.

On January 23, 1967:

Stan Musial becomes the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, this is “Stan Musial Love Week” on Wheel of Fortune.

After a stellar playing career as Cardinal, Musial retired and became involved in the front office in St. Louis. When Bob Howsam was fired after a seemingly unsuccessful tenure, Musial won the general manager’s position in 1967, and his team would go on to win the World Series. Musial is the only general manager to win the World Series in his only season as general manager.

Why did he quit? According to Joe Posnanski (who I figured had something relating to this), Musial admitted that he really had no idea what he was doing, and he really just watched the team win. It’s pretty much true. He made no major moves to help the team. Musial once mentioned, “I have a darn good job, but please don’t ask me what I do.” He honestly decided to go do something he knew about it, and he became a successful businessman.

The interesting part about this is something Posnanski observes about GM’s — do they ever get the credit/criticism they deserve? Howsam brought in Orlando Cepeda, who was the NL MVP in that 1967 season, but he was the one fired. Musial won the World Series.

Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question. John Schuerholz, I believe, deserves a lot of the credit for building and maintaining the Braves for all those years (a long tenure is probably the only way to truly judge), but in the same way, I think he’s also the reason the Braves have gone downhill recently. Frank Wren didn’t necessarily make a bad team (Jayson Stark even picked them to win the World Series last season) last season, and honestly, I think he’s done some shrewd manuvering as GM. I think Theo Epstein deserves a lot of the credit for the Red Sox being as good as they are/have been. Andrew Friedman has done an excellent job with the Rays, but didn’t Chuck Lamar have something to do with it as well?

Then, you have to think about the other people involved — the scouts, assistant general managers, coaches, and other personnel. They contribute. Do the GM’s deserve to be the ones who deserve all the credit, even when they get any (do you ever think when you see “the Rays have done such a good job getting young talent”, where’s Friedman’s name?)?

Then, think about the luck involved. How do you know who’s going to be good/succeed/stay healthy? You can look at all the scouting reports and medical reports you want, but there’s no one way to pick that player. Most people didn’t really like the JD Drew to Atlanta trade, but it worked out pretty well (though I would love to have Wainwright wright now). He played well and stayed healthy. Look at the Sabathia and Teixeira trades. Do we really know if they’ll do well? Will they stay healthy? Will Burnett be the most healthy of the group? If there’s so much uncertainty, do the GM’s deserve any credit?

It’s like with American presidents and the economy. Did Clinton really do great things that led to the great economy we had then, or did Reagan and Bush’s policies really achieve all that? Do we ever really know? We can look back now with historical perspective and say where the good decisions were, but even then, can we give people credit for making good decisions when they weren’t necessarily at the time? Remember, Cepeda had major knee problems before he came to St. Louis.

In the end, it’s easier to ask questions than to answer them.

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