UPDATE: This poll is now closed.
The semifinal ballots have been counted, and we've got the results!
Brian Sabean (1) defeats Bill Bavasi (4), 792-396. This was a remarkable come-from-behind win for Sabean, who overcame some pretty serious cheating by some angry Mariners fans to destroy Bavasi.
Ed Wade (2) defeats Ned Colletti (3), 103-87. There was considerably less interest in this poll, but these two are both worthy contenders. I'd kind of hoped that Colletti would win so it would be master vs. student in the finals, but it wasn't to be.
So... ladies and gentlemen, your final matchup!
Ed Wade vs. Brian Sabean! There's already been quite a lot of e-ink spilled here about both these guys, and I'm sure there will be much more in the comments of this thread. So instead I'd like to comment a little on something a couple of people have mentioned about this poll.
With a few exceptions, most of these GMs are not that bad. The two who remain, Wade and Sabean, are both leftovers from an earlier era, when GMs weren't as accountable for their actual performances, and ballclubs were more like expensive playthings for their tycoon owners than the businesses they've become.
The fans benefit in at least one important way when owners treat teams like businesses. Today, it's far more difficult -- actually, probably nearly impossible -- for a Billy Beane to come from nowhere and win 90+ games year after year after year on a tiny budget. That's unfortunate for those of us who like to root for the Billy Beanes of the world, and it also too bad for those of us who root for teams who won't pony up for real payrolls, but it's reassuring in the sense that, increasingly, the guys who play for major league teams are really the best baseball players available.
When a GM sacrifices the long-term future of his franchise without putting a good team on the field in the short term, the fans lose, because it means that, for season after season, we look at the schedule and see the Houston Astros and we groan, unless we happen to be fans of the team they're playing. Who, outside of Houston, wants to watch an Astros-Marlins matchup?
And when a team trots out player after player who shouldn't be in the big leagues, the fans lose, because it means that we're watching minor league baseball dressed up as something else. Who wants to watch Brian Bocock or Jose Castillo try to hit a baseball? Who, outside of Pittsburgh and the Bay Area, wants to watch a Giants-Pirates matchup?
So, after flinging a lot of crap as various teams and GMs these past few weeks, I'd like to pause and offer a round of applause to the owners of major league baseball for getting rid of most of their Chuck LaMars and Randy Smiths and Dave Littlefields. There are still a few left, but only a few, and it's notable that it wasn't even that easy to pick twelve bad GMs to participate in this contest, because there just aren't that many bad GMs.
In the meantime, I'd like to offer a tip of the cap -- or something -- to Cam Bonifay, who surely would have been a top contender in this contest if it had taken place a few years ago. Bonifay's ineptitude has only been surpassed by perhaps Dave Littlefield and a couple others in the years since he was fired. Yes, Bonifay's regime was extremely painful for us at Pirates fans. And -- well, there's really no redeeming that. But at least he was funny.
I like to return to this article every once in a while. (Scroll down to "April 4.") When someone who does his job as badly Bonifay did has to explain himself, hilarity often results. Bonifay on the 2001 Bucs:
Their tenacity, their ability to fight the odds, their ability to produce when unexpected... I think we have a bunch of guys who are battlers, who have struggled and who have had to go through some down times ... When you go through the down times, you're more ready to produce because you know what it takes to get out of those types of situations.
Yes, you see, because I made them lose, I have prepared them to win!
Or how about this quote, from our old friend Mr. Lamar?
The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major-league level.
Brilliant. There's something almost sublime about jobs done as badly as LaMar and Bonifay did theirs. The LaMars and Bonifays and Littlefields of the world are almost gone, and they should be, but that doesn't mean there's nothing about them to remember fondly.
Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart quoted H.L. Mencken describing Warren G. Harding:
I rise to pay my small tribute to Dr. Harding. Setting aside a college professor or two and a half dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters, he takes the first place in my Valhalla of literati. That is to say, he writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
In addition to being a terrible writer, Warren Harding was a terrible president, and that had serious consequences that I'm not trying to minimize or dismiss, but any captain steering the ship that poorly has to at least leave ripples of wonder in his wake, right? Here's to wonder.