Monday, March 16, 2015

Al Rosen 1924-2015

"I know of no parallel for what has happened here. I know of no other case in the history of baseball where any man has done what Al Rosen has done in San Francisco over the last two years. I would not have believed that it could be done."

So said Bill James in the winter of 1987, after Giants GM Al Rosen, with able assistance from manager Roger Craig, had transformed the team from a pitiful joke to a dynamic contender and World Series favorite for 1988.  For those of us who were there, that change, that transformation, was so dynamic and so complete that it drew an indelible line between what had come before and what would come after. Our term for it has always been "The Renaissance."

Al Rosen, who was the Giants' chief executive for seven years from 1986-1992, established a standard of excellence for the franchise that remains today. No, the team certainly hasn't lived up to that standard every year on the field, and Rosen's last season and somewhat ungraceful exit from the position was overshadowed by the nightmarish possibility of a move to St Petersburg, but let's be clear. Had Rosen's aggressive, bold leadership not arrived when it did, and had the Giants not become successful under his watch, it's anyone's guess whether the last-minute ownership group that saved the team in late 1992 would even have formed.

Before he was an executive, Al Rosen was a ballplayer, and a fine one at that. His career was delayed by World War 2 and prematurely ended by a car wreck, but for five years Rosen was Mike Schmidt before there was Mike Schmidt. Along with his contemporary, Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, Rosen's style of play helped redefine the third-base position as a domain of the game's most versatile players-- sluggers with Gold Glove defense became the ideal, if not the standard.

On July 5, 1987, Al Rosen engineered a trade with the San Diego Padres that brought Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky, and Craig Lefferts to the Giants. It remains the greatest of all San Francisco Giants trades, and it effectively buried the long-held image of the Giants as inept trade-bunglers.  Al Rosen is, in many ways, the godfather of today's world champion Giants.

Rest in peace, Al Rosen, You made your mark. 

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