Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Card #121: Ed Lynch

Who Can It Be Now?
Edward Francis Lynch (whose Baseball Reference website address is an unfortunate "lynched01.shtml") was born on February 25, 1956 in Brooklyn, New York to parents who soon after his birth moved to Miami, Florida. Lynch spent his formative years in Miami, attending Christopher Columbus High School there (other major leaguers to attend that school: Orestes Destrade, Jorge Fabregas, Izzy Molina, Rob Murphy, and Jon Jay).

Lynch was not drafted out of high school. He earned a scholarship from the University of South Carolina in basketball, playing forward on the reserve team. Based entirely on individual testimonials about Lynch on the Ultimate Mets website, it appears that his nickname at USC(east) (as we trolls in the SEC World call Gamecock U.) was "Bus." Bus earned his way in athletics by being a pitcher at USC(e).  Despite his 6'6" frame, Lynch was not a power pitcher and as a result was not drafted until the 9th pick of the 22nd round of the 1977 June Draft. 

Lynch signed shortly after being drafted, and he was assigned to the Gulf Coast League in 1977. He pitched decently in his 13 appearances (6 starts), leading the Rangers to move him up in 1978 first to Asheville in the Western Carolinas League. He pitched far better in Asheville than in Florida, leading the Rangers to promote him to Tulsa in the Texas League. 

It was in Tulsa where he really opened eyes, albeit in a 7-start stint. In 54 innings in a league with a league ERA of 4.22, Lynch went 4-3 with a 2.67 ERA (with the caveat that 9 of his 25 runs allowed were unearned). He walked just 14 batters and struck out 44 to give him his highest ever K/9. 

All of these numbers were better than the league averages, leading the Rangers to promote Lynch to Tucson in the PCL -- another notorious hitters' paradise. Lynch did not fare as well on pure numbers, but in comparison to league averages, he was solid.  Yet, the Rangers chose instead to send Lynch to the New York Mets as the player-to-be-named-later in exchange for 38 games of Willie Montanez in 1979. 

For the 1980 season, the Mets kept Lynch at Tidewater in the International League. Lynch responded well, putting up probably his best minor-league season -- 13-6 record and 3.15 ERA (12 unearned runs out of 69 allowed) with 91 Ks and 42 BB in 163 innings. That year earned Lynch a call-up at the end of August in 1980 -- a debut which included his first major league start -- and win -- against the Chicago Cubs, a team that would figure prominently in his career.

Lynch split the 1981 season between Triple-A Tidewater and Shea Stadium. He started 13 games for the Mets and 15 games for the Tides. It may be my supposition, but I am guessing that the Mets sent Lynch to Triple-A prior to the strike to keep him pitching and keep him on track for his development. Lynch pitched better (and luckier) for the Mets after the strike (2.38 ERA; .204 BA against) than before the strike (3.95 ERA; .339 BA against). 

1982 was Lynch's first Topps card and his first complete season as a major leaguer. He served in a swingman's role during that season -- starting 12 games, finishing 11, and saving 2 with a 4-8 record. His career with the Mets followed a bit of an odd progression from 1982 through 1985. In both of the even years (1982 and 1984), Lynch was a swingman and relieved more than he started. In the odd years (1983 and 1985), Lynch was a member of the rotation for the most part -- relieving in just 5 games over the course of those two seasons combined.

When 1986 rolled around, everyone in New York felt that the Mets were going to have a special season. Having missed out on the NL East title in 1985 to the St. Louis Cardinals by three games and with a starting rotation of Gooden, Darling, Ojeda, Fernandez, and Aguilera all bringing heat, it was easy to see why people had that feeling. 

Lynch pitched just one game during that season for the Mets -- on April 12. Shortly thereafter, he was placed on the 21-day disabled list with damaged cartilage in his left knee and underwent surgery to repair the knee. By the time he was healthy again, he was a member of the Chicago Cubs. He found himself the odd-man-out of the Mets bullpen and rotation, and the Mets decided they wanted two minor leaguers more than they wanted to figure out who would have to be sent down or released to make room for Lynch.

The move broke Lynch's heart. He was quoted as saying, "it was like living with a family all year, then getting kicked out on Christmas Eve." At least, according to some sources, the family that kicked him out still sent him gifts: the Mets voted Lynch a full World Series share despite his pitching just one game.

Lynch's pitching career in Chicago lasted only through 1987. Lynch tried to catch on in spring training in 1988 with the Boston Red Sox -- a tryout marked by an absolute moonshot getting hit off him by Kent Hrbek, apparently -- but he did not make the team. He ended up signing with the independent Miami Marlins in the Florida State League, where he pitched well enough to get a look in Triple-A from the Giants. He did not get called up, however, and 1988 was the end of his active playing career.

Mustache Check: Ed's face is as smooth as a baby's bottom.  Cleaner, though.

Orange You Smart
After his playing career was over, Lynch attended law school at the University of Miami. He completed his law degree, but he never practiced law. Instead, he was hired by Joe McIlvaine in 1992 to serve as the Padres director of player development. 

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
I think most people know Ed Lynch today more for being the general manager of the Chicago Cubs from October of 1994 to midway through the 2000 season. Lynch became the GM in Chicago on the same day that current Brewers GM Doug Melvin got the Rangers' GM position. Unlike Melvin, however, Lynch never has received another opportunity to be a GM.

So, I posit this question: should Lynch have gotten another chance?

Looking solely at wins and losses during Lynch's time as GM, the Cubs made it to the playoffs just once -- as the wild card in 1998. The Cubs had finished 12.5 games behind the division winning Houston Astros and 1 game ahead of Wild Card runner up San Francisco (thanks to beating the Giants in a 1-game play-in game). The Cubs had to face an Atlanta Braves team that finished 106-56 and which sported a team ERA nearly a full 1.25 lower than that enjoyed by the Cubs. Add in the fact that the Braves' team OPS was 24 point higher -- effectively equal -- and the outcome of a Braves sweep looks about right.

Other than that season, the Cubs under Lynch finished 73-71 (1995 strike-shortened season), 76-86, 68-94, 67-95, and 39-53 (as of the date Lynch was fired). That 90-win season -- which, by the Pythagorean Win-Loss method, overshot the Cubs expected result based on runs scored and allowed by 5 wins -- was a bit flukish.

Outside of wins and losses, what important roster moves did Lynch make?

1994-1995 offseason:
Traded a minor leaguer and a pitcher named Derek Wallace to the Royals for Brian McRae. McRae played in two-and-a-half seasons for the Cubs, patrolling center field and hitting reasonably well. Definite WIN for Lynch.

1995 season
- cut Glenallen Hill out of spring training. Hill signed with the Giants and hit 24 HR in 1995. BAD move. Also signed Howard Johnson off the scrap heap. Hojo hit .211 with 10 HR in Colorado the previous year. 206 AB that could have gone somewhere else. BAD

- traded two minor leaguers and Mike Morgan to St. Louis for Todd Zeile. Zeile left after the 1995 season in free agency. PUSH

- traded catcher Rick Wilkins to the Astros for catcher Scott Servais and OF Luis Gonzalez. Gonzalez hit 22 HR in 223 games for the Cubs at the ages of 27 and 28, making his 57 HR output in 2001 at age 33 look a little off. Servais stayed a cub through 1998. The fact that Servais became the Cubs starting catcher is a minor WIN for Lynch. But, why not make a move to build the farm system?

1995-1996 offseason & 1996 season
Other than screwing around on the fringes of the roster with guys like Jaime Navarro, Dave Magadan, Felix Fermin, and Tanyon Sturtze, Lynch did nothing important with the roster other than getting Ryne Sandberg to come back and play.

1996-1997 offseason & 1997 season
- August 8, 1997: traded Brian McRae, Mel Rojas, and Turk Wendell to the Mets for Lance Johnson, Mark Clark, and Manny Alexander. Not a great trade for Lynch. McRae was nearly done due to injuries, and Rojas was a shadow of his former self, but Lance Johnson was an older version of McRae if you took away McRae's ability to hit for power.  That is not to mention the fact that Wendell stayed with the Mets as an effective reliever from 1997 through 2001.  LOSS for Lynch.

1997-1998 offseason & 1998 season
- Traded Doug Glanville to the Phillies for Mickey Morandini on 12/23/97. Pretty much a LOSS even though Morandini played well during the 1998 fluke season -- .380 OBP good, .385 SLG not so good. Glanville had several 

- got Mike Morgan back for the stretch drive from the Twins in exchange for minor league P Scott Downs. Morgan posted a 7.15 ERA (8.96 FIP) in 22-2/3 innings for the Cubs down that "stretch."

1998-1999 offseason & 1999 season
- Traded OF Brant Brown to the Pirates for Jon Lieber. WIN, due to a 20-win season in 2001 for Lieber.

- Traded minor league P Kyle Lohse and P Jason Ryan to the Twins for the skeletal remains of Rick Aguilera's career and Scott Downs. It's tough to call this anything more than a PUSH. If you view the trade as Ryan for Aguilera and Lohse for Downs, well, Downs was closer to the majors by two years than Lohse. Of course, this trade wouldn't have had to be made if not for trading Downs away for Mike Morgan a few months earlier.

- traded Jose Hernandez and Terry Mulholland to the Braves on July 31 for Joey Nation, Micah Bowie, and Ruben Quevedo. LOSS, even as a dump trade.  Bowie got 11 starts to put up a 9.96 ERA, Nation made two starts in 2000 with a 6.94 ERA, and Quevedo made 21 appearances in 200 with an airliner ERA -- 7.47.  Wow. Terrible scouting, Cubs.

- signed catcher Joe Girardi as a free agent on a three-year deal. LOSS. Girardi was an All-Star in 2000 inexplicably, but giving a three-year, $5.5 million contract to a 35-year-old catcher is just plain dumb.

A lot of these trades taken in a vacuum look decent. As one correspondent wrote to Baseball Prospectus back in 2000:
I think people are missing the point about Ed Lynch's failure as Cubs GM, which is a complicated thing. First, when you evaluate Lynch's moves one by one, it's actually a really good picture. In the vast majority of his deals, you can say that he got a good return. As for Matt Karchner for Jon Garland and signing Joe Girardi to a three-year contract, sure, those were serious blunders, but how many GMs can you name who don't have similar blemishes on their records.
Still, Lynch was a bad GM, but it really boils down to "the vision thing." Sure, he was able to turn Brant Brown into Jon Lieber, but he never seemed to make moves with any sort of coherent plan, either in the short term or the long term. 
Isn't that the biggest problem for GMs in any respect? 

In any case, Lynch has never gotten another opportunity to show he could have done better and now, at the age of 58, it seems unlikely he will ever get another chance.

At least he didn't decide to practice law.

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