Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Front office wanna bes

There are 30 teams in baseball and 30 general manager jobs. Well, some of the teams call the job something else -- Tampa Bay's org chart calls it "president of baseball operations" -- but each team has somebody at the top of the heap delegating, supervising, making the final call on moves (and getting the praise or heat on same).

Terry Ryan followed a essentially traditional route to the job: He pitched in the minor leagues, got hurt, went into scouting, moved up the ladder into the front office and eventually into the top job. But many organizations, maybe most, now have GMs -- and future GMs in the pipeline -- with no professional playing background whatsoever. Jed Hoyer (or if you prefer, Theo Epstein) of the Cubs. Jeff Ludnow of the Astros. Michael Silverman of the aforementioned Rays. Ben Cherington of the Red Sox. Sandy Alderson of the Mets, the man who built the Bash Brothers dynasty of the Oakland A's, was the pioneer of the type -- outsiders with academic acumen instead of athletic accomplishment.

Few men at the top of organizations today played in the majors. There are Billy Beane of Oakland, Ruben Amaro of Philadelphia and Dave Stewart of Arizona, and it's unclear to me how much authority Stewart actually has. I don't think there are any other former major leaguers now serving as general managers.

Beane is famous for his embrace of the sabermetric approach and Amaro notorious for his rejection of same -- from which we should draw afresh the caution that humans don't come out of cookie cutters. But in the main, front offices are becoming the domain of the non-athlete because the academics have the better grasp of the analytics.

Let us, with that background established, consider the front office ambitions put forth in recent days by a pair of Twins veterans, Glen Perkins and Torii Hunter. Perkins -- white and a college man who is, at least by player standards, knowledgeable about sabermetrics -- specifically talked about going into the player development side and merging traditional scouting with the new-age numbers. Hunter -- black and a high-school signee who this winter disparaged defensive metrics and those who consider them -- talks of wanting to someday be a general manager.

From USA Today:

"I really want to get into that front office, make some changes, and build a team that I want to build,'' Hunter says. "I'd love to learn everything from Terry. He'll be a mentor. One day, that's my goal, to be GM of the Twins.''
Watching this team from the outside, I see few signs that the front office takes the analytics seriously, even if Ryan insists he never makes a move without out consulting Jack Goin, the team's in-house numbers guy.

It is my hope that Ryan's successor, whoever it is and whenever that occurs, will be more attuned to to analytics than Ryan himself is. Off his commentary on the subject during the winter, that's not Hunter. Perkins has the more palatable mindset for a modern front office.

No comments:

Post a Comment