Stone on the M’s stathead-y-ness, Olkin’s still consulting
Larry Stone has an interesting piece up about the M’s direction which includes some meaty quotes with Mat Olkin, who it would appear is still consulting for the team.
“I feel safe saying Bill was always interested in having that perspective,” said Olkin, who remains on staff. “The thing I can’t speak to is how he weighed that against other voices he listened to. I think he would have been a fool to listen to only me, and not to a lot of the other very qualified men he had on board.
I’m happy to be wrong and a little surprised to hear this — Olkin was repping the Royals recently at a conference where the Lookout Landing guys were, and it would be unusual for someone with an ongoing consulting relationship to work for more than one team. Usually, team consulting gigs are, to oversimplify, “Be on retainer to answer questions about stuff” (as you see Olkin’s job is) or “We want you to run a study on defensive deterioration in free agent first basemen.” (this is usually quickly followed with “Pay? Why would we pay you? You should be happy to run a study for us!” and “No, you can’t publish.”)(I am totally not joking). The contracts of the first kind that I know of are generally team-exclusive or through NDA/limited non-competes manage to effectively limit the work to one team… but on the other hand, I’ll freely admit my knowledge of this kind of thing is a couple years old.
Olkin’s role, traditionally, is not so much resident stathead (and does consulting count as “on staff”?) but as he described it:
“Part of that was by design. Bill always tried to protect me by not giving me any more information than he had to. He wouldn’t say, ‘I want to do this, what do you think?’ He’d say, ‘I have option A, B, C or D. I’m not going to tell you which one I like. You tell me which one you like and why.’ He always gave me the feeling he was very interested in what I had to say.”
One of the examples Olkin gave before was “here’s a list of minor league guys we’re giving you for no reason, are any of them particularly interesting?” and then later you’d find out that was the list of possible players the M’s could get back in trade.
Which is to say, in the sense of organizational approach, not a lot of influence, but they did seek his opinion on particular decisions.
Anyway, I’ve got a line out to Mat, so we’ll see what he says, and I’ll update everyone if I hear back.