Experience isn’t everything

Conor · October 14, 2008 at 4:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Geoff Baker is back from vacation and chimed in today with his thoughts on the GM search. While I agree with most of what he wrote, one sentence really left a bad taste in my mouth, as he seems to be writing off Woodfork because of a perceived lack of experience.

From here, one of those picks will get their shot. It may even be Woodfork, though, as I said, all else being equal, I don’t see why the M’s would take him when the other three candidates offer the same fresh look with added experience.

First of all, all else isn’t equal. The candidates have different educations, different backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses, different philosophies, ideas and contacts. If all else were equal, there’d be no need for interviews.

Secondly, knocking Woodfork’s experience isn’t fair. LaCava and Ng have more experience than Woodfork, yes. But DiPoto’s basically a toss up. Woodfork has spent six years in major league front offices (three with Boston, three with Arizona) and another three years in MLB’s Labor Relations department. DiPoto played professionally from 1989 to 2000, then spent 2003 and 2004 in Boston’s front office, joined the Rockies front office in 2005 and has been with the Diamondbacks since 2006. I would argue that Woodfork’s time in the MLB office actually gives him the edge over DiPoto, experience-wise.

But that’s not the point. The point is that experience only counts for so much. Any idea how much front-office experience Theo Epstein had when he took over at general manager for the Red Sox?  About six years. Billy Beane was an assistant GM for only five years before he was promoted to general manager  in 1997.  And how about Andrew Friedman? Just three years before he was GM for the Rays, laying the groundwork for one of the most well-run franchises in baseball, he was an investment analyst for Bear, Stearns & Co.

Experience is what got us in to this mess, remember? It’s time for change.

Woodfork in ’09.

Comments

30 Responses to “Experience isn’t everything”

  1. VictorB on October 14th, 2008 4:54 pm

    Excellent post.

    Also, it strikes me that Baker is looking for reasons to dismiss the as irrelevant the Asst GMs that won’t be interviewing – even suggesting Hoyer is afraid and that the White Sox did not actually deny permission – because they are all young like the others.

    It still make workout alright. But, there is a real difference between the four who are left – and the club really did lose out by not getting a chance at Antonelli, Forst, Hahn or Hoyer. Even if they are not retreads…or somehow tied to Toronto.

  2. FrankTheTank on October 14th, 2008 4:56 pm

    Experience is what got us in to this mess, remember?

    No. Antiquated experience with disproven “old school” baseball philosophies and poor reliance on conventional wisdom is what got us into this mess.

    By your theory, LaCava, Ng and DiPoto are worse for their experience, which I don’t think you believe.

    Experience isn’t everything, but it’s something.
    We know you <3 Woodfork, but this really doesn’t show anything…

  3. Conor on October 14th, 2008 5:06 pm

    By your theory, LaCava, Ng and DiPoto are worse for their experience, which I don’t think you believe.

    Don’t be silly. I’m not saying, “Screw experience! Let’s just hire some dude off the street. Better yet, let’s start a game show…’So You Think You Can GM?’”

    The point of the post is that Baker was writing off Woodfork for “lack of experience” when that’s not the case.

  4. Mike Snow on October 14th, 2008 5:10 pm

    Imagine what somebody would say about that Bear Stearns experience now.

  5. Dave on October 14th, 2008 5:22 pm

    I read Baker’s post, had the exact same reaction, and said “meh, it’s Baker, he’s wrong about everything” and left it at that.

  6. G-Man on October 14th, 2008 6:09 pm

    One thing that concerns me about youth and sex (as in Ng) is that GM’s tend to trade with the other GM’s that they are comfortable with. I myself find that stupid, but if there is any issue with other GM’s in dealing with one of these folks, that’s a minus.

    Better yet, let’s start a game show…’So You Think You Can GM?’”

    How about “Are You Smarter Than A General Manager” ?

  7. trbloomer on October 14th, 2008 6:22 pm

    Lets see cherry picking GM’s with limited experience, tossing the idea of experience as a factor. And yes the tone of the post is to say experience is a non factor, even with the last paragraph.

    Baker flatly states what experience he is looking at, multi organizational. He may be wrong but you’d never be able to judge by what this post used as an argument.

  8. Graham on October 14th, 2008 6:44 pm

    People who think experience matters more than talent are the ones who’ve got none of the latter.

  9. Steve Nelson on October 14th, 2008 6:54 pm

    Experience seems to be carrying the Red Sox a long way in their series with Tampa Bay.

  10. terry on October 14th, 2008 7:01 pm

    Hey Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle. He named his band The Experience. Experience must matter.

    I’ve heard that he thought chemistry was really cool too (actually he liked it a little too much as it turned out). Also, when he was in the army, he and Billy Cox had a band called The Intangibles (alright, I made that part up).

  11. gwangung on October 14th, 2008 7:39 pm

    One thing that concerns me about youth and sex (as in Ng) is that GM’s tend to trade with the other GM’s that they are comfortable with. I myself find that stupid, but if there is any issue with other GM’s in dealing with one of these folks, that’s a minus.

    Might be a problem with the older GMs. But with the younger? Generally, youth comes with less baggage than the vets….

    Baker flatly states what experience he is looking at, multi organizational. He may be wrong

    Well, he pretty much is, given that Woodfork was in two organizations as opposed to DiPoto’s three—and Woodfork’s experience in the MLB front office is NOT dismissable. (And, um…Beane? Epstein?)

    Like with players, experience counts some…but talent counts a whole lot more….

  12. coasty141 on October 14th, 2008 8:35 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Graham’s comment. Adding to it people who think “experience matters more than talent” are often afraid of change or the unknown.

  13. jc07 on October 14th, 2008 9:16 pm

    “All else being equal” has to be one of the worst expressions in the English language. It simply doesn’t exist anywhere except the abstract. It’s good for mathematics and intro econ textbooks, not for describing actual human interactions. Baker is cherry-picking qualities of various candidates and throwing them into some nebulous “field” instead of looking at each candidate as a separate package. He seems to be trying to rationalize the fact that smart, highly regarded young candidates are spurning the Mariners by somehow spinning it as a reflection on their own imagined shortcomings. “Oh yeah? Well, screw you, we didn’t want you, anyway!” His dramatic reconstruction of Hoyer’s thought process without a single insight or shred of evidence is quite impressive.

  14. Steve Nelson on October 14th, 2008 9:52 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with Graham’s comment. Adding to it people who think “experience matters more than talent” are often afraid of change or the unknown.

    Experience does matter. But what’s most important is the product of the experience. I recall one time when we brought a candidate in for interviews. One of the people working for me commented afterward, that “He had ten years of experience, but it was the same year repeated ten times.”

    One of my favorite “questions” during an interview is “Tell me about the biggest screwup you’ve done in your career.” The responses are quite interesting.

    Personally, I was never interested in hiring a person as a senior project manager unless the person was ready to admit she or he had really screwed something up and could talk intelligently about the situation. If the candidate couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me about any significant screwups I figured that the candidate was either either lying or didn’t have enough experience to be a senior project manager.

  15. Mere Tantalisers on October 14th, 2008 10:22 pm

    Experience isn’t everything

    Yeah, says the new guy. Pffft whatever man.

  16. 4seamer on October 14th, 2008 10:26 pm

    Baker is treading on thin ice after the article he and Stone wrote the other day that summarized some of the candidates. Rumor has it Baker and Stone were lit up by a couple of the candidate camps for incorrect and/or misleading information.

    But he’s got a tough job – honestly, this is boiling down to a fight between the Ng and LaCava camps and imo Ng hasn’t a prayer for only one reason – she’s only just starting to scramble to try and assemble her team (and the M’s know this now) where LaCava walked in the door with his list. Huge difference.

  17. PostCreatedAboveAverage on October 14th, 2008 10:32 pm

    “meh, it’s Baker, he’s wrong about everything”

    Dave, Welcome back; hope you had a good wedding and honeymoon.

    One kind request – lets please stop this back and forth Baker bashing. We have had enough of it from both camps in this season.

    And Baker is not wrong about everything; neither are we right about everything. Nothing is so black and white; there are instances where Baker has been wrong, there has been instances when he has hit the bulls eye; and the same case here.

    Each of the site has its great positives for the fans; there is no need to continually bash each other.

    Thanks.

  18. John in L.A. on October 15th, 2008 12:56 am

    I call nonsense, PCAA. I read the kind of thing you wrote way too often. There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that the parties you mention are equally wrong or right.

    I have no idea why people so desperately want to assume that two sides of anything must be roughly equal, but if you think that is the case here, I think you are very mistaken.

    I have read this site for years now and I can fairly say this: I have disagreed with the authors on plenty of things but have never, not once, caught them being idiots. In the thousands of articles or post I’ve read by any of them, I have never caught them being stupid or willfully ignorant or intentional disingenuous.

    I have read much, much, much less by Baker and have found him guilty of all of those things. Repeatedly.

    Come to think of it, many of the times I have disagreed with the authors here have been the times that they’ve defended Baker.

    So please, stop with the equivalence nonsense. It is anti-thinking.

  19. Jeff Nye on October 15th, 2008 2:03 am

    I started to write a lengthy refutation of your post, PCAA, then simply realized it’s been said many times before, so I will sum up with a brief mod note:

    The authors here can post about Baker, or any other topic, as they see fit; posts trying to convince them otherwise are metacommentary that is better directed to the USSM email address, as we’ve already had ten plus threads derailed by this very discussion. Metacommentary in a comment thread is always subject to deletion.

    Sorry to come off like a hardass, but I’m not exaggerating about the number of threads that have been turned to mush in this fashion, and it’s not something that needs to happen every time someone decides they’ve hit their limit of it.

  20. spar123 on October 15th, 2008 2:11 am

    Thats funny Dave – the same can be said for just about every article posted here thats for sure, including this one. Seems a bit nitpicky really.
    Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the candidates and not everyone will be happy with the pick one way or the other. Lets just sit back and see what happens, afterall, there is a pretty good reason why none of us run a MLB team.

  21. gwangung on October 15th, 2008 7:20 am

    Well, the actual news coming out of Baker’s blog was fine. The commentary and analysis, however, wasn’t; when it was pointed out, it was just made me think there was a hidden agenda or a personal grudge was operating here.

  22. msb on October 15th, 2008 9:41 am

    But with the younger? Generally, youth comes with less baggage than the vets….

    I imagine that most GMs, young and old, have had some dealings with her via the Yankees & Dodgers …

  23. Joe C on October 15th, 2008 9:53 am

    It was the experience of Bavasi who was relying on the experience of Cairo, Vidro, Sexson, Batista, Rhodes, and all the old guys who were declining that got us into this mess.

  24. mikethomas22 on October 15th, 2008 9:55 am

    andrew friedman got into the rays and out of bear stearns at the right time.

  25. MKT on October 15th, 2008 10:12 am

    andrew friedman got into the rays and out of bear stearns at the right time.

    Heh, good one! That’s market timing for ya.

  26. Eleven11 on October 15th, 2008 11:35 am

    I wouldn’t get upset over Bakers article. First, he is reporting what he sees as not making the selection. Everyone sees things differently so his view is interesting, not bad. Second, experience is a factor. The only one? Of course not. But a GM not only picks players but manages a large number of employees. Some people are naturals others are not. Without experience to look at, you are taking a gamble. With a track record, you have a better idea of what you will probably get. In short, look at all the factors you have and decide where you will compromise, because you will have to. Because some young guys have done well does not mean experience is unimportant. It is one element.

  27. Jim Thomsen on October 15th, 2008 11:45 am

    I think most of us can agree on this about Baker: He’s a good reporter. He does a good job of gathering information and quotes, of telling us what’s happened and what is happening.

    He’s not an analyst, however, and whenever he tries to take the information he gathers and put it into some sort of analytical perspective, he usually goes off the rails.

  28. Jeff Nye on October 15th, 2008 12:00 pm

    There are times where I wish we could post graphics as comments…because right now, I’d post an enormous picture of a dead horse being beaten.

  29. Mike Snow on October 15th, 2008 12:44 pm

    Baker actually has a much better post up now. He makes a good point about the difference between lack of ego and having one’s ego in check.

    It’s an important question in identifying who can successfully clean up this mess while dealing with Lincoln and Armstrong in place. And since it’s really more generic organizational behavior than anything baseball-specific, Baker’s analysis seems fine this time. You might even say that with his background of working for multiple news organizations, Baker is well-qualified for this particular kind of analysis.

  30. The Ancient Mariner on October 16th, 2008 4:03 am

    Actually, Friedman leaving is the reason Bear Stearns collapsed. The nerve of that guy, leaving just because he thought turning the Rays around was an even bigger challenge than keeping Wall Street afloat . . .

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