The Seeds of Success

October 9, 2007 · Filed Under Mariners · 124 Comments 

The four teams in the League Championship Series have been set – Cleveland vs Boston, Arizona vs Colorado. If every postseason tells a story, then so far, the story of 2007 is the dominance of the new school of baseball executives.

Theo Epstein is 33 years old. Josh Byrnes is 37 years old. Mark Shapiro is 39 years old. Dan O’Dowd is the old man in the room, coming in at 47 years old. All of them are running the team that gave them their first chance to be a general manager. None of them played an inning of major league baseball. And they all came from the same tree.

In 1998, John Hart was the General Manager of the Cleveland Indians, who were winning another division title in the middle of a mini-dynasty. His Assistant General Manger was a man named Dan O’Dowd, who had worked his way up through the ranks beginning in 1988. The Assistant Director of Scouting was Josh Byrnes. And the current Cleveland GM, Mark Shapiro, was the Director of Minor League Operations that year.

John Hart had three of the four GMs in the 2007 LCS working for him in the same front office that year. It gets better. When Dan O’Dowd was hired by the Colorado Rockies in 2000 to be their GM, he took Josh Byrnes with him, giving him an Assistant General Manager role. Byrnes stayed in that job for three years before taking an Asst. GM job with the Boston Red Sox, working for Theo Epstein – the GM of the other team alive in the 2007 LCS. After several years in Boston, the Arizona Diamondbacks handed him the reins of their organization.

Byrnes worked with Shapiro and O’Dowd, then for O’Dowd, and then for Epstein. These four organizations are all intertwined by the people who they have put in charge in the last decade. And they all have one singular goal in common – to gather as much information as possible and put it to use in the best possible ways in order to win baseball games. Cleveland, Arizona, Colorado, and Boston aren’t true “Moneyball” organizations – they’re Moneyball 2.0 clubs, the ones who have successfully integrated both scouting and statistical analysis into a cohesive organization and are leveraging every good piece of information they can find into a competitive advantage.

These are the organizations who won’t settle for time honored traditions. They won’t settle for doing things the way they’ve always been done. They question conventional wisdom and they look for empirical answers. They hire the smartest people they can find and let experience take a back seat to talent.

And they win baseball games.

This isn’t stats vs scouts – this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going. The John Hart family tree has branched out even beyond the Billy Beane family tree – the Pirates just hired Neil Huntington from the Indians, and Shapiro’s right hand man, Chris Antonetti, can essentially pick whatever job he wants whenever he decides to run a franchise. With Andrew Friedman as something of a second cousin down in Tampa along with Kevin Towers and Doug Melvin as the crazy uncles over in San Diego and Milwaukee, this is no longer a cute theory about how the Oakland A’s are winning with a small payroll. This is the 21st century of baseball management.

If you’re rooting for an organization that isn’t adapting to the changing face of how baseball teams are run (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably are), expect 2007 to be the norm. The good organizations are going to win a lot of baseball games, and the people who rely on analysis that was handed down to them from 1970s will sit at home in October, wondering which free agent pitcher they can overpay to try to save their jobs.