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Thursday, June 28, 2007

THT: Jackson: The best unemployed GM in baseball

All is forgiven Murray Cook…oh, nuts…it’s Paul DePodesta.

The perception of DePodesta as a cold, dorky, numbers-cruncher was fueled, ironically, by the same beast that made him famous: Michael Lewis’ seminal classic Moneyball. In 2002, of course, DePodesta was still Beane’s right-hand man, and several of the scenes within the book reveal Beane holding court over his staff, with DePodesta hunkered down in a corner of the room, “finding players in his computer.” (A computer that told him Kevin Youkilis was one of the best prospects in baseball, incidentally.)

Reputation is a huge factor in the public perception of GMs, and so are initial impressions. Make a good one, and you can ride through a lengthy period of decisions that turn out poorly (Brian Sabean). Make a bad one, and it’s almost impossible to recover.

The fact is, much of the non-sabermetric baseball writing crowd had already decided that DePodesta was a nerd, buried in a computer, who knew nothing about “real baseball” when he was hired, and inevitably that was the perception that lasted.

Repoz Posted: June 28, 2007 at 11:30 AM | 84 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, dodgers, sabermetrics

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   1. philly Posted: June 28, 2007 at 12:08 PM (#2420835)
(A computer that told him Kevin Youkilis was one of the best prospects in baseball, incidentally.)


That's not true and "objective analysists" don't get to make fun of the Plashkes of the world for half truths and biased presentations of the facts and then make them themselves. The computer told DePodesta that Youk was an interesting college senior that that A's scouts should take a look at. From what we know in the book, that's it. The computer did, however, tell him that Brant Colamarino was maybe the best amatuer hitter in the country.

The fact is, much of the non-sabermetric baseball writing crowd had already decided that DePodesta was a nerd, buried in a computer, who knew nothing about “real baseball” when he was hired, and inevitably that was the perception that lasted.


The fact is much of the non-sabre baseball writing world didn't fire him. His owner who felt he ran a bloodless disfunctional organization did. Is that point ever addressed in the article? Doubtful.

Haven't read the article - and probably won't - but this excerpt is garbage.
   2. bob gee Posted: June 28, 2007 at 12:25 PM (#2420837)
i don't give depo props for the drew signing, because of the short opt-out clause in there. great for the player, NOT for the team.

and i highly doubt that this is true:
Who's to say that DePodesta didn't forsee milking two productive years out of Drew during his peak, after which Scott Boras could be assured of leading Drew out of the contract and onto another team's hands during his post-age-30 decline?

of the a's exiles, i think ricciardi has done a little below average. i think depo was doing a fine job before he was fired.
   3. Charlie O Posted: June 28, 2007 at 12:59 PM (#2420851)
On that list of A's exiles, Walt Jocketty would have to qualify as well above average.
   4. Cowboy Popup Posted: June 28, 2007 at 01:20 PM (#2420866)
i don't give depo props for the drew signing, because of the short opt-out clause in there. great for the player, NOT for the team.

If you sign a player you think is going to be good for a few years, but it takes more to sign him, it's frickin brilliant. Assuming that contracts keep going up, which is hardly a foolish assumption, you get the guy for a couple of years, and if he performs the way you expect him to, he's gone for more money. Sure, if he tanks, you're ######, but you'd be ###### without the clause as well. It's a good way to sign a player to a short term contract without them realizing it. It looks like a particurlarly good idea in the case of Drew.
   5. Steve Phillips' Hot Cougar (DrStankus) Posted: June 28, 2007 at 01:43 PM (#2420886)
I was kinda hoping it was Brian Sabean...
   6. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 01:53 PM (#2420901)
That's not true and "objective analysists" don't get to make fun of the Plashkes of the world for half truths and biased presentations of the facts and then make them themselves. The computer told DePodesta that Youk was an interesting college senior that that A's scouts should take a look at.

I don't think that's correct. At the time Moneyball was being written, Youkilis was already in the Red Sox's system, and in 2001 had put up a line of .317/.512/.464, with a 70-28 BB-K ratio in a couple hundred ABs in low A. IIRC, Beane really wanted to trade for him, but the Red Sox considered him untouchable. Perhaps it's hyperbole to say that Depodesta thought he was one of the "best prospects in baseball," but it's no more accurate to say that Depodesta thought he was just an potentially interesting draft choice.
   7. kthejoker Posted: June 28, 2007 at 01:53 PM (#2420902)
Gerry Hunsicker?

Oh, I see.
   8. Padgett Posted: June 28, 2007 at 01:55 PM (#2420905)
Haven't read the article - and probably won't - but this excerpt is garbage.
Don't let that stop you from criticizing it.
   9. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: June 28, 2007 at 01:58 PM (#2420908)
Well, he's criticizing the excerpt, not the article.
   10. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:03 PM (#2420911)
Well, he's criticizing the excerpt,

inaccurately.
   11. Padgett Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:11 PM (#2420924)
Well, he's criticizing the excerpt, not the article.
I know. I just don't quite see the point of that.

To philly's credit, though, he isn't wrong about the Youkilis reference in Moneyball. But Jackson isn't really, either. The context in the book is the flashback to the 2001 draft when Grady Fuson was allegedly looking at DePodesta and his methods with contempt. From page 19 in the hardcover edition:
Paul had said the scouts ought to go have a look at a college kid named Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis was a fat third baseman who couldn't run, throw, or field. What was the point of going to see that?
But then Lewis continues, and this is what I think Jackson was fairly referring to:
(Because, Paul would be able to say that three months later, Kevin Youkilis has the second highest on-base percentage in all of professional baseball, after Barry Bonds. To Paul, he'd become Euclis: the Greek god of walks.)
Now, Lewis doesn't use the words "one of the best prospects in baseball," but I think the implication is there. Plus, this is supported by the common understanding that Youkilis would have been the compensation from Boston had Beane left the A's.
   12. Bangkok9 eschews 1 from Column A Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:14 PM (#2420928)
I was kinda hoping it was Brian Sabean...

Amen!
   13. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:22 PM (#2420935)
I tend to think both extremes are wrong when it comes to DePo. When the sabrmetric side portrays him as a brilliant martyr, torn apart by luddites, they ignore some of the serious mistakes he made in LA. And when Plaschke and his ilk portray DePo as a bumbling nerd who spends his hours cooped up in an office trying to devise ways to convert old scouts into computer fuel, they ignore the solid moves he made during his tenure.

Truthfully, I don't know if Paul DePodesta is a good general manager or not; I don't think there's enough evidence in to make a conclusion. He had two years with the Dodgers, one good, one bad. Some outstanding general managers have made worse decisions than the very worst DePo made, and some very bad GMs have made better decisions than the very best DePo made.

I definitely think DePodesta deserves another shot, and I'll happily jump all over Plaschke and Simers for their hatred. But I can't get behind any portrayal of DePodesta has obviously brilliant.
   14. Padgett Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:35 PM (#2420944)
I definitely think DePodesta deserves another shot, and I'll happily jump all over Plaschke and Simers for their hatred. But I can't get behind any portrayal of DePodesta has obviously brilliant.
But isn't that all the article purported to show? Jackson closes: "Is he the best available GM (not currently running a team)? In my opinion, yes, and that’s the premise for this article."
   15. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:39 PM (#2420949)
But isn't that all the article purported to show? Jackson closes: "Is he the best available GM (not currently running a team)? In my opinion, yes, and that’s the premise for this article."

I wasn't really responding to the article, just sort of ranting about things I've seen both here and on another board I frequent.
   16. chris p Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:44 PM (#2420956)
i thought this article would be about steve phillips, but i guess he has a job with espn, so he doesn't qualify as unemployed
   17. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 02:45 PM (#2420957)
I tend to think both extremes are wrong when it comes to DePo. When the sabrmetric side portrays him as a brilliant martyr, torn apart by luddites, they ignore some of the serious mistakes he made in LA.

I don't think there are many people arguing that he's a brilliant martyr. I think most people on the stathead side think he did a better job than he's usually given credit for in LA and deserves another shot. Nothing more.
   18. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 28, 2007 at 03:07 PM (#2420976)
In Moneyball, it also says that when Boston and Oakland discussed possible compensation for Beane, Youkilis was the player that DePo picked.
   19. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 03:31 PM (#2421010)
In Moneyball, it also says that when Boston and Oakland discussed possible compensation for Beane, Youkilis was the player that DePo picked.

yeah...that's what I was thinking of.
   20. flournoy Posted: June 28, 2007 at 03:42 PM (#2421022)
i thought this article would be about steve phillips, but i guess he has a job with espn, so he doesn't qualify as unemployed


Well, neither does DePodesta, of course. Isn't he with the Padres' organization now?
   21. karkface killah Posted: June 28, 2007 at 03:48 PM (#2421031)
DePo's hard drive never should've written that check to Jason Schmidt's shoulder.
   22. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: June 28, 2007 at 03:51 PM (#2421034)
Well, neither does DePodesta, of course. Isn't he with the Padres' organization now?

Yes.
   23. Swedish Chef Posted: June 28, 2007 at 03:56 PM (#2421046)
I think the opt-out clause mostly shows Boras' brilliance. Why would any MLB player want another agent?
   24. JPWF13 Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:07 PM (#2421058)
Why would any MLB player want another agent?


Because when playing chicken Boras sometimes goes over a cliff?
Because if you are not a star having Boras as an agent can be harmful and cut down the # of teams willing to deal with you?
Boras himself once said that he'd recommend to a marginal prospect that they NOT sign him- though in recent years he's signaled to teams ahead of the draft that some of his guys are not looking for huge bonuses.
   25. Mister High Standards Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:08 PM (#2421061)
I think most people on the stathead side think he did a better job than he's usually given credit for in LA and deserves another shot. Nothing more.


This is what I don't understand. How on God's green earth, can stat heads judge that sort of thing, in this specific situation?

Their are many aspects of being a GM. This was discussed just the other day in the Keith Law thread. The only aspect that statheads, primates or really anyone from the outside can comment on is the transaction side of the ledger. He looked fine on the transaction side. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to determine that. It wasn’t inspired - but it looked fine at the time, and in retrospect.

Now the other side of the ledger, the internal aspects of the job, & media relations, which are just as important - yet we know very little about specifically. But I think we can broadly conclude that he was likely pretty bad at that aspect of the job. The fact that he was terminated in such a short time, tells me that he had to have been in the eyes of someone who went out on a limb to hire him an absolute failure at many aspect of that part of the job.

Does that mean he won't ever be a good GM? No, of course not, a guy in the NFL with the first name Bill had a pretty similar situation, his first time in the big chair. He took a step back, reevaluated everything he did wrong, learned from those mistakes and is now generally considered among the greatest coaches/executives of all time. He was likely better at the internal aspects of the job than Paul, since he lasted 3 times longer at the helm, but he by all accounts he couldn't have been all that much better, since he was by most accounts horrible.

I'm fairly confident that Paul Deposata is not the best GM not currently employed, that doesn’t mean in 5 years he won’t be a masterful GM. I don't pretend to know who is the best GM not employed, but if I had to guess it would likely be someone who has been in major league baseball for 20+ years, worn a bunch of different hat's for a number of different organizations and has just not yet gotten the chance to sit in the big chair.

The Hardball Times (which I very much enjoy reading) would be better served to stop writing about Paul Deposata until we have some new information to bring to the table. Continuing to rehash the same trite arguments, that didn't hold a lot of water at the time does nothing but make them look dogmatic.
   26. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:16 PM (#2421073)
Unless his people skills have improved, I can't support the title of the article. He's a good behind the scenes guy, but not a guy to lead an organization.
   27. Dr. Vaux Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:17 PM (#2421076)
What we can judge from here is the quality of a GM's moves--nothing more, nothing less. That is the most important part of the job, because if two candidates are qualified for its administrative and coordinative aspects, then the one who makes better moves is the better candidate. Paul DePodesta's moves with Los Angeles were excellent, and are still paying dividends; he has more responsibility for the Dodgers' division title last year and their first-place standing this year than Ned Colleti, and that's indisputable.

The only question is whether DePodesta's personality made him so unqualified for the non-moves aspect of his job that he had to be fired. I find that had to believe, since he has seemed to get along with the disperate personalities in two other front offices, and he was hired for a GM job in the first place. If he was that personally defective, he wouldn't have gotten this far.
   28. bob gee Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:20 PM (#2421081)
sorry, when i meant ex-a's, i meant under beane - alderson would also be real good, of course.

RE: the contract - i still maintain it's a bad idea, because it's capping your gain and not capping your loss. and at the time the contract was signed, it wasn't as if he was paying under (then) market value in exchange for an opt-out.

great on boras' part, not so great on depo's.
   29. McCoy Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:23 PM (#2421084)
If he was that personally defective, he wouldn't have gotten this far.

Dan Duquette says hullo.
   30. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:24 PM (#2421085)
From my perch across the country, DePodesta struck me as a Dan Duquette type. I thought that Duquette was rather underrated.
   31. Swedish Chef Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:29 PM (#2421092)
The only question is whether DePodesta's personality made him so unqualified for the non-moves aspect of his job that he had to be fired. I find that had to believe, since he has seemed to get along with the disperate personalities in two other front offices, and he was hired for a GM job in the first place. If he was that personally defective, he wouldn't have gotten this far.


He could be an excellent coworker but a lousy manager. That's not unusual at all.

I think the most important part of the job for a GM is to hire people smarter than you are, let them do their thing, and then bask in all the praise coming your way.
   32. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:36 PM (#2421104)
Now the other side of the ledger, the internal aspects of the job, & media relations, which are just as important - yet we know very little about specifically. But I think we can broadly conclude that he was likely pretty bad at that aspect of the job. The fact that he was terminated in such a short time, tells me that he had to have been in the eyes of someone who went out on a limb to hire him an absolute failure at many aspect of that part of the job.

I don't think we can "broadly conclude" that. We can guess. We don't really know why he was fired or what McCourt's thought process was.

I'm fairly confident that Paul Deposata is not the best GM not currently employed, that doesn’t mean in 5 years he won’t be a masterful GM. I don't pretend to know who is the best GM not employed, but if I had to guess it would likely be someone who has been in major league baseball for 20+ years, worn a bunch of different hat's for a number of different organizations and has just not yet gotten the chance to sit in the big chair.

You're making a bunch of assumptions and guesses about whether he'd be a good hire and who might be better. To be fair, the writer is doing to the same, but I don't see any reason why your guesses are any more valuable or insightful than his. And at least his analysis is grounded in stuff we do know and can analyze -- his transactions and the overall state of the team.
   33. Swedish Chef Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:40 PM (#2421106)
And at least his analysis is grounded in stuff we do know and can analyze -- his transactions and the overall state of the team.


The tragedy of sabrmetrics: The belief that what's quantifiable is what's important.
   34. bunyon Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:43 PM (#2421110)

The tragedy of sabrmetrics: The belief that what's quantifiable is what's important.


People point to this often in criticizing sabermetrics, but I've yet to see any good data on whether or not it's true.
   35. Padgett Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:50 PM (#2421118)
The tragedy of sabrmetrics: The belief that what's quantifiable is what's important.
The success of his player acquisitions and the team overall are not important?

Doesn't your argument more accurately describe the state of non-sabermetric baseball analysis? That is, the widespread use of meaningless splits, streaks, and other statistical white noise?
   36. Toolsy McClutch Posted: June 28, 2007 at 04:59 PM (#2421129)
I like Paul, he seems like a decent enough guy from what I've read. He's obviously quite smart, and I would hire him as my GM is I was looking. But this article is Plaschke'esque in it's bullcrap.

So, it was a good thing that DePo allowed the opt out clause in Drew's deal? And it's because he's played poorly the last while? What?

Teams should fire their GM now, not wait until the offseason, to get DePo? What? Does Paul have a large house payment coming up or something?

He must be a good GM, because NC is a bad one?

Paul wouldn't sign bad deals, because they were bad. Even though his team has a resource advantage over most other teams, had dollars to spend and an owner willing to sign the checks. That's crap. If signing quality player A for 20% more than he's "worth" is an option, the Dodgers can swing that rather than not having that player.

Terrible stuff, I thought it was a joke.
   37. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 05:00 PM (#2421134)
The tragedy of sabrmetrics: The belief that what's quantifiable is what's important.

Way to miss the point entirely.
   38. bookbook Posted: June 28, 2007 at 05:09 PM (#2421144)
If sabrmetrics has a tragedy, it's the assumption that what's not quantifiable is not important.

Where sabrmetrics is at its best, it acknowledges that some of what's not quantifiable may be important but is beyond the reach of the sabrmetric toolbox.

Just like economic and environmental modeling, what's quantifiable is enough to teach us a whole lot, even though we know it doesn't capture everything.
   39. JPWF13 Posted: June 28, 2007 at 05:21 PM (#2421164)
describe the state of non-sabermetric baseball analysis? That is, the widespread use of meaningless splits, streaks, and other statistical white noise?


That's a good way to put it
   40. greenback calls it soccer Posted: June 28, 2007 at 05:22 PM (#2421166)
The tragedy of sabrmetrics: The belief that what's quantifiable is what's important.

Way to miss the point entirely.


I think he got the point and is saying that this article is a lot of preening before a like-minded audience.
   41. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 05:33 PM (#2421186)
I think he got the point and is saying that this article is a lot of preening before a like-minded audience.

Perhaps, but the attacks on the article are no less preening. "Look at me, I'm attacking those statheads!" And my point was not that unquantifiable stuff isn't important, but rather that the unquantifiable, non-public stuff (e.g., the internal politics of the depodesta regime) are, well, unquantifiable, and there's nothing wrong with sticking with what is somewhat quantifiable when evaluating depodesta.
   42. Mister High Standards Posted: June 28, 2007 at 06:08 PM (#2421275)
Way to miss the point entirely.


Someone missed the point, and as usual it is you.
   43. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: June 28, 2007 at 06:19 PM (#2421298)
I'm fairly confident that Paul Deposata is not the best GM not currently employed, that doesn’t mean in 5 years he won’t be a masterful GM. I don't pretend to know who is the best GM not employed, but if I had to guess it would likely be someone who has been in major league baseball for 20+ years, worn a bunch of different hat's for a number of different organizations and has just not yet gotten the chance to sit in the big chair.

This sounds an awful lot like....DePo! He's been in baseball nearly 20 years while working a number of different jobs and he's worked with the Indians, A's and now the Padres. Of course, he did have a brief chance in the big chair and the results are inconclusive though, since the Giants are my NL team, his moves were making me nervous. I thought he was doing a solid job. If he were the GM now, Loney would be at first and Kemp would be in center. I have no doubt of that.

edit. (OK, he's only in his 12th year with an MLB franchise. My bad.)
   44. Dr. Vaux Posted: June 28, 2007 at 06:23 PM (#2421302)
And the Dodgers would be in first place by 2 or 3 games, and Placske would be writing columns about how they'd have a bigger lead if only they'd signed Juan Pierre and Nomar Garciaparra.
   45. Mister High Standards Posted: June 28, 2007 at 06:31 PM (#2421313)
edit. (OK, he's only in his 12th year with an MLB franchise. My bad.)


More importantly he proved to one owner, that he was incapable of doing the job. Without strong evidence that he can handle the media, and the internal aspect of the job I just see no reason why he should be given the benifit of the doubt. If I was an owner, and I'd interview him, but he would have to convince me that he has 1) learned from the previous situation and won't make the same mistakes or 2) that he had the skills needed, and the other owner fumbled it.
   46. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: June 28, 2007 at 06:40 PM (#2421333)
Someone missed the point, and as usual it is you.

Someone is acting like a 12 year old, and as usual it's you.
   47. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: June 28, 2007 at 06:51 PM (#2421351)
More importantly he proved to one owner, that he was incapable of doing the job. Without strong evidence that he can handle the media, and the internal aspect of the job I just see no reason why he should be given the benifit of the doubt.

The A's owners also thought he could do the job as the A's job was his briefly when Beane agreed to go to the Red Sox. I think a more likely scenario is that McCourt was even more inexperienced when it comes to baseball and the media and panicked at the first sign of trouble.

edit: Though thinking about it, maybe DePodesta learned too well from Beane to ignore the media and while Beane had a track record of success that allowed him to get away with aloofness, DePodesta should have been more sensitive that he didn't have a well of good will from which to draw. Of course, the owner should have the balls to support a gm who has the balls not to listen the mindless clatter of columnists, but what can you do?

I really like this edit function!
   48. JPWF13 Posted: June 28, 2007 at 07:14 PM (#2421381)
More importantly he proved to one owner, that he was incapable of doing the job. Without strong evidence that he can handle the media, and the internal aspect of the job I just see no reason why he should be given the benifit of the doubt. I


What #48 said
also the media lynching of Depo was extraordinary- why doesn't someone like Littlefield get that treatment? (answer he's much better with the press than Depo- but the owner HAS to see through that)

McCourt came in and systematically (or unsystematically) went through the organization and tossed a lot of long time employees overboard- and yahoos like Plaschke blamed Depo- and yahoos like Plaschke acted like LoDuca (a decent player, a bit of an ass- not as bad as AJ, but a decent player) was the "heart and soul" of the team.

He didn't prove to his owner that he was incapable, his owner claimed to media pressure- pressure that was by and large irrational. The team hit a major injury pothole his second year, and several players who shouldn't have seen much playing time did.
The Dodgers are 44-34 now
The Dodger staff revolves around Penny and Lowe
The Dodgers have a wealth of young players they can either play or trade for value- DePO left the farm systemn untouched.

He left the team in better shape than he found it- not one SP on the 2003 club is an effective MLB pitcher now- hell not one was effective in 2005.

The 2004 team that Plaschke has repeatedly written was set to dominate for years (before Depo "destroyed" it...) LoDuca, Green, Cora, Beltre Izturis, Werth, Bradley, Encarnacion, Roberts, Weaver, Ishii, Perez, Lima, Nomo... that'a sub .500 team in 2005 AND 2006 AND 2007
   49. JPWF13 Posted: June 28, 2007 at 07:21 PM (#2421389)
Continuing to rehash the same trite arguments, that didn't hold a lot of water at the time does nothing but make them look dogmatic.


look in the mirror

You are right that it's really impossible to say that DePodesta is the best "unemployed" GM
But I will say this, based upon his 18 month track record he was almost certainly a better GM than your fav JP in Toronto, and he certainly deserved to hold a job longer than that other boy wonder, Daniels, in Texas
The length of time he held the job seems almsot certainly linked to McCourt and the media lynching that went in in LA at the time (hell even Plaschke sometimes hints that the media was unfair to DePo...) than the type of spectacular instant failures that usually drive quick firings.
   50. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 28, 2007 at 07:22 PM (#2421392)
maybe DePodesta learned too well from Beane to ignore the media and while Beane had a track record of success that allowed him to get away with aloofness, DePodesta should have been more sensitive that he didn't have a well of good will from which to draw.

post #26 mentions "a guy in the NFL with the first name Bill "


maybe Belichick:Parcells::DePo: Beane

(just a thought)
   51. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: June 28, 2007 at 07:45 PM (#2421427)
Belichick:Parcells::Beane:Alderson

This would make Depodesta Romeo Crennell or Eric Mangini. Or Charlie Weis.
   52. Mister High Standards Posted: June 28, 2007 at 07:49 PM (#2421433)
Of course, the owner should have the balls to support a gm who has the balls not to listen the mindless clatter of columnists, but what can you do?


Why? Part of the General Managers job is to deal with the media. A general manager who cannot effectivly communicate and sell his vision to the media, damn well better have imediate success or built up good will to insulate himself from it.

But I will say this, based upon his 18 month track record he was almost certainly a better GM than your fav JP in Toronto, and he certainly deserved to hold a job longer than that other boy wonder, Daniels, in Texas


I don't disagree in: regard to Daniels whose first 18 months is a disaster. He very well might have been better than JP - but I'm not confident enough to say one way or the other.
   53. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: June 28, 2007 at 07:56 PM (#2421441)
Why? Part of the General Managers job is to deal with the media. A general manager who cannot effectivly communicate and sell his vision to the media, damn well better have imediate success or built up good will to insulate himself from it.

Like the team's first playoff appearance in 8 years? And why does a gm HAVE to sell his vision to the media? Has Littlefield? Has Ricciardi? Has Daniels? Has Bavasi? Has Cashman even? Was the media buying Epstein's vision last year? The media's purchasing of vision is wholly a product of wins and losses.
   54. Mister High Standards Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:01 PM (#2421446)
Has Littlefield? Has Ricciardi? Has Daniels? Has Bavasi?


And would anyone complain if they were fired? Or writing articles years latter saying they were canned?

At least those schmoes have sold their boss on their vision, if Depo could have done that then he would still be employeed.
   55. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:04 PM (#2421452)
At least those schmoes have sold their boss on their vision, if Depo could have done that then he would still be employeed.

You really seem to be faulting DePodesta for what is most likely McCourt's shortcomings.
   56. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:08 PM (#2421461)
I don't know how much of DePo's "failure" with the LA media can be blamed on him. He was hired into a dysfunctional and unpopular organization, one that has had more than its fair share of bad press completely independent of DePo's existence, and has gone through PR guys like <something that goes through a lot of some other thing>. He was thrust into a situation where his every move and thought was dissected by the worst two sportswriters in the country writing for a horrible sports section.

And I think a lot of it came down to Lo Duca for Choi. The media never saw the trade in toto, I don't believe; it was never about getting Penny or dispatching Encarnacion. It was Lo Duca-for-Choi, and when Choi faded away, DePo's credibility was sunk, esp. with those who never credited him in the first place.

I'm not saying he couldn't have handled some things better; I don't know. I do know he got shafted by an ignorant and irresponsible press.
   57. JPWF13 Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:18 PM (#2421469)
At least those schmoes have sold their boss on their vision, if Depo could have done that then he would still be employeed.


If true that's a pretty damming indictment of their bosses...
Seriously, maybe Ricciardi and Daniels "sold their vision" (for better or worse) to their owners
Littlefield? Vision? Methinks he's a corporate yes man carrying out his bosses' wishes (and doing a pretty good job deflecting much of the flack that should be coming his bosses way- he can't deflect all of it- that'd be impossible)

Bavasi? I have no idea what he's trying to do, is there a plan? a method? No clue.
   58. Squash Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:20 PM (#2421474)
He was thrust into a situation where his every move and thought was dissected by the worst two sportswriters in the country writing for a horrible sports section.

DePodesta is exactly what Plasche and Simers hate/hated - young and intellectual.
   59. Matt Welch Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:32 PM (#2421488)
In talking to McCourt and some other people inside the Dodgers organization, they told me DePo's communication skills within the organization -- above him, below him, beside him -- were untenably poor. I was a huge critic of his treatment by the L.A. Times, and I'm no fan of McCourt, but enough different people whose judgment I respect have told me similar things that I believe there was fire behind that particular less-quantifiable smoke. (Or "fog," if you prefer.)

Speaking of Beltre, everyone seems to agree that not signing that deal was genius, but have the Dodgers received better & more reliable production at 3B since? They have thrown millions at the problem (Valentin, Mueller, even Nomar if you start counting him from Friday), had seven different guys play at least 10 games there the last two years, and almost assuredly received worse defense. And unlike the Angels w/ Glaus, they didn't have a hot prospect allegedly knocking at the door.
   60. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: June 28, 2007 at 08:38 PM (#2421494)
In talking to McCourt and some other people inside the Dodgers organization, they told me DePo's communication skills within the organization -- above him, below him, beside him -- were untenably poor. I was a huge critic of his treatment by the L.A. Times, and I'm no fan of McCourt, but enough different people whose judgment I respect have told me similar things that I believe there was fire behind that particular less-quantifiable smoke. (Or "fog," if you prefer.)

Fair enough. You have much better info on this than I do. I wonder if he would have grown into the job had he been given more time? He had two traits I think a good gm needs--analytical skills and courage. Do you happen to know how many of his own people he was able to bring into the organization? Was it a case of his not being able to mesh with the old regime?
   61. Matt Welch Posted: June 28, 2007 at 09:16 PM (#2421524)
Couldn't really tell you; I didn't do anything like organized reporting into it, just interested chatter. I'm sure he became a lightning rod for other unrelated problems (the McCourts haven't exactly been brilliant stewards), and it's a safe bet that Tommy Lasorda wasn't DePo's biggest backer. But my hunch was that he wasn't ready or able to manage an organization, or at least this particular high-profile, risk-averse organization. He might not ever develop that skill set, though I'm certainly rooting for him to.
   62. Steve Treder Posted: June 28, 2007 at 09:29 PM (#2421533)
But my hunch was that he wasn't ready or able to manage an organization, or at least this particular high-profile, risk-averse organization.

That's been pretty much my sense of it: DePodesta didn't come out of it looking good, but McCourt came out looking a whole lot worse. FWIW, this is how I summed it up on THT, in reference to DePodesta's July 30-31 2004 LoDuca-Finley trades:

... it's impossible to construct a sound arugment that the Dodgers on the field weren't better off for having swung this pair of trades.

But, of course, there was quite a bit more to it than that. The Dodger GM who pulled this off was young Paul DePodesta, a rookie in the role, and a former protégé of Billy Beane in Oakland. DePodesta's brash "sabermetric" approach to things had already stirred up a whirlwind of defensiveness and derision in the LA sports media. Trading LoDuca, a huge media favorite, turned that whirlwind into a firestorm. Managing relations with the press is, like it or not, a major part of any GM's job, and DePodesta, already off to a bad start in that regard, was splashing gasoline all over himself here.

Moreover, it's apparent that DePodesta wasn't doing too well on the making-friends front within the Dodger organization, either. Most importantly he didn't get along with field manager Tracy, another media favorite. Tracy appeared to be displeased with the acquisition of Choi, and deployed the big-swinging young power hitter in a manner that appeared almost intended to cause him to fail: this wasn't good for Choi, it wasn't good for the team, and given that the media sided with Tracy in his too-obvious organizational dispute with DePodesta, it wasn't good for DePodesta.

When the Dodgers suffered a plague of injuries and collapsed over the second half of 2005, the LoDuca trade continued to be called out in the press as somehow having caused their problems, despite the fact that it had done no such thing. (Among the wrong-headed claims was that star closer Eric Gagne's 2005 injuries were directly caused by Mota's absence down the stretch in 2004.) The team's bad showing in 2005 led to DePodesta's firing that fall, but a case can be made that it was the LoDuca trade—even though on balance it helped the team, and had nothing to do with the problems they encountered in 2005—that sealed DePodesta's fate.

The sports media, particularly as shrill and reactionary as that which dominates the scene in Los Angeles, shouldn't have that much impact on the operation of a franchise. Strong ownership, and a GM with strong press-relations skills, should see to it that it doesn't: but neither was in place with the Dodgers. Owner Frank McCourt let his GM hang out to dry, mauled by the media, and defied by an insubordinate field manager. DePodesta was surely not blameless, but on balance he was set up to fail in a sourly dysfunctional situation. We armchair analysts who dream of how well we would do in the GM role should view this as a sobering reminder that real life is often very complicated, very unpleasant, and very unforgiving.
   63. Bob T Posted: June 28, 2007 at 09:44 PM (#2421544)
The sports media in L.A. may be shrill and reactionary, but it's not all that influential. It was basically just Bill Plaschke who was up in arms. T.J. Simers was, and is, just making a joke. Ross Newhan, who was semi-retired at the time, was pretty objective on the Lo Duca-Penny trade.

The other L.A. area papers did not have anyone match Plaschke's self-righteous tone.

Overall, the sports media in L.A. would rather discuss the Lakers than anything else.
   64. Steve Treder Posted: June 28, 2007 at 09:52 PM (#2421551)
The sports media in L.A. may be shrill and reactionary, but it's not all that influential.

You don't think the negative media buzz surrounding DePodesta & the Dodgers had a significant influence on McCourt's decision to fire him?
   65. Bob T Posted: June 28, 2007 at 09:56 PM (#2421556)
The media definitely influenced McCourt. The problem is that he grossly overestimated its influence.
   66. Steve Treder Posted: June 28, 2007 at 09:59 PM (#2421557)
The media definitely influenced McCourt. The problem is that he grossly overestimated its influence.

I'm not understanding you. If the media definitely influenced McCourt, then its influence was very real and very strong.
   67. Christopher Linden Posted: June 28, 2007 at 10:40 PM (#2421584)
or at least this particular high-profile, risk-averse organization

This was a big part of the problem. As much as any team in baseball, the Dodgers were a bad fit for Depo's first GM job. From their emphasis on speed, pitching, and defense in the '60s, to their five-man rotation of the '70s, the Dodgers are a big part of modern baseball orthodoxy and that's the prism through which their fans and media see strategy and roster construction. Throw in a press corps accustomed to the backslappy Lasorda and traditionalist, small-ball-minded Tracy (highly-regarded throughout the game), and a market-size advantage that drives casual fans to think the team should win everything every year. Add a dash of an owner who apparently has rabbit ears and a jerky knee. The marvel of 20/20 hindsight suggests that Depo, whose persuasion and salesmanship skills were never considered strong points, had no real shot to make this work.

If you're introducing to an organization an operating philosophy that's largely the antithesis of everything that organization has focused on for many years, make sure that you a) can sell the need for change and b) have the boss's full and unwavering support. Depo wasn't ready/able to do the former and clearly never had the latter.

Happy Base Ball
   68. Steve Treder Posted: June 28, 2007 at 10:47 PM (#2421588)
If you're introducing to an organization an operating philosophy that's largely the antithesis of everything that organization has focused on for many years, make sure that you a) can sell the need for change and b) have the boss's full and unwavering support.

Yep. This is pretty much word-for-word the fundamental principle of "Change Management" as taught in the corporate world. It's theoretically sound, and empirically demonstrated in enterprises far and wide on a regular basis.

The DePodesta/Dodgers situation is the sort of thing that gets written up in the Harvard Business Review all the time, as a "what not to do" case study. DePodesta was naive, and McCourt was obtuse.
   69. Darren Posted: June 28, 2007 at 10:53 PM (#2421592)
The media definitely influenced McCourt. The problem is that he grossly overestimated its influence.

I'm not understanding you. If the media definitely influenced McCourt, then its influence was very real and very strong.


The idea is that McCourt overreacted to the media because he overestimated how the media trashing of DEPO would affect his fanbase. (Not my opinion, just translating)
   70. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: June 28, 2007 at 10:55 PM (#2421593)
- The media definitely influenced McCourt. The problem is that he grossly overestimated its influence.

I'm not understanding you. If the media definitely influenced McCourt, then its influence was very real and very strong.


Yeah, I think Steve makes a good point here.

And I think that the media is influential on the casual fans, as the fans who don't have the time or interest to dig deeper than what their columnists and radio hosts are telling them. And those sorts of fans (I know some) turned against DePo when the Lo Duca trade was made, just as the media did.
   71. Steve Treder Posted: June 28, 2007 at 11:02 PM (#2421600)
The idea is that McCourt overreacted to the media because he overestimated how the media trashing of DEPO would affect his fanbase. (Not my opinion, just translating)

OK, thanks. If that's what Bob meant, it makes sense.

Still, it doesn't conflict with my essential point:

The sports media, particularly as shrill and reactionary as that which dominates the scene in Los Angeles, shouldn't have that much impact on the operation of a franchise. Strong ownership, and a GM with strong press-relations skills, should see to it that it doesn't ...


McCourt shouldn't have made his decision to fire DePodesta on that basis. And DePodesta and McCourt should have been able to modulate the media tone more effectively than they did (to say the least) in the first place. It was an organizational screwup from every angle.
   72. Bob T Posted: June 28, 2007 at 11:03 PM (#2421601)
The McCourts assumed that the L.A. sports media was influential. As if they were in Boston.

The L.A. sports media hadn't influenced anybody in a while until the McCourts started to think that Bill Plaschke was influential.

It's sort of like The Simpsons episode where the advertising figures come to life. They die if you ignore them.
   73. Darren Posted: June 28, 2007 at 11:06 PM (#2421604)
How badly would that fan backlash against DePo have hurt ticket sales and TV ratings in isolation? Do fans stop going to the ballpark because they don't like the GM? I doubt many do, particularly the casual ones. They watch if the team's winning, so if DePO was making the moves that kept the winning (which he seemed to be) then keeping him would make sense, regardless of the press.
   74. Steve Treder Posted: June 28, 2007 at 11:16 PM (#2421611)
Do fans stop going to the ballpark because they don't like the GM? I doubt many do, particularly the casual ones. They watch if the team's winning, so if DePO was making the moves that kept the winning (which he seemed to be) then keeping him would make sense, regardless of the press.

In general, yes, that's right.

But even if bad press doesn't have a strong negative impact on attendance/broadcast revenue, it sure can't help. It's part of management's job -- DePodesta's, Tracy's, and McCourt's -- to do what they can to make nice with the press, to grant them (at least the perception of) "access," to play the you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours game which is the essence of press relations in every endeavor. The Dodgers in this episode did a crappy job of that: McCourt and DePodesta might have considered Plaschke et al obnoxious idiots (DePodesta rather transparently did), but part of their job is to make the Plaschkes think they're liked and respected by the top echelon of the organization.
   75. Christopher Linden Posted: June 28, 2007 at 11:39 PM (#2421630)
... so if DePO was making the moves that kept the winning ...

Except if the media-influenced fans lose confidence in DePodesta because of what the Plaschkes are saying about him, they might not get behind the winning on the grounds that it's gonna end soon. After all, such fans might think, if the LA Times and ESPN's talking heads are all saying the the guy's too young, doesn't know baseball, and is in over his head, well that's gotta rear its head at some point, right?

Might it be true that fans don't follow winning as much as they follow the expectation of winning in the future? I'm not sure I buy this, but it would explain a bit of the Braves' 1990s attendance (why go through the expense and hassle when they're gonna lose the World Series anyway?)

Anyhow, I agree with BH & others that press coverage strongly influences (as a practical matter, might dictate) the opinions of the casual fan. With that in mind, if the coverage is negative enough, it could hurt interest, even if the team is winning at the moment.

Maybe. I dunno.

Happy Base Ball
   76. Bob T Posted: June 29, 2007 at 01:44 AM (#2421712)
The Dodger fans are more likely to be influenced by the way management treats the players. When Mike Piazza and Gary Sheffield were declared to be bad people, the fans decided they were bad.

Perhaps "decide" isn't the right word.

Some of L.A.'s sports radio guys (and there aren't many left) hated it when Kevin Malone was fired because Malone was great for radio and gave them access.

Today, Ned Colletti was on one of the sports talk stations and had to take questions about Kobe Bryant.
   77. scareduck Posted: June 29, 2007 at 01:51 AM (#2421715)

Who's to say that DePodesta didn't forsee milking two productive years out of Drew during his peak, after which Scott Boras could be assured of leading Drew out of the contract and onto another team's hands during his post-age-30 decline?


I thought it was true then, and a brilliant tactical maneuver by DePodesta. Goodbye, Nancy.
   78. Darren Posted: June 29, 2007 at 02:47 AM (#2421758)
But even if bad press doesn't have a strong negative impact on attendance/broadcast revenue, it sure can't help.


That doesn't sound like a very convincing argument to me.

It's part of management's job -- DePodesta's, Tracy's, and McCourt's -- to do what they can to make nice with the press, to grant them (at least the perception of) "access," to play the you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours game which is the essence of press relations in every endeavor.


Are there concrete examples of DePodesta not granting access to the press or otherwise snubbing them? I always got the impression that Depo was doomed with them from the beginning for being Mr. Snooty Moneyball Harvard. If Depo was indeed being friendly to the press and they still crapped on him, I don't see how you could blame him.

And since it doesn't appear to affect the bottom line, who cares? If you think Depo's got what it takes to win, you stick with him for 06 and beyond, because the winning is what keeps the joe blow fans coming back. When the team's winning, the only people who worry about the GM are dorks like us, and we're inclined to like the Depo types and hate the idiot press.

Whatever conclusions you draw about how Depo did with the press, I think 18 months is a ridiculously short period of time in which to judge a GM, especially when the first 9 or so were extremely successful.
   79. Srul Itza Posted: June 29, 2007 at 03:53 AM (#2421795)
I am very glad the Dodgers fired DePo.

I am overjoyed that they are being run by a man of the calibre of Frank McCourt, and are being guided by the Plaschkes and Simers.


Then again, I hate the Dodgers.
   80. Flynn Posted: June 29, 2007 at 04:26 AM (#2421821)
I thought this was an article about Dan Duquette.
   81. Flynn Posted: June 29, 2007 at 04:32 AM (#2421827)
The Dodgers in this episode did a crappy job of that: McCourt and DePodesta might have considered Plaschke et al obnoxious idiots (DePodesta rather transparently did), but part of their job is to make the Plaschkes think they're liked and respected by the top echelon of the organization.

Well, you can take on a columnist, but you have to win the PR war, and I don't think DePodesta had the skill to win it. It's obvious not everybody in the organization liked him and while he hated Plaschke, he generally disliked the importance of the press in his job and didn't care to nurture them. There's been several recent examples of GMs who won the press war - Cashman, Epstein and Beane to name three - but they did it by dividing and conquering, not putting their ears over their head and going "LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!".
   82. greenback calls it soccer Posted: June 29, 2007 at 04:45 AM (#2421836)
not putting their ears over their head and going "LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!".


It worked for Howard Roark, didn't it?
   83. notsellingjeans Posted: June 29, 2007 at 07:09 AM (#2421872)
Howard Roark endured quite a bit of agony/frustration (GM job #1) before it worked (job #2?). :)

I appreciate all of the feedback (I know, my sig only reinforces the "homer" image discussed above).

Just a few quick thoughts in response, hoping to answer some questions too:
1. I'm an ex-newspaper guy - the goal of the article is to inform and start intelligent discussion, but the goal of the headline is to get people to read. If it's provocative, that helps the cause. If the title had been "Paul DePodesta is probably better than 3 MLB GMs!", that wouldn't get the job done.
2. Every time I write something I learn more in response, and this no different. I'm grateful for that feedback. Today several people who had personal contact with DePodesta helped me learn what many here surmised; that he made important mistakes in the P.R./organization aspects of his job. I couldn't have known that, or had the privilege to hear from those people, without having written it. Just as with the "In Search of the Next Jack Cust" column last week, the goal is to get people to think about and intelligently discuss a topic that I believe is worth discussing.
3. In addition to his public relations flaws, I don't think for a second that DePodesta was perfect from a trade/talent acquistion standpoint in his Dodgers tenure, even though admittedly the article shades that way. I do think, unquestionably, that hindsight shows that he came out on top more often than not, which is more than several current GMs can say.

And again, that's the premise - that he would be an improvement for at least 3 big-league teams. I intentionally didn't name any because everyone has their own "3 least favorite GMs" list, and you could probably plug several different combinations in there and still agree that DePodesta could out-perform them from a talent acquisition/evaluation standpoint.

And isn't that the point? Earlier someone equated the importance of a GM's talent evaluation/money management vs. the imortance of P.R. skills/reputation management. I respectfully disagree. While DePodesta's Dodgers experience shows P.R. skills and media savvy are very important, you can also hire many qualified people to help handle some of those aspects of the job. Ruben Amaro, Jr. and David Forst are examples of asst. GMs who handle many of the public duties for their respective franchises.
What you can't find nearly as easily is someone who forsees a change in a market that nearly no else sees - and sees it 1-2 years in advance. Those people make tens of millions of dollars on Wall Street. And I think even the greatest Anti-DePodesta guy has to give him some credit for having seen market changes before most, if not all, of his peers, and for seeing value where others missed it. So, if your organization's only chance of landing one of the best visionaries in future baseball market valuation is to give him the title of GM, you do it - and then you surround him with a manager who will enact his wishes, a P.R.-savvy assistant GM, and any other personnel he needs to succeed. That's what good top management (owners, CEOs) does - put people in positions to succeed.

I really enjoyed the Bill Belicheck analogy. Intelligent, hard working, ambitious people make mistakes, and they learn and they grow. DePodesta will probably be better the second time around. And, like Roark, he'll also put himself in a better position to succeed. For one, he'll insist on finding his own Bob Geren, so that's he's not fighting a competing vision with his own manager.

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