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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Inside the rise of MLB’s Ivy League culture: Stunning numbers and a question of what’s next

But the rise of analytics also has resulted in another massive shift: an influx of white, male graduates of Ivy League schools and other prestigious universities into teams’ front offices. In a data analysis conducted by ESPN, the percentage of Ivy League graduates holding an organization’s top baseball operations decision-making position—which, depending on the club, could be its president, vice president or general manager—has risen from just 3% in 2001 to 43% today; while the percentage of graduates from U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 25 colleges—both universities and liberal arts schools—holding the same positions has risen from 24% to 67%.

This rise coincides with a drop in former players running front offices over the same period, from 37% to 20%, while the percentage of minorities running front offices has risen, but from just 3% to 10%. Additionally, no woman holds the top baseball operations position for any of the 30 major league clubs.

To be clear, MLB front offices have always lacked diversity. It wasn’t until 1994 that the Houston Astros’ Bob Watson, a former player, officially became the first Black GM in the history of the league. (Atlanta Braves executive Bill Lucas essentially was the team’s GM in the late-1970s, but team owner Ted Turner elected to keep the title for himself.) And there wasn’t an Ivy League culture to blame for that exclusion. Indeed, the only graduate from an Ivy school running a front office at the time was Oakland Athletics GM Sandy Alderson, a Dartmouth alum, and more than half of the teams were run by former players. Baseball didn’t see its first Hispanic GM for another eight years, when the Montreal Expos hired Omar Minaya.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 30, 2020 at 11:04 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: racial diversity

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   1. Zach Posted: June 30, 2020 at 03:00 PM (#5960396)
The Theo Epstein effect.
   2. Zach Posted: June 30, 2020 at 03:15 PM (#5960404)
Nothing against Theo, who by all accounts is a baseball lifer with an unusual background. But baseball analytics does not require an Ivy League education. I suspect "looks nice in a suit" is playing a role somewhere in the hiring process.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 30, 2020 at 03:38 PM (#5960413)
I thought initially that analytics would democratize the sport a bit, or at least make it more of a meritocracy where anyone that is smart can be involved with running a team, rather than being a good ol' boy who made friends with the right people during their playing career. But it does seems like we've just traded one good ol' boy network for another, just this one has collared shirts.
   4. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: June 30, 2020 at 03:54 PM (#5960419)
I'd say (Ivy Grad) Matt Klentak represents the nadir of the new paradigm. Any objective analysis of his moves vs. those of Ruben Amaro Jr. would have to lean towards the latter.

And I'm sure it is obvious to anyone who read Moneyball, but the whole point of the analytical revolution was "do things that other people are not doing" rather than "come up with a new homogeneous culture."
   5. The Good Face Posted: June 30, 2020 at 05:23 PM (#5960453)
I thought initially that analytics would democratize the sport a bit, or at least make it more of a meritocracy where anyone that is smart can be involved with running a team, rather than being a good ol' boy who made friends with the right people during their playing career. But it does seems like we've just traded one good ol' boy network for another, just this one has collared shirts.


Networks, good ole boy or otherwise, are fundamental to the human condition. People want to hire people that they'd like to work with, and that usually means people more like them. They also want to hire people that they think can do the job and will make their lives easier, but assuming they believe they can meet those needs through an existing network and/or by hiring people like themselves, that's what they tend to do. You can force them to do otherwise of course, but you wind up in the same place soon enough, just with different groups and networks.

And I'm sure it is obvious to anyone who read Moneyball, but the whole point of the analytical revolution was "do things that other people are not doing" rather than "come up with a new homogeneous culture."


I thought the point was to use data to do smarter things instead of doing foolish things because that's the way things were always done. Sometimes there really are best practices and superior ways of doing things, and if you're not doing them you're putting your organization at a disadvantage compared to those that are. I don't know if what the teams are currently doing are among those, but it's silly to assume that they're doing something wrong just because lots of their competitors are doing similar things.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 30, 2020 at 05:55 PM (#5960462)
People want to hire people that they'd like to work with, and that usually means people more like them.

Which is fundamentally stupid. I can already do the things I do well, well. Why would I want to hire other people like me? I want to hire people with different skills than I have, so we complement each other.

Diversity of skills (hard and soft), opinions, and ways of approaching a problem are critical to a high performing team.
   7. Brian C Posted: June 30, 2020 at 06:37 PM (#5960469)
I think we're all missing the most absurd part of this story, which is that ESPN looked up the Wikipedia pages of 30 people to see where they went to college, and then pompously called this activity "data analysis".
   8. Bhaakon Posted: June 30, 2020 at 08:55 PM (#5960491)
I can already do the things I do well, well. Why would I want to hire other people like me?


So you can role into work at noon and then take a 3-hour drinking lunch.
   9. The Good Face Posted: July 01, 2020 at 10:41 AM (#5960535)
People want to hire people that they'd like to work with, and that usually means people more like them.

Which is fundamentally stupid. I can already do the things I do well, well. Why would I want to hire other people like me? I want to hire people with different skills than I have, so we complement each other.


Did you not read this bit?

They also want to hire people that they think can do the job and will make their lives easier, but assuming they believe they can meet those needs through an existing network and/or by hiring people like themselves, that's what they tend to do.


Yes, hiring somebody you don't think can do the job is indeed stupid. But it's also pretty rare. People get it wrong all the time, but that's not the same thing. Also, it's not terribly difficult to find qualified personnel for most jobs. So when hiring managers are choosing from a good sized pool of qualified applicants, they tend to pick the people they like and are comfortable with; the people they wouldn't mind seeing and interacting with every day. And that's often people with similar backgrounds and shared networks. That's just how people are. You can change the networks, to be sure. For example, you can stop hiring old scouts and ex-players and start hiring smarty men from the Ivies. And in a decade or two, you'll have a new network consisting of smarty men from the Ivies all hiring each other.
   10. Jay Seaver Posted: July 01, 2020 at 02:04 PM (#5960564)
To what extent is it still the case that entry-level positions in front offices don't pay very much (or may even be unpaid internships)? That's been cited as an issue in the past, but seems to get glossed over here aside from a mention of a fellowship toward the end. As much as conscious and unconscious favoritism is also an issue, when your hiring pool is limited to "people who can afford to be paid peanuts even though $150K in college loans have started accruing interest", it's going to have a lot of Ivy League legacies.
   11. Ron J Posted: July 01, 2020 at 02:25 PM (#5960570)
#10 My nephew got an internship with the Eagles and was being interviewed by the Phillies when the ... plans changed.

Pretty much as you say. He can afford to be paid little to nothing.
   12. Dr. Vaux Posted: July 01, 2020 at 02:58 PM (#5960581)
It's very much an issue. Any serious plan for increasing diversity has to include making it affordable to take the job.
   13. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 01, 2020 at 03:08 PM (#5960585)
My nephew got an internship with the Eagles


They used to call these "roadies."
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 01, 2020 at 03:26 PM (#5960589)
Yes, hiring somebody you don't think can do the job is indeed stupid. But it's also pretty rare. People get it wrong all the time, but that's not the same thing. Also, it's not terribly difficult to find qualified personnel for most jobs. So when hiring managers are choosing from a good sized pool of qualified applicants, they tend to pick the people they like and are comfortable with; the people they wouldn't mind seeing and interacting with every day. And that's often people with similar backgrounds and shared networks. That's just how people are. You can change the networks, to be sure. For example, you can stop hiring old scouts and ex-players and start hiring smarty men from the Ivies. And in a decade or two, you'll have a new network consisting of smarty men from the Ivies all hiring each other.

Sure, don't hire ########. Nobody wants to work with ########.

But I'd argue (as an Ivy League graduate) that Ivy League males are substantially more likely to be ######## than the general population. Ivy League females are much more pleasant to work with. People from non-elite schools are even better.

And if the Ivy League grad worked at an I-bank or big law firm, the ######## odds are astronomically higher than the general population.

"Networks" are almost completely about covering your bad behavior. Immoral types in top management (now I'm being redundant) want other sleaze bags around them so the can practice whatever their particular brand of scummery is, without being called out. Looting the shareholders, sexually harassing the female employees, defrauding customers, doing blow and hookers on the company dime. Take your pick.

Every manager I've seen who set about bringing in his old cronies to the company was an absolute disaster.
   15. The Good Face Posted: July 01, 2020 at 03:50 PM (#5960593)
And if the Ivy League grad worked at an I-bank or big law firm, the ######## odds are astronomically higher than the general population.


The unfortunate reality is that political and economic power tend to aggregate towards people for whom the accumulation of political and economic power are top priorities. Also known as assholes. Very few people just sort of stumble into top leadership positions or vast fortunes.

"Networks" are almost completely about covering your bad behavior. Immoral types in top management (now I'm being redundant) want other sleaze bags around them so the can practice whatever their particular brand of scummery is, without being called out. Looting the shareholders, sexually harassing the female employees, defrauding customers, doing blow and hookers on the company dime. Take your pick.

Every manager I've seen who set about bringing in his old cronies to the company was an absolute disaster.


That's a rather misanthropic perspective. There's a big difference between "I'm hiring this guy because he's my brosef and I want someone to get hammered with after work," and "I'm hiring this guy because he's an alum of my school and was recommended by multiple people I respect and trust."

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