Back when the Dodgers hired Paul DePodesta as their general manager the Los Angeles columnists decided that the best and smartest reaction to him would be to make calculator jokes, call him a geek, a stats guru and basically be those stereotypical jackasses in school who liked to shove stereotypical nerds into lockers. Or, I should say, fictional stereotypical jackasses and nerds because the way they behaved and the manner in which they described DePodesta did not actually reflect how anyone acts in real life. The whole thing was like that Simpsons episode where Homer went back to college and fought with the dean and made fun of nerds and all of that. A comedy writer’s idea of what a dumb person thinks about a given milieu.
That was a long time ago, of course. T.J. Simers is now retired and even Bill Plaschke has decided to focus his brand of buffoonery on targets other than sabermetrically-inclined baseball executives. Still, we have Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times doing the heavy lifting with respect to the Dodgers’ latest hire, general manager Farhan Zaidi:
The nerds have officially taken over the world. Just give into it. All those guys who used to sit in the back of the classroom with their black horn-rimmed classes, pocket calculators and clothes their mommies picked out?
They run things now. They’re making the decisions and signing the paychecks. All those years spent cozying up to the jocks and the popular kids just wasted . . . The Dodgers have formed their very own Geek Squad.
There’s everything you could want in there. Proudly owned ignorance of numbers and stats. References to calculators and “gurus.” The stuff about nerds and geeks referenced above. It’s like time hasn’t gone on. Like the industry which Dilbeck covers hasn’t evolved into something a lot more complex than the one he wishes it was. It’s almost as if Dilbeck has either completely missed what baseball is all about these days or simply rejects it or revels in his inability to understand it.
In any other industry, such an out-of-touch view of things would put someone’s job in jeopardy. It’s still cool in sportswriting, though.
Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs are interested in a trade for Cole Hamels. My story about how I am interested in a date with Carla Gugino was bumped for this story.
OK, maybe this isn’t as much of a pipe dream. You’ll recall that the Cubs claimed Hamels off revocable waivers back in August, but the Phillies pulled him back. That showed that Chicago was willing to take on a lot of money for an elite starting pitcher. And it is worth noting that the Cubs have a lot of position player prospects for a now openly rebuilding Phillies team could really use.
Still, I tend to think that the Phillies still think, not unreasonably, that Hamels is still young enough to rebuild around rather than deal. If that’s the case, it may be that Chicago will have better luck on the free agent market trying to woo Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. Still, interesting.
This is why you rarely hear about big free agent signings in early November. Ballplayers have other priorities:
Glad that’s a back country beast and not something from one of those lame hunting preserve operations which pen in big fat animals, let them grow fatter and then let bankers and lawyers come in and slaughter them on a random Saturday afternoon.
I’m not personally a hunter — it’s just not my thing — but I grew up with hunters and respect what they do in the way of thinning out populations of animals that, left to their own devices in this predator-light day and age, would overpopulate. Hunt for real? Good for you. Go to some glorified farm for two hours to shoot something, screw you. I’d rather the natural predators still be around to deal with this all the way Mother Nature intended, but short of that this is more humane than allowing deer to starve to death or get hit by Hondas.
In any event, I do worry about baseball agents this time of year. How many of them have had to tell teams with offers, “look, I simply can’t find the guy. I literally do not know where he is and he doesn’t have cell phone service. Can you call us just before Thanksgiving maybe? I hear he may resurface then to see his family.” It has to be stressful.
Anyway, this is installment #449 of “Baseball players are different than most other professional athletes.”
Missed this the other day, but here’s a great read from Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts at Grantland about incoming commissioner Rob Manfred.
It talks about how he got where he is now and, far more importantly, the manner in which he changed baseball’s approach to labor and, more significantly, PED issues. About how, working behind the scenes and largely unnoticed by the media, he played a huge role in crafting the current state of those worlds. Often by grabbing power when he could get away with it, often by wisely holding back and playing the long game. Never, it seems, losing his cool or sight of the larger picture.
A huge takeaway here: just how thoroughly Manfred has outfoxed the union on PED matters. It’s also worth nothing that, however much Bud Selig has grown in the job from an old school, kill-the-union commissioner to one who is more savvy about things, Manfred started out as savvy from the get-go. He’s a different man altogether than the union and baseball fans who pay attention to such matters is used to dealing with and, often, enjoy caricaturizing.
It’ll be interesting to see how the behind-the-scenes guy transitions into a front-and-center guy. Not for P.R. purposes as such. I mean, yes, people will focus on how Manfred performs in his “face of the game” role. As we’ve noted several times, however, that stuff isn’t the source of a commissioner’s power. The relationship with the owners is. Can Manfred continue to be as tough as he is portrayed in the article with the owners as commissioner as he was as consigliere? Or are there matters of soft power there that he’ll need to work on better?
He’s certainly smart enough to know what he doesn’t know. But brains aren’t always the be-all, end-all in power dynamics. Ask Tom Hagen, the guy who Elfrink and Garcia-Roberts start out their article with. He did his job well. Then, for a brief time anyway, was acting Don. It didn’t go too well. Eventually, he was pushed aside.