This story from Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal is crazy. It’s about the Cubs and how they have changed since new ownership took over in 2009 and, more dramatically, since Theo Epstein took over baseball operations in 2011.
Everyone knows that, under former GM Jim Hendry, the Cubs were not exactly on the sabermetric vanguard. But the club’s approach to baseball analytics seems secondary to the Cubs’ approach to basic office functionality, regardless of philosophy. As Costa observes:
The office Tom Ricketts inherited when he took over the Chicago Cubs in 2009 was a windowless room beneath the upper deck of Wrigley Field. A closet just outside his door contained all of the team’s computer servers, which were covered by a cafeteria tray to shield them from the water that would leak through the ceiling when it rained.
The Cubs were still processing season ticket orders by fax machine. They kept up on trade news by employing someone to scan the Internet for articles and deliver printouts to executives’ desks. Some of their staffers were barely on e-mail. And space was so limited that half of them worked in trailers in the parking lot.
And thankfully for the Cubs, the takeover by Ricketts and the hiring of Epstein is when things began to change.
We spend so much time talking about sabermetrics and analytics when it comes to front offices. But the fact of the matter is that the modern baseball executive is just as much systems administrator as he or she is a baseball mind. No matter what your philosophy is, it’s essential that the people in your organization have quick and ready access to the information and communications used to make the decisions, whether that information is statistical analysis from the number crunchers, scouting reports from the people in the field or business data from the folks who sell the tickets and do the marketing.
(thanks to Jordan for the heads up)
I remember, back in the 1990s, watching an interview with Art Alexakis of the band Everclear. He was talking about a fan who came up to him, pulled his shirt off and showed him that he got the band’s name tattooed on his chest. Alexakis, while flattered, was perplexed at a fan’s choice to make something as ephemeral as a favorite rock band so dang permanent. “What if we totally suck in a couple of years?” he said.
I think like that about most tattoo ideas I’ve ever had. I think of what stuff I liked in, say, 1997 and how it would look pretty bad in 2015. And how what I dig in 2015 may seem ridiculous to me in 2030. People I know with tattoos don’t have issues like that because they — quite healthily, I believe — think of tattoos as reminders of where they were at that time in their lives more than some permanent statement of taste. I wish I was more chill about stuff like that, but I’m not. We all have hangups. And, as a result of my hangups, I don’t have any tattoos. Well, that and the fact that I have freckles on my arms and that would look weird.
Anyway, there’s someone in Canada who does not have such hangups. At least not about Jose Bautista and the 2015 Blue Jays. While it’s quite unlikely that Bautista will one day find himself in prison for, I dunno, regicide or another serious crime, there’s always the possibility that having a tattoo of any fallible human being will come back to haunt a guy.
Or, maybe, he got just as caught up in the moment as Bautista did and didn’t care who thinks a damn thing about it:
Major League Baseball just announced the umpires for the League Championship Series. No Angel Hernandez this time. No Joe West, which is always a good thing. Laz Diaz has certainly had his moments, but given how things have gone lately we probably need to think more about how replay affects all of this than the field umpires. DON’T TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF THE BASE, GUYS!
Anyway, here are the assignments. Pray to the Great Crew Chief in the Sky that this is the last time their names are mentioned between now and the World Series. If that happens, it means everyone did their jobs: