The Cubs emerged from the stone age

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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)