Homogenized Does Not Only Describe Milk

As the general managers from around baseball, plus the New York Mets, convened near San Diego last week I was struck by the similarity of their backgrounds, and by extension the personnel in baseball operations departments throughout the league. This being the baseball off-season, it is high time for those who want to get into the game to put their wares in the shop window. The question for me becomes what to make of the fact all of the wares are essentially the same thing.

Now there isn’t a baseball fan alive who hasn’t played general manager for their favorite team. But outside of playing on PlayStation, how many of us would qualify for the gig? Did you go to Princeton? 3 of them did. Maybe Yale? 2 went there. Or perhaps a public school like UCLA? 3 again. On the plus side, only 3 played in Major League baseball (DiPoto, Fuld, and Young). But being a general manager, or President of Baseball Operations is towards the end of the line, let’s go back when folks are just starting out in the game.

Here is a sample of the qualifications for this job:
Essential duties:
-Build statistical models to answer baseball research questions
– Perform analyses at the request of our research directors, General Manager, Assistant General Managers, player development staff, coaching staff, and/or advance scouts
-Communicate findings through written reports, presentations, and informal conversations
– Develop a deep understanding of the existing body of the R&D team’s research, codebase, and database. Take on some responsibility for improving and maintaining existing projects
– Design and build informative data visualizations for use in automated reports or internal web applications
Minimum education and experience requirements
-Experience analyzing datasets and training statistical models using R, Python, or equivalent
– Has an undergraduate or graduate degree from a four-year college or university, preferably in Data Science, Statistics, Mathematics, or Computer Science
– Authorized to work in the United States
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities necessary to perform essential functions
– Ability to complete long term statistical modeling projects and incorporate technical feedback
– Ability to write and communicate clearly
– Enthusiasm for learning new skills related to programming, statistical modeling, and data visualization
-Passion for baseball and desire to work in baseball operations
– Working knowledge of sabermetric concepts
Physical/Environmental Requirements
– Occasional evening and/or weekend work may be required during the baseball season
– Front office staff located in the DC area are expected to attend about half of the Nationals home games. Meals are provided during games

What I have just listed is an actual posting for an analyst job for the Washington Nationals as it appears on the Fangraphs website. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen a nearly identical posting for just about every club in Major League Baseball. Nowhere on the posting is the actual salary involved, but I did a bit of digging and found the job pays less than $100,000 per year. As a reminder, people in these jobs live in major metropolitan areas, so living won’t come cheap. It probably means the persons working in the baseball operations department have family somewhere footing the bill. Unless this is you, then you are likely not going to be the next key member of your club’s baseball operations department.

While on the surface this may not be much of an issue, it does lead to problematic workplace environments and a homogenous culture within the halls of power throughout the game. I did notice on the posting by the New York Mets for the same position it says baseball knowledge is not a requirement. This is a good thing as it allows for a diversity of ideas. There may be new and inventive ways to approach baseball, but someone can be too close to the game to appreciate a new idea. Homogenous environments are rarely breeding grounds for radical ideas. The game can only be better if we can look at it from different angles.

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