In search of SABR member Mike Gimbel, the ‘Moneyball’ revolution’s forgotten man

From Hua Hsu at on August 2, 2013, on SABR member Mike Gimbel:

There are a lot of useful ideas about justice and democracy exchanged across the hundreds of panel discussions that constitute the Left Forum, a three-day meeting of scholars, activists, and concerned citizens that takes place every year in Manhattan. My main interest was baseball. Another was crocodiles.

I had come to listen to a paper being presented by Mike Gimbel. In the 1990s, Gimbel put together a nice side career advising major league teams on player transactions. He had a day job working for the New York City water department, and in his free time he sat in front of his computer, inputted stats, and came up with what he believed was a unified theory of player value. He talked his way into a part-time gig evaluating talent for Dan Duquette, soon to become the general manager of the Montreal Expos. When Duquette moved to the Red Sox, Gimbel was the only Expos staffer he was allowed to take with him — he was a secret weapon of sorts. But during spring training in 1997, Gimbel sat for an interview with the Boston Globe‘s Gordon Edes. Once word spread of Boston’s “stat man” — itself an epithet back in the pre-Moneyball days — the Sox front office immediately distanced itself from him. Local papers described him as crazy, arrogant, a “homeless computer geek,” an eccentric stats hobbyist. He was ridiculed for his unkempt beard, his yellow teeth, and the heavy coat he wore despite the Florida heat. “I guess Duquette calls him like he would call the Psychic Network,” Jose Canseco joked to the local beat writers. Gimbel’s contract expired at the end of the 1997 season. It was his last formal contact with a major league team.

I found the classroom I was looking for and took a seat along the wall. Gimbel and his co-panelist sat at the front of the room. His arms were folded over a breast pocket bulging with an arsenal of pens. He smiled widely to everyone who walked in and made a joke as a videographer set up in the front of the room next to his wife, Jeri, who was also filming the event. “I’m not shy,” he said. “The more cameras the better!” The room slowly filled up.

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Originally published: August 8, 2013. Last Updated: August 8, 2013.