Miller: Younger breed of techies replacing baseball lifers in GM roles

From Phil Miller at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on July 24, 2016, with mention of SABR member Dan Levitt:

Terry Ryan was drafted by the Twins, pitched in their minor league system for four seasons and haunted ballparks as a scout for several years before moving into their front office.

When his 18 seasons as general manager concluded with his firing Monday, these were a few of his peers. See if you can spot any differences:

• Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi grew up in the Philippines, studied economics at MIT and was working on his doctorate at Cal-Berkeley when he noticed the Athletics had advertised a front-office position on a baseball analytics website. He got the job.

• Brewers GM David Stearns was a baseball fan at Harvard, where he got a degree in political science in 2007, then joined MLB’s front office a year after graduating, to assist lawyers negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

• Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, raised in Mexico City, was a Penn grad and Northwestern MBA who worked as a corporate executive before founding the consulting company Archetype Solutions, whose website says it “incubate[s] novel analytics solutions.” He was a friend of the son-in-law of Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, who introduced the pair. DeWitt was so impressed, he hired Luhnow to handle the team’s amateur drafts despite no baseball experience.

Yes, the Twins followed baseball orthodoxy when they promoted a ballpark lifer like Ryan to build their team, and it was a smart move. But if Twins owner Jim Pohlad uses the same template to hire a general manager in 2016 as his father did in 1994 to select Ryan, he will be operating in stark contrast to contemporary baseball hiring patterns. Most general managers, and especially those appointed in the past five years, don’t have much in common with the Twins’ longtime leader.

“The skill set that teams look for has changed as the job has gotten more complex. It used to be about managing scouts, running the farm system, making trades,” said Dan Levitt, a Minneapolis author of several books about baseball, including “In Pursuit of Pennants: Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball,” which he co-wrote with Mark Armour. “A lot of different personality types can be successful, but general managers today are selected for their ability to integrate all sorts of input from a variety of departments into a coherent plan of action.”

Read the full article here:

Originally published: July 24, 2016. Last Updated: July 24, 2016.