Morrison/Carleton: Where do MLB front-office workers come from?

From Kate Morrison and Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on June 20, 2016:

The Front Office is at once a mythical place where magical things happen and a very boring office. It’s a place where besuited heroes tame dragons and collect unicorns that will decide the fate of your favorite team, and also a place where a small group of guys (and yes, most of them are men—we’ll talk about that) make boring administrative decisions about the logistics of running something that is one part Broadway show, one part athletic competition, and one part actual business.

Yes, everyone reading this has had the fantasy of being in that office, making those decisions, and petting those unicorns—or, at least, you’ve complained about those who occupy the Front Office of your favorite team, who you figure probably couldn’t slay a dragon if it impaled itself on their lances. There are 30 actual general managers, and thankfully, thousands of other people on the internet who could do a better job than all 30.

The reality of the Front Office is a lot less interesting than the fantasy. Yes, you get to go to work at a baseball stadium and think about baseball all day. But it’s also a job. There are days when you spend three hours banging your head against your desk trying to get something to work, and when it does work the answer isn’t all that interesting. Still, the most common question that we get at Baseball Prospectus is some variation of “I’d love to work in a major-league front office. How do I go about doing that?” At this point, the answer has become somewhat rote. It’s some variation on: “Learn some skills, start building a portfolio of work, build a professional network, and hope that you’re in the right place at the right time to land an internship somewhere.” But of course, even if you do all of those things, there’s cold reality to deal with. What are the chances that these prescriptions will actually work?


This article is the first in a four-part series that will address this question in a manner befitting Baseball Prospectus. We’re going to look at the data and try to answer the question: Where do front office workers come from? There are thousands—perhaps millions—of people who would love to do the job. What can we learn from studying the ones who actually made it? Parts two, three, and four will appear over the rest of this week and will explore some of the issues that we’ll raise today in more detail.

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Originally published: June 20, 2016. Last Updated: June 20, 2016.