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Rethinking America's Pastime: The Paul DePodesta Story

How a Harvard graduate turned a passion for baseball into a statistical revolution

Specifically, there was the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers, who derided DePodesta time and time again in their columns. The pair had been vehemently opposed to DePodesta’s hiring from the start, lambasting him as a “computer nerd,” someone who “relies on equations” and “speaks in megabytes.” Simers added the nickname “Google Boy” in a column entitled “Dodgers Come Up Short on New General Manager.” The pair continued to deride DePodesta over the following year—saying he was someone who could only “study the sport at a keyboard and play it in a basement”—while continuously ripping the “Moneyball” approach itself, claiming that “when with Oakland, [DePodesta] had been the most invisible No. 2 executive in the game.”

“At the time, I didn’t feel he was suited for his job,” Plaschke explains today. “He was very, very shy and wasn’t into being the public speaker that the Dodger GM had to be. He had to be out there—this was a job Branch Rickey once did.... [But] he wasn’t a great communicator.”

To Plaschke, it was thus DePodesta’s personality, not his qualifications, that were the problem.

“Everyone thought I was against him because he was a saber guy, but that wasn’t true—I think numbers are great,” Plaschke explains. “But there’s also a human element involved.... He’s a great number two guy, great guy behind the scenes, but with his role with the Dodgers, he was out front every day. He was clearly not comfortable with that role, and the team sort of took their lead from that, and I think it affected the whole organization.”

Whether or not they were justified, the comments were said to play a role in McCourt’s decision to fire DePodesta on October 29, 2005. The columnists’ crusade to get the GM dismissed had worked, and just like that the Harvard alum’s reign was over after just two seasons at the helm.

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DEEP-O IMPACT

DEEP-O IMPACT

The Paul DePodesta Story

In an ironic twist, DePodesta had lost his job in part because he had come to be seen as the geeky caricature that he had so desperately tried to portray in college.

“It was unfortunate,” Forst says. “It seemed really unfair the way he got treated by the media and how his tenure down there ended.”

But DePodesta says he does not resent Plaschke and Simers for their comments.

I think when you get into these jobs, you know that’s the drill,” he explains. “No matter what you do, it’s never going to meet 100 percent approval.... So I never took any of that personally or too seriously; I always just tried to act in the best interests of the organization. It’s pretty easy to sleep at night when you do that.”

Indeed, DePodesta says he doesn’t feel any remorse about his time with the Dodgers.

I learned a lot,” he says. “Are there things I would have done differently today than I did then because of what I know now? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t say I necessarily regretted doing the things I did.... The only thing is I wish we had the opportunity to finish the job there.”

BACK IN BUSINESS

After getting fired, DePodesta was not out of work for long. On June 30, 2006, he was hired as the Special Assistant for Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres, and he was promoted to Executive Vice President on November 10, 2008. Two years later, DePodesta moved to New York to work for the Mets under Alderson, a Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School graduate.

“Right now, my role is really to oversee player development, amateur scouting, and also our international department,” he says. “But I think more generally the job is really to filter a foundation for the organization, not just from a personnel standpoint, but also from a philosophical standpoint.”

Due to that work, the Mets GM sees his fellow Harvard alum as an essential part of his front office.

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