“There’s no doubt that since [Moneyball] came out there’s been a big shift in the industry, and now I think virtually everybody employs somebody, if not a team of people who are devoted to analytics,” he says. “There’s just been an absolute tidal-wave of available information over the course of that time, and I think within the industry it’s become a phenomena, in terms of data becoming more available and therefore more relevant in the decision-making.”
Even Plaschke is starting to come around, realizing he may have been too hard on the former Dodgers GM who now appears to have been ahead of his time as analytics becomes increasingly mainstream.
“I didn’t give him much of a chance,” Plaschke says. “Now looking back on it, I think if we had understood his philosophy better, I think we would’ve given him a break on his lack of personal skills...at the time it was all very new.”
Plaschke even thinks DePodesta deserves another shot at a GM job, though he says he’d be better off in a smaller market.
“I told him that ‘you’ve got to go back into it in a place where you’re comfortable, because your baseball evaluation skills are sound,’” Plaschke says. “I think he would be great to help lead a small-market team back to respectability, absolutely.”
“He’s one of the smarter guys out there, so if he wants to [be a GM] again, I think he deserves another shot at it,” Forst adds.
But right now, DePodesta is content right where he is.
“As long as I have a lot of autonomy in what I’m doing and feel like I’m making an impact, I’m not too concerned about what the title on my business card says,” he explains.
Indeed, Paul DePodesta is happy to work under the radar. But in many ways, it’s already too late. For though at Harvard a shoulder injury ended his playing career, one thing that went undamaged was his mind—and using that, DePodesta rose to the forefront of one of baseball’s most storied franchises and helped spark a revolution that changed the game he loves forever.
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.