Thursday, December 24, 2020

Celebrating the New Culture

As I was finishing up yesterday's post, the news was breaking on the Mets making another significant front office hire. Former Red Sox assistant GM Zack Scott was named as Senior Vice President/Assistant General Manager. He's reunited with new Mets GM Jared Porter, who he worked with for years with the Red Sox until Porter left to join the Cubs. Scott was also a finalist for the Mets GM job.

In a press release issued by the team, Porter gave the following statement about Scott:

"I've known Zack for over 15 years, and worked with him daily for 10 of those years. He's a strong leader who is a very creative and dynamic thinker. Zack is well rounded in all areas of baseball operations, and will promote synergy and collaboration among all of our departments with an emphasis on research and development."

Given what we know about modern front offices, I was surprised that Scott was allowed to leave one Assistant GM job for another. The Boston Globe did cite an unnamed major league source that the Mets agreed not to hire anyone else from the Sox's front office this year or next.

What I also find interesting is why Scott, already a key member of one of the best front offices in baseball, decided to come to the Mets. I'm sure some of it was his previous relationship with Jared Porter. I imagine that some of it was that he'd be a bigger fish in a somewhat smaller pond with the Mets, giving him a better chance to climb to a higher job in the future. In the above-linked press release, Scott gave the following statement:

"I want to thank Steve Cohen, Sandy Alderson and Jared Porter for this unique and exciting opportunity as well as the leadership of the Red Sox for allowing me to pursue this new role with the Mets. Being a part of the Mets new culture and helping establish a consistent winner on the field that the Mets fan base deserves is something I will work towards tirelessly."

I know that a lot of that statement falls along the lines of saying what is expected in assuming a new job, but I did like the part about "the Mets new culture", because I believe there is some truth to that. Honestly, when you look at the people the Mets have hired to run their front office over the years, the two significant names were Sandy Alderson in 2010 and Frank Cashen in 1980. Omar Minaya had a solid reputation around baseball but was basically hired because of his relationship with Fred Wilpon.

After Cashen, there was a blur of GMs that included Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine, Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, and Omar Minaya before Alderson took over. Alderson was here for eight years, Phillips lasted six years, Minaya 5 years, and no one else lasted longer than three. If the sad story of the Mets is going to change into something better under Steve Cohen, here's hoping for an era of front office stability. While it's not reasonable to expect Alderson to stay on for a lot of years as president, ideally Jared Porter will be here for the long term. As for Scott, I imagine that may depend on whether he gets a GM job somewhere. For now, it's gratifying as a Mets fan to see the club hiring such universally acknowledged talented people.

The Globe article about Zack Scott detailed his qualifications for a big role in helping to turn the Mets into a first-class organization:

In Scott, the Mets saw an ideal candidate to lead the development of their analytics, and research and development departments. Scott helped to build and grow the Red Sox' analytics department over his tenure with the team while also acting as a key voice in player moves, contract analysis, payroll management, and strategic initiatives such as the creation of a sports science program.

His role grew steadily, and in 2020, Scott supervised the baseball analytics, baseball systems, advance scouting, and pro scouting departments.

In my post yesterday, I linked to the terrific Bill James piece about Porter's hiring where James wrote about his thoughts on what had been holding the Mets organization back for so many years. James described ground-level and top-level operations, where ground-level is the stuff that's basically hidden from the fans, and top-level is the stuff we see. James felt that the Mets consistently failed to field good teams because they ignored the ground-level stuff. James then identified some ground-level stuff that is so vital for a team to consistently contend:

The ground-level work isn’t one thing; it’s a million things.   It’s making sure that you have not A scouting report on Juan Cruz or Eduardo Rodriguez, but SEVERAL scouting reports every year on Eduardo Rodriguez or Juan Cruz, and making sure that those "scouting reports" cover what happens off the field as well as what happens on the field.  It’s hiring young scouts who have the energy to drive 6 hours to watch a baseball game, and hiring old scouts who can teach them how to do their jobs, and hiring the RIGHT ONES of each, and then co-ordinating them so that you have the complete and redundant coverage that you need.  It’s building friendships with college coaches so that they will tell you the truth.  It’s making sure that you have a state-of-the-art facility in the Dominican Republic to have access to all of that talent, and making sure that you have some way of drawing that talent into your network.  It’s making sure that you have minor league coaches and managers who can actually teach a 19-year-old third baseman how to plant his right foot and line up the throw to first base, and when to put the ball in his pocket because it’s too late to make the throw, as much as you want to.  It’s making sure that you have an Equipment Manager at Double-A who knows how to find four batting cages on wheels on a moment’s notice, and making sure that he isn’t selling drugs to the kids on the side.  It’s getting a Low-A pitching coach who can show a kid why you don’t stand on the first base side of the rubber and throw a curve ball.   It is having medical and training staff that can help you a little bit to maybe occasionally see an injury coming before it gets there, and having nutritionists and psychologists and Spanish speakers everywhere, and having English language instruction for people coming to America.  It is doing everything possible to make sure that every player is ready to do what you will need him to do when he gets to the show level.

Everyone, including me, is looking forward to seeing a much better Mets team next season, one that likely includes a big name free agent not yet signed. That's an example of top-level operations, and it's important for generating fan excitement and putting an entertaining team on the field. But, if you listened to Steve Cohen answering fan questions on the team's YouTube channel, he spoke a lot about what he felt the team needed to do to really sustain success, and it sounded a lot like the ground-level stuff James wrote about. With Jared Porter and Zack Scott in the front office now, the Mets have a pair of excellent young executives who have both the background and the talent that the Mets need to address their past deficiencies in ground-level operations.

Cohen also talked about the fans trusting the organization to be doing what's necessary to build a winner, even when they're not making the big, obvious free agents splashes or big trades that you might be hoping for. That trust is only going to be built slowly, over time, and it needs to be earned. Building out the baseball operations with great, qualified people is a great first step in building that trust.

That will do it for me today. Not sure whether or not I will post on Christmas Day, but if I don't I will surely post again Saturday. I hope all of you and your families enjoy a great holiday, whichever you celebrate. Please stay safe, be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Defense Doesn't Rest

A renewed emphasis on defense would be a good thing for the New York Mets. Mike Vaccaro had an interesting column in the New York Post  abou...