The Ivy League culture that is Major League Baseball

But the rise of analytics also has resulted in another massive shift: an influx of white, male graduates of Ivy League schools and other prestigious universities into teams’ front offices. In a data analysis conducted by ESPN, the percentage of Ivy League graduates holding an organization’s top baseball operations decision-making position — which, depending on the club, could be its president, vice president or general manager — has risen from just 3% in 2001 to 43% today; while the percentage of graduates from U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top 25 colleges — both universities and liberal arts schools — holding the same positions has risen from 24% to 67%.

Here is more from ESPN, via Adam Minter.  How do you think other economic sectors will be evolving?  And what would Malcolm Gladwell say?

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I have every confidence that the professional managerial class is doing for (to) baseball what it has done for (to) banking, manufacturing, health care & government, etc.

Make it obviously better in almost every way than two generations ago? Or do you miss checks, typewriters, HIV, and the Vietnam War?

Nah. It's analytically sound for batters to swing for the fences and strike out a lot rather than hit line drives and put the ball in play. It is sound not to attempt to steal bases (the expected value is negative). It is sound to send one 95+ power pitcher after another to the mound for 1-2 innings. All this stuff works to win games ... and bore fans. It's a similar problem with the 3 or layup NBA (for me, anyway).

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I miss games that average less than three hours.

I miss catchers calling the game instead of the dugout calling all of the pitches and relaying them to the catcher.

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Liverpool, owned by Fenway Sports Group, has a physicist from Cambridge on its staff..

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Baseball: quaint Victorian era and BORING!!

Wasps are always able to find hosts to lay their eggs in.

Charming.

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As I've been pointing out for many years, while it's nice that smart white guys have their own Safe Space in baseball stats analysis, I wonder if society as a whole would be better off if smart white male talent was more broadly popular.

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This is a strike against the credentialism theory. If data analytics (which are more objective and quantitative, and require more hard skills) is causing positions to be filled by more people from prestigious universities, that suggests that people from prestigious universities do have better quantifiable skills and are not just skating by on credentials.

It's not incompatible with credentialism. If people at prestigious universities are smarter then they're going to be better at jobs requiring intelligence. The prestigious university degree is just doing the job of an IQ test.

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I don't really know what theory you're addressing here. The credentialism theory I usually hear about is that elite universities are not adding value through their education, but simply provide the credentials to denote who is already smart (i.e. they are signaling not education). That's basically irrelevant to the outcome here. People who believe it would say that the same smart people who can get into top universities are also the smart people who would thrive in baseball analytics, and education is irrelevant.

Unless the theory is that "graduates from top universities are no smarter than random blokes". In that case, the theory sucks, and no one should waste time arguing with it.

If it's just the softer "graduates from top universities are generally overrated in abilities due to their credentials", I mean, sure maybe it's a data point, but it's one tiny one when we have vastly more meaningful samples. And the credentials tend to hold up fine. The only interesting argument is whether universities are just signaling who is smart, and not educating them and improving their skills. But that's kinda irrelevant here (personally, I went into academia, so not really a relevant debate for me, obviously college did in fact prepare me for my later career).

we think the question should be
how many baseball teams are hiring ivy league postmodern gender theorists to do analytics

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It could be argued that way but this is the Ivy League culture we are talking about. Their alumni networks are the closest thing to nepotism without blood relations. Once they gain a foothold in an organization they act as a filter that maximizes their network effects and minimizes potentially competing networks. That's how they grab more than their share of Fortune 500 companies and the Federal government. It doesn't matter if a Republican or Democrat is packing the courts when the judges are all Ivy. This casual elite corruption (often spun as meritocracy) is what gets populists like Trump elected. Dusty Baker said it best in the story:

"It's not a question of whether you went to school, but where you went to school. Now it appears they're just hiring their friends. Nothing against the Ivy League, but how many minorities are friends and fraternity brothers of those who went to those schools? Most of us weren't at those schools, or if we played baseball, we weren't in that fraternity."

Dusty Baker was a pretty terrible manager, though (and for the precise reason that he rejected tactics favored by advanced analytics). Interesting that one of the most "advanced" teams (the Astros) just hired him as their manager.

Coming off the sign stealing scandal it seems like the Astros wanted an old-fashioned baseball guy as their manager. Dusty Baker fits that mold.

Sign stealing is about as old-fashioned as it gets.

I don't disagree. Reading some of Bill James' books on baseball history there are stories about stealing signs going back as far as baseball teams used signs. Electric wires, opera binoculars, etc.

But Dusty is over 70. Hank Aaron was the rightfielder in Baker's first game, Joe Torre moved from 1B to catcher in the 9th inning, and in Baker's first plate appearance he pinch hit for Phil Niekro (who was under 30 at the time). Heck, the first game he managed was Barry Bonds' first game as a Giant and Bonds is about to turn 56. He represents a "they played the game the right way era," which is always at least two generations prior to the current era. And if his team is going to steal signs they aren't going to do it with new-fangled technology. Or at least they won't bang on trash cans.

Attempting to steal signs is something that players on the bench and in the field do to fill in the time spent while the signs are being given. No one knows how successful the thefts are but most ballplayers know better than to depend on them for valid information. The reasons this is a controversial subject is the use of electronics in the process and the fact that it's a violation of the rules. It's also a situation where any publicity is good. No institution that sells tickets or TV time wants to be ignored.

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If the Ivy grads are adding value, that should show up either in improved team performance or team financial success (not necessarily correlated). If it doesn’t, then it’s signaling and networking all the way up. BTW, isn’t it great how all those hyper-intelligent Ivies have salvaged a 60 game season that no one will watch and might not happen?

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Equivalent to hedge funds replacing analysts with quants and computer engineers? What that's produced in the markets is, what exactly? The mystery of high stock prices? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/03/opinion/stock-market.html In baseball, the smart money is on, who exactly? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/sports/baseball/new-york-mets.html The belief that baseball can be reduced to a science is as ridiculous as the belief that economics can be reduced to a science. Chaos by another name. Go Mets!

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I would have less problem with it if it's purely based on meritocracy, meaning if the top degree earners could help teams win. But unfortunately it's not, to the contrary, just more signaling and credentialism.

BS. You have no idea. This is empty rhetoric you think passes as virtue signalling.

@wondering, not here to argue with imbeciles like you. You certainly have no idea what I am specialized in. Give you a clue - have something to do with analytics and baseball, kiddo.

I know Flyingtiger isn't Tangotiger from the tone of voice.

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Just a guess but is it a sign that there's lots of money in baseball?

Not for most of the quants. But the quants who are scrambling to get in are often baseball fans first, so its like being paid to play video games for a gamer. The reality of the job is not that, and there is a fair amount of disatisfaction at 'the corporate world'. The Ivy Leaguers at the top, however, good money.

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This is just signaling--the father of the baseball analytics movement, Bill James, went to the University of Kansas.

That a Harvard graduate highlights the Ivy League uber alles.

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Bill James is the most interesting, but his analysis was seldom the most sophisticated. His greatest gift is converting deep subject matter expertise into accessible and coherent prose.

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There's "signaling" in baseball: it's when owners and management "signal" to their fans by signing an overpriced star in order to induce the fans to pay for overpriced tickets and hotdogs and beer. Concepts like signaling and cancel culture are for those without ideas of their own. They are the QAnon of those don't wish to admit to believing conspiracies. Signaling sounds smart while QAnon sounds insane. Boys in baseball is like boys in hedge funds: boys being boys.

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"I say, Bronwyn, it will be SMASHING fun to boss around a bunch of sweaty state-school lugs, don't you think?! But we don't have to eat those horrid hot dogs, do we?"

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"influx of white, male graduates...."
Note that the percentage of minorities is reported to have INCREASED over the time period from 3% to 10%.

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If baseball is going to be run by spreadsheet number crunchers then why not hire the top online GMs from the best fantasy baseball leagues? For this specific job, that is more meritocratic than a degree from Cornell, not to mention the experience is directly relevant.

Yes, just like a good Doom player should be in charge of the military. Ender's Game rules, man!!

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I'm not sure if Magnus would give up chess, to be honest.

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Probably no surprise given the astounding amounts of money being paid to pitchers and hitters for every single at-bat, not to mention ancillary costs. You want your money's worth for that Sean Rodriguez pop-out.

Baseball arguably was more enjoyable when basically run by overweight tobacco-chewing guys nicknamed Duke or Peanuts -- hence the charm of minor-league ball, although they've ruined that now too.

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George Bush was
A general manager
And owner of
A baseball team.

What does that tell you.

Sports teams are great for minimizing taxes.

Donald has always wanted to own a football team.
No kneeling.
The team would have been led by
A
Stable Genius.

Bush was part of the owner group and was the CEO of the team, he was never the general manager.

Thanks for the correction. He was the Managing General Partner.

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you can always tell who read the article

in any case, should be simple: just hire a team without any ivy league nerds and prove to the world that spreadsheets are overratedl! you'll save money and lock-up the Least Racist - sorry, "Forward Thinking" -Award. maybe it'll pay as well as winning the World Series?

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Eh. Are they the 1% of computer programmers? At this point baseball is getting to the point where chess is, and the computers can out-manage the people.

I’ve always found the analytics or “saber-metrics “ revolution to be rather overhyped. In the early days they went from using the things 8 year old me looked at on my baseball cards to things the 11 year old me did like adding slugging & on- base % together.

...accidentally hit submit early...

...in any case the math itself is usually not above what a typical College educated person can understand. It’s just a matter of building the algorithm that takes a lot of simple calculations (more than an individual can process at once) and boils them down to a few meaningful numbers.

So I guess in sum, the “Ivy League” aspect is just the way of showing they’re a tiny bit better than the state guy or the old-baseball man, which is of course usually what the “Ivy league” is for.

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Ivy League woke culture is destroying baseball. Few have any affection for the game, especially the Harvard Law commissioner.

The apparent fait accompli Cleveland Indians name change is an example, thename is offensive to their class so must go, no matter what the fans want.

Do you need a safe space? You wanna cry?

yes thanks
we need a safe space

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Bob is a regular snowflake here. His bubble is constantly banging into reality and he does. not. like. it!

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“following the killing of George Floyd “

So Joon Lee is yet another Klansman gaily lynching policemen whose only sin was to have a man with lethal concentrations of opioids in his bloodstream overdose in their custody.

Baseball is the ultimate Ivy League sport because it has been used to indoctrinate dozens of generations of men into mindless passive submission to arbitrary authority. “It is a strike because the umpire says so.” No wonder so many USA men are craven boot licks.

The Ivy League would be in real trouble if parents got their children involved in a real sport like cricket.

Yep no one ever argues ball and strikes.

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"...an influx of white, male graduates..."

As a non-white immigrant to the US, I continue to be amazed at the level of systematic racism white people face in their own country. The media, academia, and political classes in this country routinely blurt out racist garbage like the quote above and not only face no consequences, but are lauded for it. "So enlightened!"

Solve for the equilibrium, TC: Radicalization of more and more whites and an increase in the number of white people who identify primarily with their race. The racist progressives will finally have the white nationalism they spend their days worrying about.

Yes, the white people are out of luck, all living on the street or about to be. The horror! the horror!

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Likely a product of the famed network of Ivy League graduates. "sure, I can get you in to talk to so-and-so". Get one in and their friends follow. Most people know that it's not "the best of the best" given their affirmative action for legacies, rich people, etc.

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