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Sunday, December 18, 2005
 
Reverse Stigma? The Precipitous Rise of Young, Highly-Educated General Mangers in Major League Baseball

Alan Siegel of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune has an excellent biographical piece on the two new co-general managers of the Boston Red Sox: Ben Cherrington (31-years old, Amherst College '96, University of Massachusetts Sports Management Program '97) and Jed Hoyer (31-years old, Wesleyan University '96). His story brings to mind the seemingly growing number of young guys with impressive academic backgrounds who are taking over Major League Baseball teams (in alphabetical order, and feel free to add names in the comments section):

Chris Antonetti, Cleveland Indians Asst. GM
26-years old when hired. Graduate of Georgetown University in 1996 and the University of Massachusetts Sports Management Program in 1997.

Josh Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks GM
35-years old when hired. Graduate of Haverford College in 1992.

Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers GM
28-years old when hired. Graduate of Cornell University in 1999.

Paul DePodesta, former Los Angeles Dodgers GM
31-years old when hired. Graduate of Harvard University in 1995.

David Forst, Oakland A's Asst. GM
27-years old when hired. Graduate of Harvard University in 1998.

Theo Epstein (pictured above), former Red Sox GM
28-years old when hired. Graduate of Yale University in 1995 and the University of San Diego School of Law in 2000.

Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay Devils Rays VP of Baseball Operations
28-years old when hired. Graduate of Tulane University in 1999.

Mike Hazen, Cleveland Indians Asst. Director Player Development
27-years old when hired. Graduate of Princeton University in 1998.

Mark Shapiro, Cleveland Indians GM
35-years old when hired. Graduate of Princeton University in 1989.

Peter Woodfork, Arizona Diamondbacks Asst. GM
29-years old when hired. Graduate of Harvard University in 1999.

It's interesting that there might be a "reverse-stigma" going on here: years ago, none of these guys would have had a chance for a GM job until they "paid their dues." And some of them would have been permanently excluded merely because they would have seemed "too smart" or "too Ivory Tower," or because they had never played pro ball. None of that is terribly surprising, given that employers frequently turn to stereotypical labels and other conclusory-proxies when assessing candidates (i.e., contrary to what we are taught, hiring is often not "merit-based," but instead a murky mix of perceived-merit, presumptions, and satisfaction of confirmation bias: we are all subject to ignore or discount information that challenges existing beliefs, and that animates our thinking in ways that we do not often appreciate -- for reference, see my upcoming article in the Brooklyn Law Review).

But now-a-days, it seems that young, highly-educated guys are accorded the benefit of the doubt, while seasoned baseball executives, like Phillies Asst. GM Mike Arbuckle (55-years old), Tigers Asst. GM Al Avila (46-years old), and Padres' Asst. to the GM Grady Fuson (49-years old), are often overlooked (although the Dodgers' recent hire of 50-year old Ned Colleti is an obvious exception). The growth of Moneyball philosophy is no doubt a contributing factor, but perhaps there is also the power of image on cognitive-analysis: young guys with impressive academic credentials are accorded a favorable presumption that older guys are not, and that affects the thinking of teams when they consider GM candidates. For instance, we "think" that younger, highly-educated guys are more likely to have the energy, enthusiasm, and mental acumen needed to be a successful GM -- just like how, 20 years go, we "thought" that older guys were more likely to have the insight, experience, and judgement needed to be a successful GM.

Put more simply, there may be an inherent bias to hire a certain profiled candidate (i.e., a young guy with prestigious schooling) merely because of that profile.





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