Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Moneyball goes Hollywood

If you're a Dodger fan (I'm not), the team's hiring of Paul DePodesta as general manager should be cause for celebration. DePodesta, as this Rob Neyer column suggests, was the brains behind the wildly successful Oakland front office the past few years, when the team consistently made the postseason, even though it had one of the sport's smaller payrolls. (Take that, Mr. Steinbrenner.)

DePodesta and his former boss, Billy Beane, are honor students from the Bill James school -- where numbers rather than hunches (provided by tobacco-chewing scouts) offer the best measure of on-field talent. Beane won with tightwad owners; fellow sabremetrician GM Theo Epstein won at Boston with deep pockets; DePodesta should also have a liberal budget in L.A.

In a way, DePodesta is the latest extension of the longtime Dodger tradition launched more than a half-century ago by Branch Rickey, who ran the sport's first "scientific" front office. DePodesta may not deliver the brass ring right away, but one thing is certain: While he's in charge, you'll never again see speedy Dominican middle infielders who get on base less than 30 percent of the time using up outs at the top of the Dodgers' order.

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