DePodesta to follow 'Moneyball' Formula

November 10th, 2010

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DePodesta to follow ‘Moneyball’ formula
Newest member of front office excited to turn club around

By Anthony DiComo / | 11/09/10 5:54 PM EST

NEW YORK — Information often forgotten about Paul DePodesta, or perhaps ignored, is the fact that he did not merely attend Harvard. He played baseball and football at the Ivy League university.

“I was really, really concerned with being labeled a dumb jock,” said DePodesta, the Mets’ new vice president of amateur scouting and player development. “And then I was labeled a geek once I got into my professional career.”

That, in large part, was due to his role in “Moneyball,” the best-selling book that depicted DePodesta and his laptop computer as slaves to statistics in Oakland, blind to traditional scouting and other tenets of player acquisition and development.

“The book probably was a bit of a caricature — not just of me, but of many of the people involved,” DePodesta said. “In my mind, ‘Moneyball’ has taken on a lot of connotations that weren’t really intended.”

It is the true “Moneyball” philosophy that DePodesta sought to follow in Oakland, then again in Los Angeles and San Diego. And now DePodesta will seek to follow it once more in New York, as one of new general manager Sandy Alderson’s lieutenants with the Mets. More than acquiring players with high on-base percentages, DePodesta said he wants to exploit inefficiencies in the market. More than crunching statistics, he wants to utilize advanced metrics as one piece of a more complicated puzzle.

Doing so in New York, with the nine-digit payroll of the Mets, DePodesta also has reason to believe he can succeed.

“I’ve heard a lot of people refer to it as ‘Moneyball with money,'” DePodesta said, laughing. “That’s the Red Sox. In many respects, that’s the Yankees. We have a lot of work to do to get to that level, but the opportunity to be able to do that is really exciting, no question.”

That money wasn’t always available in San Diego, where DePodesta nonetheless helped build the Padres into one of the game’s surprise success stories this past season. Working in a broad role encompassing everything from ticket prices to the First-Year Player Draft, DePodesta jumped to New York in large part because one of his old bosses, Alderson, came calling.

And that was precisely what the Mets hoped for and expected when they hired Alderson, one of the most respected general managers in the game.

“When you work in this industry and you get a call from Sandy Alderson, it’s almost akin to getting a call to public service,” DePodesta said. “It’s just something you say yes to.”

Another recent front-office hire, J.P. Ricciardi, said some nearly-identical things when the Mets introduced him on a conference call earlier this month. Most around the game have spent the last month speaking glowingly about him. And so Alderson used that reputation to build a front-office powerhouse around him in New York, in the hopes that it may eventually breed an on-field powerhouse, as well.

“I couldn’t be happier about the fact that we now have Paul in his role, as well as J.P. and [assistant GM] John Ricco,” Alderson said. “I’m very happy with the lineup that we currently have.”

It is “Moneyball” with money, here in New York.

“We’re never going to be right all the time,” DePodesta said. “That’s part of the allure of this job, at least to me. There’s that constant search for new knowledge, or for a better way of doing things.”