Erik Neander, Dayton Moore and the inflation of the baseball executive title
The Tampa Bay Rays recently awarded a new contract and a new title to their chief operating officer, Erik Neander. He started the season with corporate dueling epaulettes – senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager – and is now president of baseball operations. This was not, however, a rise in rank.
“This position is the same as yesterday, it just so happens that she has a different title,” said Rays team president Matt Silverman. “It’s not a promotion, he’s been running the department for years. But the title change itself is really just to make it more consistent with how the industry currently names the department. “
A week after Neander’s title change, the Kansas City Royals installed their own president of baseball operations, only their press release included the word “promoted” to describe Dayton Moore’s rise from general manager to president as well. that the passage of JJ Piccolo from deputy general manager to general manager.
While the Rays have indicated no plans to find a replacement for the GM position, the Royals now have a front office structure with two officers, increasingly common in Major League Baseball. This is akin to the Fortune 500 companies that employ both a CEO and a president, and this is largely in recognition of the growing size of baseball operations departments.
Among the many by-products of “Moneyball”, both the book by Michael Lewis and the film it inspired, was the lionization of CEOs. But this position – well, this title at least – has been devalued. Of the 30 MLB franchises, only 16 still have a baseball operations department headed by a CEO, with the rest now headed by people with titles such as president of baseball operations or CEO of baseball. Even Billy Beane, the general manager of Oakland Athletics that Moneyball focused on, is now the executive vice president of baseball operations for his team.
Three teams – the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and now the Rays – don’t even have a GM or interim GM, although two of those clubs – the Cubs and Dodgers – still list managers. deputy generals in their directory. (The Cubs have expressed interest in adding a GM this winter under the leadership of Jed Hoyer, the team president of, you guessed it, baseball operations.)
It wasn’t until the last offseason that Kim Ng broke baseball’s glass ceiling for front office executives by being hired as general manager of the Miami Marlins. Ng remains her club’s top baseball executive, but she appears to have become general manager just in time for that title to slowly fade away.
While the trend towards reclassification of duties and change of executive title has accelerated this season, this is not the first time that the Rays’ de facto general manager’s office has been vacant. After Stu Sternberg bought the franchise in late 2005, he and Silverman replaced then-managing director Chuck LaMar with Andrew Friedman – but with a title worthy of the common heritage of new owners on Wall Street.
“When Andrew was named executive vice president of baseball operations in 2005, people were wondering why we would stray from the GM title,” said Silverman. “It felt like we were on an island becoming more corporate.”
All but four of the 16 general managers who currently direct baseball decisions also have a corporate executive title, such as president or vice president. This stems not only from the influx of owners with a background in finance, but also from the reality of managing much larger front offices.
The Rays ‘Neander and Royals’ Moore both noted that their groups have grown three to four times over the past fifteen years, with Moore doing the math: Kansas City had 85 employees in 2006 and 266 in 2021. Internally, the Rays jokes about their “westward expansion,” a reference to the geography of the baseball operations department creep along the fourth floor of the Tropicana Field offices.
There is “more information than there has ever been, there are more perspectives, there are more training methods and a better understanding of how we do everything, of how we assess how we develop, how we support – it’s so much to stay on top, ”says Neander.
Referring to his debut role at the club in 2007, Neander added: “When I started it was not a very large group. But you look at it today, if you do it that way, you’re going to be gobbled up and chewed up and passed in a hurry. And so I’m just thinking about its size and how much coverage you need to do that well. It is not enough to be analytical. It is not enough to treat people well. It is not enough to develop players well. You have to do all of these things really, really well to be successful. And the demands have just grown exponentially.
Entire departments either did not exist or were much lighter at the start of the 21st century, including analysis and performance, or sports science. “Once the major market teams started building their front offices this way and deploying dollars that way, other teams were more inclined to do it,” said the Blue Jays general manager, Ross Atkins. “This has just dramatically increased the floor and the ceiling of dollars spent on hospitality talent.”
Front office banners are swollen with key frames. The Dodgers, for example, have seven vice presidents reporting to Friedman, their president of baseball operations, and 11 department members with a managerial title. Others have followed suit.
“You build up an intellectual power that you can harness to make better decisions,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “And I think the trick of it all is to keep that leadership team or that leadership team engaged because at the end of the day you really have a person who has to make a decision. But at the end of the day, you feel like people have a voice on this decision tree. “
Clubs all have a cadre of executives, similar to a politician’s office. The common shortcut around the game is to refer to these key decision makers as being “in the room” during deliberations.
“The headlines are pretty funny and they’re unique to each organization,” said Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran, who reports to Chaim Bloom, the baseball team’s general manager. “And honestly, I think to some extent it doesn’t matter what you call those positions. It’s more about how you operate and how you run things.
He added: “Nothing is done unilaterally. Everything is done in collaboration.
Perhaps the first use of the title of president of baseball operations came in September 2007, when Larry Beinfest took on that role with the Marlins, with Michael Hill reporting to him as general manager. The prevalence of the title of president accelerated after Theo Epstein stepped down as general manager of the Red Sox and joined the Cubs as president of baseball operations.
Technically, Epstein has been traded for three minor leaguers, but the sport maintains professional courtesy to allow executives to seek vacancies at other clubs if it is a promotion. Privately, executives admit that this has led to a bit of a titular bickering in which roles are given high titles to wrest talented leaders from rivals or to defend against such poaching.
The Colorado Rockies made one of the first attempts to create a modern two-leader management team in 2012 when general manager Dan O’Dowd gave Bill Geivett, a senior vice president, many of the responsibilities. Daily Major League Club. O’Dowd said in an interview that he remains involved in big deals – deals and free agencies – while giving up tasks like waivers and minor league options. He felt his personal strengths in recruiting and developing players had been silenced.
“There is no longer a way that one person can maintain a 30,000-foot view and handle the minutiae of information that now traverses your desk – not when you oversee multiple departments,” said O’Dowd, now an analyst. of MLB Network and Virtual Baseball President. WIN Reality reality program.
It’s not just the size of departments that has grown, but the “level of information and resources,” Atkins said, referring to technology, data, coaching feedback, sports psychologists, nutritionists, massage therapists and anything that helps develop better players. “I would expect it to become more and more robust,” he added.
These inputs increase as the schedule grows. January was once the only quiet time, but many off-season transactions have been pushed back to this month. “The calendar lasts all year – it never stops,” O’Halloran said. “It’s a competitive field, obviously, and you’re always trying to get the edge. So having multiple senior leaders, or two senior leaders, makes it more manageable. “
The distribution of these tasks is based on the skills and preferences of managers. Piccolo of the Royals said he will be “laser focused on what’s happening at the major league level” while Moore will spend more time on the holistic view of the organization.
Ultimately, however, hierarchies are still pyramids, with a single decision maker.
“We’ll all work together on this, but at the end of the day I have to make the final decision, the final authority with what works well or what doesn’t,” Moore said. “And that being said, I think you know how I operate. I am not a micromanager. We allow people to do their jobs.