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Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Harder Than It Looks

Here's a thought experiment:

How hard is it to put together a winning sports franchise? It shouldn't be that hard. Start with baseball. What's the key? You will need three-four (quality) starting pitchers, a set-up man, a closer, a long reliever (less essential); two-three run producers (power), a couple of guys who can get on base (i.e., take walks, hit for average); and specifically, a shortstop, a catcher, and a center fielder.

There are hundreds, thousands, of athletes out there who want to play for your team (or any team that will pay them). Of course, the physical execution of baseball is extremely difficult. But you can spend years developing your players in the minor leagues.

And yet, how many teams have three quality starting pitchers? Now think about it, if you're the GM, you know, right now, that you need these guys for the 2011 season. That's more than three years out. But if you are the GM in 25 (?) major league cities, you won't have three quality starters on April 1, 2011.

Why not?

Because you will lose your guys through free agency? But you can draft the players now and develop them. That is, of course, very difficult. Because it's hard to know which 18-21 y.o. man will develop into a ML pitcher. But you can draft a number of guys and hope a few develop . . . but it's harder than it looks.

Same with any sport. There's a great deal of luck. The uncertainties can be reduced, but only marginally, through scouting, research, better training methods. Oh, sure, you can do better (or worse), and coaching, technique, resources, all matter. There are interpersonal effects, which are hard to measure in advance or even in retrospect.

To be continued.


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