20 March 2017

Brady Anderson is Teddy Roosevelt

A Fit Theodore Roosevelt
Brady Anderson is a disruptor.  He disrupts with frank truth telling.  He disrupts with irreverence for the traditional system, protecting and championing those in limbo on the Norfolk shuttle.  While memory serves most Orioles fans to remember the 90s as a time of Ripken led dominance, Brady Anderson was just as successful as a player.  He was also known for his disruption there with his insistence on improving training and nutrition.  His evangelism for a more modern ball player rankled some, but gained adherents as well.

Fast forward to 2010, a few weeks before Showalter was hired, and Peter Angelos brings Brady Anderson out of the cold as an independent member of the organization.  It was a familiar sight.  Almost a decade earlier, Angelos did the same with Mike Flanagan.  Angelos saw someone who clearly loved the Orioles, was capable, and had exciting ideas like using psychoanalysis for rafting players.  Flanagan was paired with Jim Beattie in order to show him the ropes until Angelos felt Flanagan was ready enough to jettison Beattie.  Unfortunately, good will money quickly evaporated for Flanagan and his ideas often produced more groan inducing stories than success (i.e., the psych testing was not properly translated into Spanish, which caused the club to ignore Jaime Garcia's results that were impacted by his English proficiency).

Anderson came in with transformative ideas about adherence to nutrition, training, and positive player thinking.  His offseason home out West became a gathering place for young or struggling players to get back into experiencing success.  Players like Zach Britton came into his own after his experience with Brady (though he tends to credit Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti on his transformation into a dominant closer), but the record is not perfect as Hyun Soo Kim had to unlearn what his experience taught him.

Regardless, Brady Anderson's experience seems awfully similar to Teddy Roosevelt's experience.  Roosevelt was a progressive.  He was a champion of conservationism (a thoroughly accomplished taxidermist), an advocate of Charles Darwin, a religious progressive (to the extent that he would be unelectable today), a firm believer in American opportunism, and a dedicated implementer of new ideas and technology.  Roosevelt was also in a privileged position to easily rise through political opportunities before lucking into a vice presidency, which led to him becoming president.

Roosevelt was also a bit of an eye rolling buffoon.  He ignored established protocol, which is certainly evidence by Anderson and how he interacts with players.  He would turn anything into a competition, which we all remember from tales of people running into Brady late at night and finding themselves in foot races.  He could also find the pearls in the muck that other more traditional minds refused to find because of their distaste for dirt.  Roosevelt's buffoonery is a major part of the reason why he accomplished so much.  Anderson is in the same camp.

These point are well brought up in Ken Rosenthal's article on Anderson.  You can tell there are strong adherents to Brady and others who dislike him enough to put their names in print to negative perspectives.  Dave Wallace gives several quotes noting that Anderson would run rough shod over coaches at the MLB level and affiliates with instruction without connecting with the coaches or explaining what he was having the player do.  This sounds a little like the issue with Rick Peterson and one wonders whether Brady's guidance was influenced by Peterson's snake oil analytic mysticism.  That said, Brady is much better received by Buck than Peterson ever was.

Dom Chiti only gave Rosenthal a single sentence, but it was effectively that Brady's presence is why he choose to go elsewhere.  This does not exactly jive with his previous statements likening him to a scorned lover waiting on a phonecall that never came in October and November.  It also does not square with the once again frank Dan Duquette who said he grew tired of Chiti and Wallace shenanigans with Brady.  The third negative voice came from Matt Wieters who simply stated that Brady was an outsider and had no place in the clubhouse where Brady maintains a locker.

Discord is not exactly a cause of concern and a disruptor like Brady will cause discord.  Some might worry about how this all plays into Brady's future.  The current structure of the Orioles is a two headed monster.  Duquette handles the 40 man roster, Buck handles the 25 man active roster, and who is on the 25 man roster is sometimes a delicate negotiation between the two.  Both are known to seek out Angelos to get their ideas through over the other's objections.  Brady, a tight friend of the Angelos family, is the floating head in this operation.  He keeps his nose clean by dedicating himself for player betterment on the field, but those actions sometimes counter what Duquette or Buck want.  He extreme avoidance about discussing managing or being a general manager appears to keep him away from their disdain.

That said, this creates an uncomfortable situation where a person between worlds exists.  In the contentious world of baseball where ownership and management routinely exploits and undermines players, concern is understandable.  However, the ability to communicate between all levels of the organization is also quite advantageous.

Lets compare two organizations and how they communicate applied analytics.  For the Pirates, it is a family affair.  No lines are drawn in information sharing.  Analysts in the front office are fully incorporated into the organization.  You will find them in the clubhouse, in Spring Training, really almost anywhere.  Analyst and player can have a discussion that can be mutually beneficial because players can experience things analysts cannot see with their data and vice versa. 

How does information routinely travel in the Orioles' system?  An analyst may come up with an idea about how to position, let's say, Adam Jones.  Analyst presents this to the head analyst.  Head analyst presents this to an assistant GM, assistant GM presents this to GM, this assistant GM or someone else presents this to the division lead (i.e., Buck), lead discusses this with staff, and then staff works with player.  Sometimes this line varies, but I am not aware of a single time where a base level analyst communicated directly with a player.  This siloed atmosphere makes it incredibly difficult share information that can make players and analysts better at what they do.  Chiti and Wallace feeling undermined may be an example where they feel hierarchy was undermined.

Which begs the question of how Brady, a disrupting force who appears to want to undermine existing power structures, will be used in the future.  Dan Duquette seems to be a proponent of information sharing, but maintains a silo structure under his domain.  Buck Showalter is a great advocate for silos.  Brady is a bit of an odd duck.  If he gains control will he bring with him an open atmosphere of interaction or does he see himself as a great man, a great communicator who alone can bridge gaps?

That is really the positive read.  The negative read?  Brady ignores all convention including convention that is in place for good reason.  He breaks down controls that protect players from the meddling of management.  Wieters comments may be less about Brady himself and more about how Brady's presence undermines the protection the players have won from individuals who may have had more nefarious goals than Brady has (or yet has shown).  There is also concern that the expedience of communication for Brady creates instability for coaches and a situation where sides form.  Team chemistry may still be scoffed at by some, but a toxic work environment is a toxic work environment.

Teddy Roosevelt had to deal with similar issues.  His progressivism had him modernize the Navy, get the Panama Canal built, and firmly established an American sense of environmental conservatism.  His head first mentality led him to great heights and great success.  However, it is also what led to his downfall and a broken back end of his public career.  Brady is still closer to the beginning of Roosevelt's tale.  Brady is running back and forth, shooting at enemy combatants in Cuba trying to surrender these past five years as the Orioles have the most total wins in the American League.  I guess the question is, will Brady make the world believe in Baltimore exceptionalism?


Anonymous said...

Roosevelt roided!

Roger said...

It's important to have a (positive) disruptive influence so that an organization doesn't stagnate. The Orioles seem to be the type of organization that could easily get into a rut (possibly already is) of doing the same thing every year over and over. This may produce many average or slightly above average teams, which is what we seem to be getting. There has to be someone to give the organization a little edge - thinking outside the box - to put it over the top whether it be in player evaluation, training, or usage. Hope Brady can really be that edge.