March 5, 2013
Life on the Inside
At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where an overwhelming majority of the attendees come out on the same side of the more typical intellectual divides, a less apparent divide took shape over the course of two days.
Just how much could these people loaded with ideas share?
For many, the divide was difficult to navigate. To some raised in front offices or relishing a relatively new life on the inside, it was tossing aside past transparency in favor of a secrecy-filled present. To others, it was a blurrier line, as the rapidly growing group of part-time consultants to teams had to distinguish between the parts of their rapidly expanding knowledge base that could be shared and the parts that could not.
To a writer, a (borderline) professional who makes a (borderline) living on information exchange, it was frustrating but completely understandable. At a conference that celebrates the new ideas in sports, new ideas could be really hard to come by if you didn’t know where to look.
This isn’t a knock on the Sloan Conference, which remains an invaluable setting for breeding culture within front offices. It’s an explanation of perhaps the greatest challenge facing the conference and others like it, including next weekend’s SABR Analytics in Phoenix. The Sloan conference just happened to be the setting where it became apparent that the idea exchange isn’t so free in the current system of hoarding analytical talent in-house.
This was expressed best on the baseball panel, which featured one-time public analyst-turned-insider, Voros McCracken, Grantland’s Jonah Keri, NBC’s Joe Posnanski, Oakland Athletics director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, and Ben Jedlovec of Baseball Info Solutions. The panel described the state of baseball knowledge as a race among teams to snap up the best baseball minds on the internet. Our site has recently lost Mike Fast, Kevin Goldstein, and Dan Turkenkopf, three top minds in analytics and talent evaluation, to baseball teams in a process not unique to BP.