Spiegel: Sox go modern in the front office
The Chicago White Sox' front-office infrastructure has been desperately in need of reformation for years. Rick Hahn took a further step in that direction this week.
Promoted upward (with final say removed) was Doug Laumann, now a Senior Advisor to Scouting Operations. His successor as scouting director is Nick Hostetler.
Hostetler's roots are in the Braves organization, where he learned the methodology that built a 90s juggernaut. While there he also worked closely with Dayton Moore, now the man in charge of the Kansas City Royals.
The blog Future Sox got some good stuff from the new guy in charge of stocking the system.
Hostetler values analytics, especially when they prove something that had been just a hunch. "I believe we should incorporate them more and more with what our eyes see." While of course valuing the "best player available," he admits a past proclivity for high school players, an area where the Sox have not had success. He uses social media discreetly to keep up with college rotations, and to check out potential personality issues of prospective picks.
I've been clamoring for the Sox to steal good young minds from other organizations. Hostetler appears to be an inside promotion who has learned valuable lessons from the outside.
Here's hoping Hahn keeps turning that front office over, as much as he's allowed.
On the show this week, we discussed the possible landing spots for exiting Tigers' baseball president Dave Dombrowski, and the Sox of course came up. The idea was rightly dismissed as simply not plausible. That's Kenny Williams' job. Plus, after years of an open Detroit checkbook it's hard to imagine Dombrowski not taking more cash-rich opportunities like Toronto, Anaheim, or Boston.
In sharing Dombrowski's local past, White Sox fans of a certain age were horrified to find out just how damaging Hawk Harrelson's one year tenure as a Sox executive was.
Born in Oak Lawn, Dombrowski was a student at Western Michigan University when he cold-called then Sox GM Roland Hemond in 1977.
Dombrowski got some answers for a class paper, and then decided to chase his dream of working in the game. Following Hemond's suggestion, he showed up on his own dime to the Winter Meetings in Honolulu in 1978, and then badgered Hemond into a low-paying assistant role.
By 1985, when Hawk took over as vice president of baseball operations, Dombrowski had risen to become the assistant GM.
Hemond had his power reduced, and soon left to work for the league commissioner's office. In June of '86, Hawk fired Dombrowski over their differences in the handling of young players. One week later, he fired the manager, future Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa and his now legendary pitching-coach sidekick, Dave Duncan.
Hawk wanted former players in positions of power. Among his hires was Alvin Dark, brought in to be in charge of the farm system even though he'd never been anything but a manager in a career spanning from 1961 to 1977.
In fact, Dark had been fired as Oakland A's manager in 1967, leading to criticism from one of his players: Ken Harrelson. Hawk was let go angrily by A's owner Charlie Finley, and ended up as the target of a bidding war that sent him to the eventual AL champion Boston Red Sox.
Oh, by the way, GM Hawk also traded a young prospect named Bobby Bonilla to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose DeLeon.
Valuing decision-makers with playing experience over educated research. Unfailing loyalty. The removal of any sort of differing voices. Rash displays of power. These are the hallmarks of the Harrelson era as GM. They fit things you've heard from the booth.
They're traits the organization as a whole should be getting away from.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The Spiegel & Goff Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.