Browns Go Baseball with Paul DePodesta Hiring

Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the dedicated fans of the Dawg Pound haven’t had much to celebrate. Years of management and roster overhauls created a tumultuous situation that resulted in mostly sub-.500 records and inconsistency across the board.

This season saw another failed year in the always competitive AFC North where the struggling club must contend with the often-powerhouse Bengals, Ravens and Steelers six times a season. The year resulted in another below .500 record, and the ouster of head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer almost immediately after the team’s loss to the Steelers on the final week. And just like that, the Browns and the Cleveland faithful were back to square one to start off 2016.

This time around, the Browns went outside the box, some would say extremely outside of it, with the hiring of baseball veteran and Moneyball originator Paul DePodesta as the team’s new chief strategy officer. DePodesta is known for helping usher baseball into the analytics era. Earning a name for himself in Cleveland, Paul joined the Oakland A’s front office in 1999, where he took his analytical focus to great success. After Oakland, Paul spent almost two years as the general manager of the L.A. Dodgers before moving to San Diego and then to the New York Mets.

The move to bring DePodesta to an entirely different sport certainly brought on some laughs, but the hiring could prove to be an excellent signing for owner Jimmy Haslam and the sluggish Browns. If you haven’t read Monday Morning Quarterbacks profile on Paul’s hiring, I recommend you do so now. The first thing that should be mentioned is that not only does Paul carry a storied football career that took him to Harvard as a wide receiver, he also thrives on challenges. He is a thinker that wants to challenge himself to improve, and in doing so, improve those around him. If Cleveland was searching for a brain trust to oversee strategy, they scored a touchdown with this hiring.

Beyond his familiarity with the sport, football is moving towards a data-focused game. Between player safety and more teams placing an emphasis on a Moneyball style of its own, the Browns could be the first club to really place a cultural emphasis on stats across the organization. If Paul can bring the same success he helped usher in with the Cleveland Indians, he may end up being the second coming of LeBron James to the beleaguered city, as exaggerated as that may sound.

And sure, it could go down as another failed move from the club, but it’s worth a shot. Now with coach Hue Jackson in place–a hiring that some think could cause a clash between DePodesta’s new ideas and Jackson’s traditional approach to the game–Cleveland can begin to focus on the future. There’s still a lot of work the franchise needs to improve, but this could be the about face it needs. If Paul and Hue can deliver, and the club practices some patience, the AFC North may just become even more competitive in the coming seasons.

A Brief Look at Baseball in New York City

New York Giants 1913 (Wikipedia)

New York Giants 1913 (Wikipedia)

As one of the owners of the New York Yankees, I feel honored to be part of New York City’s longstanding history of bringing baseball to the city. With the Yankees and Mets both starting the season off hot, New Yorkers of both fandoms have something to root for this year. Then again, even during their worst moments both teams have their faithful fans to make sure they are there when their team turns it back around. No matter the season, New York has a deep history with baseball.

Even though New York is home to multiple high caliber franchises from every sport, it can be argued that the city remains a baseball one at heart. Since its first game in 1858, pitting the Brooklyn all-stars against the Manhattan all-stars, the city has fallen in love with taking in games across the five boroughs. Baseball fans are sure to recall some of the major clubs that helped create the city’s legacy. Clubs like the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants not only brought history to the game, but also brought it to the city.

Jackie Robinson, 1950 (Wikipedia)

Jackie Robinson, 1950 (Wikipedia)

With players like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays suiting up in New York, the city housed amazing talent with history-making players. While the two clubs departed for the west coast in 1957, the city fondly remembers these organizations to this day. If you get the opportunity, speak with an older fan from New York. Get them to discuss the era where the Dodgers and Giants were in town and you’re sure to hear some legendary tales. Some may still hurt for them moving, but you’re sure to hear some legendary tales as well.

Then, 1962 saw the Mets come to Queens and fill the void. By 1969, the Miracle Mets made history like their rivals in the Bronx.

Outside the Dodgers and Giants, New York was also a significant destination for the Negro leagues, the National Colored Base Ball League. In fact, the city supported the first Negro baseball league game back in 1859.

Currently, Major League Baseball’s headquarters are located in Manhattan–a symbol that baseball and New York are deeply connected.

Today, baseball is still alive in the city. You may not be able to find lots filled with kids playing pickup games as easily as you used to, but the game is still being played by kids of all ages. From the minor league teams through the five boroughs to children donning their school’s jerseys in the spring, New York’s passion with baseball doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.