Deep thoughts at 30,000 feet – Josh Rawitch
To date, this blog has been used mainly to post lineups, interesting notes, historical facts or inside perspectives on the front office. And while it’s starting to get more comments and hopefully a larger following, like many blogs, one of its goals is to provoke thought.
Fortunately, I’m not a big fan of Constantine or The Island, which was what was being shown on the plane back from Pittsburgh. So, once my laptop died and my iPod battery died, I went back to reading a book I started on the last road trip called The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. In a nutshell, the book covers how technology, outsourcing, and the last 10 years of innovations have brought the entire world together like never before. Seems like an obvious theme, but his explanations and research are fascinating.
It got me thinking about whether or not baseball would eventually be affected by this so-called "flattening of the world" and it was then that I realized that we were actually way ahead of the rest of the world in that regard. Campo Las Palmas, the Dodgers’ Dominican Academy that opened 20 years ago, was just one example of baseball "outsourcing." That is, we found that it was less expensive and more efficient to search for talent in the Dominican Republic and Mexico and Venezuela and Puerto Rico — even Japan — than it was at home, so we began searching there and soon after, every team followed suit. This was not much unlike GE’s forays into India in the early 90s that Friedman explains have resulted in the outsourcing we see today in the business world.
But what’s funny is that baseball is always charged with being run by an old boys network that doesn’t want to change their ways. Many new baseball theorists have found it hard to break baseball of old traditions and yet, it seems to me that baseball is always at the forefront of new technologies. Take MLB.com for example. While every other league was trying to figure out how to streamline its web efforts, MLB was creating what we see today – an incredible resource of information, statistics, multimedia and even blogging for that matter. And long before web sites were commonplace, when "Internet" was still a word most people couldn’t fathom, the Dodgers had a web site that was winning awards left and right.
Or how about Kim Ng, our assistant general manager? There are plenty of other sports that have yet to figure out that women are just as capable of running a team as men are.
Yet somehow, there’s this belief that baseball is stuck in the past. So, on the eve of the single biggest thing baseball ever did for America, I deem those charges laughable. Fifty-nine years ago tomorrow (Saturday), the Dodgers put an African-American player on the field and the country changed forever. It was not the old boys network that was behind on the times…it was America that was following the lead of Branch Rickey.
On Saturday, we’ll honor the memory of Jackie Robinson at Dodger Stadium and hopefully we’ll have more than 50,000 fans on site to truly take a moment and reflect on what baseball has meant for America. Friedman could be right: the world may be flat, but a baseball is still round and the thoughts it can provoke are truly never-ending.