Another Reason to Major in Economics


Texas Rangers owner Thomas O. Hicks announced on Tuesday that John Hart has resigned as executive vice president/general manager to become senior advisor/baseball operations and that assistant general manager Jon Daniels has been promoted to general manager.

Daniels, who becomes the youngest general manager in Major League Baseball history at 28 years, 41 days, becomes the eighth general manager in club history. He joined the Texas organization in 2002 as a baseball operations assistant before being promoted to director of baseball operations in October of 2003 and then again to assistant general manager in July of 2004.

A 1999 graduate of Cornell University in upstate New York, he earned his degree in applied economics and management. He is a native of New York City.

I get about one e-mail a week from high school and college students wanting advice on what to study in order to work in baseball. First, I plead ignorance, since I’ve never worked for a sports team. However, I did work for The Charlotte Observer sports pages in high school…recording high school football scores. Yes, I should plead ignorance. But then I offer some course suggestions such as statistics, logic and critical thinking (philosophy), and a few economics courses.

From now on, I’m going to be less timid: If you want to work in baseball, major in economics. Here’s a list of people working in baseball whom I know studied economics: Bill James, Paul DePodesta, Farhan Zaidi (PhD), Voros McCracken, and now Jon Daniels. The trend is quite clear. Economics certainly isn’t necessary, but it’s clear that people familiar with the economic way of thinking—maybe because they think that way naturally—are getting good jobs in baseball. Of course, there’s no substitute for making contacts within baseball, but I’m just offering course advice here.

As to the question about Mr. Daniels’s young age, it really isn’t all that surprising. Good thinkers are intelligent both young and old. All else being equal, I’d prefer the experience that comes with age; however, in this case, I suspect all is not equal. It’s quite common for successful people to begin their success at an early age. See Bill Gates, for example. I expect big things from Daniels, and I wish him the best of luck. Don’t let the nattering nabobs of negativism in “The Club” get to you.

Addendum: An alternative to majoring in economics: Thanks to David Pinto.

2 Responses “Another Reason to Major in Economics”

  1. Tom says:

    Funny you should mention the age/experience/talent relationships. I teach HR Mgmt. As I read Moneyball, I kept thinking: This is exactly what goes on in employee selection. We have 90 years of data showing that cognitive ability is one of the best predictors of job performance across jobs. Years of experience is a pretty weak predictor. But companies want experience and rarely test for cognitive ability. So, you’re right, talent/ability is pretty consistent across age and can be spotted at early ages with the right tools. I made an initial attempt to estimate the premium that companies pay for experience. The paper (Applying Moneyball to the HRM function) can be found at my website. Comments welcomed.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the link to my site there. I’ll keep you updated as to how it works out for me :-) It’s funny, I almost emailed you last night looking for tips or suggestions (as I did with David). Baseball Musings, Sabernomics, and the Sports Economist are three somewhat similar sites that I feel like I’m blatantly ripping off with my own website. So any tips that you guys or your readers could give me would be welcome and wholeheartedly accepted.

    Thanks again for the link,