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Down Browns Bring on Baseball Guru to Solve Gridiron Problems

The forlorn Cleveland Browns hired New York Mets chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta hoping that the baseball analytics guru can provide the same magic he brought to the 2015 National League champions.

DePodesta made a name for himself with the Oakland A’s early in the last decade as chief lieutenant to General Manager Billy Bean. Deploying data analytics, he and Bean acquired a number of inexpensive, under-the-radar players who kept their budget low but helped produce a mind boggling 103-59 record.

The Oakland’s storied season was captured in a book and later a film Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. 

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam described DePodesta as an “extremely talented, highly respected sports executive.” He added, “His approach and ambition to find the best pathways for organizational success transcend one specific sport and his experience as a high-level sports executive make him a terrific addition to the Cleveland Browns.”

Time will tell if Depodesta can reproduce the success he had in Major League Baseball in the NFL. His first chore will be to find a replacement for head coach Mike Pettine and probably a quarterback. Disputed reports allege former Heisman Trophy quarterback and franchise-player hopeful Johnny Manziel engaged in day-drinking, took a trip to Vegas, and missed a medical meeting after sitting out the last game of the season due to a concussion.

Turning the Browns from 3-13 to a play-off contender will be tough and DePodesta hasn’t always had the Midas touch.

The Los Angeles Dodgers hired the Harvard graduate at the age of 31 as general manager after owner Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers from Fox Corporation. In his debut season in 2004, the Dodgers won the West. But during the next season a series of trades that sent Paul Lo Duca to the Marlins and Shawn Green to the Diamondbacks, and failing to sign free agent Adrian Beltry, depleted the Dodgers, resulting in a miserable (71-79) 2005 campaign. According to MLB.com it proved to be the club’s second-worst mark since it moved to Los Angeles in 1958. That and finishing fourth in their division prompted McCourt to fire the young executive.

Of course, his stint with the Mets is a happier story for DePodesta. ESPN reported fond remarks by Mets GM Sandy Alderson: “Paul completely reorganized the Mets; scouting and player-development functions and had an extraordinary impact in both areas, but he was also very directly involved in our trade and free-agent acquisitions.”

Alderson added, “His commitment to excellence and his passion for innovation will be missed by the Mets and all of baseball. I wish him well with the Browns.”

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