Love them or hate them, the New York Yankees are one of the most iconic teams in major league baseball. But some of the most important jobs within the franchise are done somewhat under the radar. Take Billy Eppler, assistant general manager of player personnel. He manages the team's talent scouts.
Eppler worked his way up the organization, starting with the Yankees as a talent scout himself back in 2006. It's an experience that he deems crucial to his leadership abilities now, since, amid all the fanfare, scouting is a pretty thankless job. He talks to Fortune about the one thing that hasn't changed since the good old days of scouting and why texting with minor league hitting coaches is often the best part of his job.
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Fortune: There's this image of baseball scouts as lone guys driving around rural America, wearing fedoras. But what is modern scouting like?
Billy Eppler: There isn't that one guy who you could make the Hollywood movie out of. Nowadays, there's so much information, it's more about managing that information. It's really never one person making the call; it's always a mixture of opinions.
We look at it similar to different methods of evaluating equity in a company. The quantitative analysis in baseball might be more in line with the technical analysis that's used on Wall Street. It focuses on the actual performance of the player. But you also need to know how to use some of the more subjective aspects like body, speed, strength, and age. Both areas are extremely valuable for developing the overall picture.
Is there any part of scouting that hasn't changed?
The human element. You cannot predict how a player will perform when he's put in New York -- the amount of attention that's given to professional sports is pretty extensive. Some fly through it, it pushes them. Others don't like being in the spotlight all the time, but you really never know that until they're here. That's the difficult part, and it hasn't changed.
Major League Baseball's commissioner on the Mets and Madoff, Pete Rose, and labor problems in other leagues.
Interview by David A. Kaplan, contributor
FORTUNE -- Opening day is upon us, and with it the dreams of summer. Allan H. "Bud" Selig, 76, can't wait. He's been commissioner of baseball for 19 years, and he still rejoices in the rites of that first pitch. He's also pretty happy with the state of Major MOREApr 1, 2011 5:00 AM ET
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