When asked about his young executives' slight baseball résumés, Mr. Sternberg makes no apologies and draws a comparison to his days as a trader. "On Wall Street, you want younger, hungry people out there," he said, going so far as to claim that Mr. Friedman's inexperience may even be an advantage. "If people feel there is a trade to be made, they will find your number in a hurry and they would probably rather call Andrew as opposed to John Schuerholz," he said, invoking the name of the veteran general manager of the Atlanta Braves, "so it may create opportunity."
Such valuation discrepancies also inform Mr. Friedman's approach to trading players. "I am purely market driven," he said. "I love players I think that I can get for less than they are worth. It's positive arbitrage, the valuation asymmetry in the game." As an example, he cites the young pitcher he desperately covets. He likes the pitcher not so much for his stats and scouting reports, which do have their allure, but because the other team does not appreciate his true worth.
FOR all this talk of mark-to-market and positive arbitrage, there are some people in the Devil Rays organization who believe that there are simpler ways to assess baseball talent. Sitting in the dugout on a cool spring evening, Don Zimmer, 75, a senior coach for the team who is starting his 57th consecutive year in baseball as a player, coach or manager, is one such man.
With his watery blue eyes and bulging red cheeks, he is the very picture of old-school baseball thinking, and he has little use for computers, economic models or other modern appurtenances. "When I watch a pitcher, I know if he is slow to the plate or not," Zimmer said. "I don't need no stopwatch."