Los Angeles Dodgers – 2015

Early in the year, I applied for a position labeled “Senior Developer” for the Dodgers. The job description talked about front-end web work. I applied, although my strength was more in the back end.

And forgot about it.

Several months later, somebody working for the Dodgers analysis contacted me:

My name is *REDACTED* with the Los Angeles Dodgers Research & Development department. I am following up with you regarding your application for the Senior Developer position that we currently have open. We have looked over your application and would like to arrange a preliminary interview via Skype sometime next week.

Could you let me know dates and times of day when it would work for you to schedule this interview, hopefully this week or early next week? Most afternoons are good for me PST; I will follow up with you and confirm slot and Skype details later once we have a set time.

Be prepared to discuss your pertinent technical experience, background in baseball, and what you can bring to the Dodgers front office.

I look forward to speaking with you,

Coming off of my interview process with the Kansas City Royals a few months earlier, I was stoked, although my enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that I would probably have to move my family back to California. So we set something up.

I surrounded my interview area with baseball encyclopedias, Bill James abstracts, and drink cups from my big stadium tour trip of 1994. I was ready to talk.

The interview lasted 10 minutes. I think that they were disappointed by both lack of web front-end technology and lack of work with another baseball team.

Oh, well. I did write a letter back to the person:

Thanks for talking with me yesterday. I just had some thoughts about the position I would like to share with you after thinking about our talk yesterday.

I get the impression right now is that with no developers, there is a lot of data sitting around in different places and different accounts, with no unifying structure, no data normalization, and of course, no front end to access it all. I could be wrong about that, but that certainly seems to be what is happening here. You probably have Game Day, Stat Cast, and Pitch FX data piling up every day, and you almost certainly have proprietary data being generated by your analysts, 3rd parties you have hired, and your scouting staff.

Some of the problems with this kind of system:

  • Matching one player in one system to the same player in another system is non-trivial. Most vendors probably use player IDs from MLB, but not all do.
  • Adding data for new players entering the system (new players drafted/coming up/signed) means coming up with new playerr IDs, bios, etc.
  • Automation for populating such a system does not exist.
  • Any time data in the system needs updating somebody has to go update some data by hand. This could be as crude as editing an Excel spreadsheet.
  • There is no agreed upon standard for how reports should look, or how you search for things
  • There is no way to see data from disparate sources for the same player or set of players.

If I am right, then what you really need is an architect of your entire data system. This person would be in charge of the whole system. They would be responsible for:

  • Develop an automated system for acquiring data real time.
  • Develop a storage system and unified schema for all of the data sources.
  • Develop a front end design for how data is presented and searched.
  • Develop a front end implementation for the design for whatever end-user systems are necessary.

This person would either do the work or hire 2-3 people to help out. I assert that I can be that architect/project lead/software development manager. I think you need that overall strategic person more that you need a front-end developer right now.

I know that this is a strong statement, but I don’t feel that I adequately expressed myself yesterday.

Whatever you decided to do and however you do decide to proceed, I wish you and the Dodgers luck, even if you don’t decide to move forward with me.

Thanks.

No surprise that I never heard back. The Dodgers seem to be doing OK without me; they appeared in five straight post-seasons since this interview so far…

 

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