Ben Reiter Over the Edge with the Houston Astros (Capital Allocators, EP.166)

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Today show is sponsored by backstop solutions. A leading investment management and multi asset class research sweet that helps institutional investors operate more efficiently recently backstopped. The third party study of how allocators are spending their time and how to make better use of it. Request your copy of the report by contacting the backstop solutions team today. At backstop solutions dot com. Hello i'm ted saudis and this is capital allocators. This show is an open exploration of the people and process behind capital allocation through conversations with the leaders. In the money game we learn how these holders of the keys to the kingdom allocate their time and their capital. You can keep up to date by. Visiting capitol allocators podcasts. Dot com my guest on. Today's show is ben brighter. Longtime sports illustrated columnist author of the new york times bestseller astro ball and host and producer of the edge. A documentary podcast about the scandal that tarnished the houston astros. Join me on the show. Two years ago to discuss astra ball which chronicled the astros rise from cellar dweller two world series champion in the three years after he predicted it would happen on the cover of sports illustrated what happened. After was a shock to his system and his podcast is his post mortem team and on his work. Our conversation discusses what happened benz assessment of the team and his book and his conclusions in the end. Ben found that the astros story is about much more than baseball. It's about power money. Culture and accountability about a modern world where everyone is seeking an edge and about who ultimately benefits from that world. It sure sounds familiar to our world of investing conversation. Peaks your interest. I strongly recommend having listened to his podcast. The edge teddy show is sponsored by connections. I connection software platform seamlessly connects managers and allocators for virtual meetings giving managers the ability to subscribe and share information with allocators who can efficiently select and beat managers all on one platform the scalable technology powering. I- connections can be used purpose spoke events by managers allocators and service providers visit connections dot. I o. to learn more. Today's show is sponsored by catalyst. The leading destination for public company data and models in my brief time is a buy side analyst. A while back the software available at best delivered simplistic financials with pat data. Kennels platform has exactly what you would want doesn't analyst detailed company specific models over four thousand equities with clean data appropriate adjustments and relevant. Kpi's for each company informed by their small army of analysts. If you're not already user. I strongly suggest you give can to try at Dot com slash test. that's countless with seek. Please enjoy my conversation with ben writer then great to see you. Thanks for having me back. Ted. yeah. I was looking back. In the last time we recorded on the podcast. It was august. The two thousand eighteen astra bald probably just hit the bestseller lists and things were riding high show. Why don't we dive into what happened. Things have changed a little bit since august of two thousand eighteen ted. I would argue that. The astros remain a model organization right an organization that we can learn from but now we can learn a lot of different things besides how to turn the laughing stock of sports into a champion. In a few short years we can learn about some of the pitfalls that sets organizations might encounter along the way for people who haven't followed this story essentially last fall exactly a year ago. The athletic came out with a story revealing that the astros two thousand seventeen championship had been underpinned by cheating by science stealing specifically they had players watching a video feed behind the dugout and cracking the opposing catcher signed. Which are the finger sequences. He uses to tell the pitcher what pitch to throw on any given delivery and transmitting that information to hitters at the plate by the very new school high tech method of banging on a trash can so this obviously undercut in a significant way. All that i written about the astros and undercut the astros story of success and it made me immediately feel a deep responsibility to go back into the story and to get to the bottom of it to understand how this cheating scheme this sign stealing scheme played into this broader story of innovation and embracing of technology and success that i had told so i very quickly dove back into story. I thought i was done with and spent most of twenty twenty making my podcast. The edge to really approach the story from many different angles. As you've heard it you've listened to it. What was your initial response. When first heard about this last fall there are two parts to it. I i was blindsided by this news as somebody had spent so much of my career stretching back even before. I wrote my book. You know. I've been with the story since two thousand fourteen when i was with sports illustrated and went down to houston an embedded with the front office for a while to just look into why. This team was so terrible at the time and if they had any plans to get better so it spent so much time on this story that i was hit by a ton of bricks. This happened right. I was probably more surprised than many people. But also not entirely shocked if that makes sense if you can add those two together because when i started reading about what they had reportedly done and i started thinking about the astros program and the people who ran the organization this was an organization that was entirely devoted to finding an edge in everything that it did in embracing whatever competitive advantages. They could find whether it was in drafting players whether it was in trading for players whether it was in training players whether it was an onfield strategies every single thing they pushed to the extreme sign stealing something. That's been going on in baseball forever. It's not actually illegal to steal signs. It's legal to use technology to steal signs. But the first recorded instance of science stealing was in eighteen. Seventy six so. I started to think. Is this part of the astros program. Do they take this age old baseball tradition and as they did with so many other things weaponize it but in this case did they go too far so that was kind of the framework through which i started thinking about this story right away investigating it. The framing of your podcast. Which i just loved started with this one. Pitcher sort of major league pitcher whose career may have been derailed by that cheating right mike bowl singer. How did you go about coming to frame it that way. Believe it or not. Mike bolsinger was like the first guy i wanted to talk to about this story. It came out that he had been severely impacted by this probably in late january so the moment i read about who he was and what happened to his career. I knew that have to talk to this guy for one big reason and a lot of ways people were looking at this. As almost a victimless crime. Riots like everybody does it. Yeah maybe the dodgers or negatively impacted by it. But you know. It's just part of the game. But mike bolsinger was this borderline columnist quadruple pitcher in baseball terms. Meaning that he's probably too good for aaa probably not gonna have a tough time hanging in the major leagues. He was hanging on by his finger nails and in august of twenty seventeen he runs into the astros and they absolutely him they blow 'em up right. He comes in in the middle of a game. That stores already ahead. He's a pitcher for the blue jays and he gives up like four runs gets worn out. Hit after hit walk after walk goes back to the dugout goes into the clubhouse is sent down to the minor. Leagues never pitches in the major leagues. Again after this right has to go to japan for a couple of years now. He's kind of out there. As a free agent turned out after people studied the exact pattern of the astros sign stealing. He had face them on the night of its peak. Like they'd banged on their trash can more times on that night then against anybody else so this puts a human face on this story and this is not a guy i mean. Maybe they would have been him up anyway right. Maybe he's career was gonna come to an end no matter what but he didn't get the chance to find out fairly so he was a guy knew. I really wanted to start with to put a human face on this crime and to kind of show the emotional stakes the goal on with sometimes almost the slapstick elements of it. When you're talking about trash cans and things like that and as you walk through these interviews what did you find as you went through the ranks of who is involved in the managers the general manager and the ownership the big part of my mission. Ted was to find out or determine. Who's to blame for this. The commissioner's report. Commissioner rob manfred issued a nine page report in of twenty twenty in which he largely pinned the blame on the general manager of the team. Kind of the visionary architect of this whole program whose name is jeff luneau and also the manager. aj hinch. this was the clear. Take away from the commissioner's report. These are the two guys who were suspended for a year. The players even though it was characterizes a player driven scheme there were given immunity in exchange for testifying so they were not punished at all the commissioner in the very first paragraph actually which stuck out like a red thumb to me the very first paragraph of this nine page report completely absolved the owner of the team. Jim crane from any responsibility or accountability. Whatsoever so i really wanted to take my time and go into this and figure out who is to blame and is it really. Just jeff lunar. Aj hinch does it go broader than this within the organization. Does it go broader than this within major league baseball. That was a big motivation of mine to figure out exactly why this happened and who deserves accountability for it and as you dove into this who was willing to talk to you and who wasn't this story it's still very fraught right now even as we're talking and i you know i worked on this podcast or eight or nine months. There's a lot of people who are very motivated not to talk of headed to move on with their careers. I imagine that a lot of them are being gagged for lack of a better word by the powers that be you know. It's obviously major league baseball once. Not talk about this. But i didn't want to allow that. I think it's important to shine sunlight on what's happening in this scandal. And on the power structures that exist in a major industry like major league baseball so hard to get the players to talk the astros players. I did get opposing players to talk about several of them. I did get after a lot of trying. Jeff luneau the general manager of the team to talk. You're not talk to anybody for nine months. After the story broke. I talked him for five and a half hours and what he says is very revealing. Yes so what did jeff say. Jeff is a very intelligent guy obviously. He came to baseball from mckenzie. He was a founder and silicon valley. He'd been baseball for sixteen years at this point but he's still viewed as an outsider in the industry right this very insular industry. And he's very convincing. Ted as you've heard because he listened to the series. He's very convincing about why he did not know this was happening. Is players hiding this from him. They're actually to sign stealing scheme. Going on at once one was happening. The video room one was happening among the players very convincing point by point why he did not know about any of these schemes but one question i ask him one question. I weigh very heavily in the series is should he have known like okay. You don't specifically know what they're doing isn't your responsibility to know to try to know how to ensure the compliance of your organization as far as following the rules. Those are two very different questions and major league baseball as i said did an extensive investigation into this even they can prove that jeff lunar new you know tens of thousands of emails and tax. They interviewed like dozens and dozens of witnesses. Many of whom probably didn't like jeff luna very much they could not prove that he definitively new. They think he did but they're not sure. But that's a different question to me. Almost the more important question is should he have known. As the general manager of the organization. There is this whole question of getting an edge and incentive schemes and what is crossing the line and what isn't and baseball you mentioned. I guess sign stealing was okay but using technology to steal signs wasn't how did this happen on this team where they crossed the line there. Many factors is almost a perfect storm of factors that led to this in the absence of any one. I think probably wouldn't have happened or would not have blown up in the way it did one. Is that sign stealing. Is this age old tradition in baseball in episode. Three kind of take you through the pretty hilarious. Actually history of things that people have tried to. do you know bob feller. The great indians pitcher went to world. War two you interrupted his career for three years to go on a ship in the pacific and he brought back this high powered telescope and he had it installed in centerfield in cleveland stadium and they would still catcher signs using this world. War two go. There's dozens and dozens of examples of this from across the games history. There's the torrent of new video technologies that is flooded into major league baseball clubhouses. Over the last decades there are really pretty lightly regulated. You're talking about high definition video you're talking about replay review systems. This is just like catnip to players especially the savvy players and the league didn't really put many rules on their us. So there is that. There was this specific makeup of the astros clubhouse in which one veteran in particular one coach in particular carlos beltran and alex cora had a lot of influence in there and in most ways that influence was exerted and really positive ways as far as mentoring helping the younger guys get through the season all that but in this way as far as leading them into this science doing thing it was a negative so there is that there is the fact that a lot of people didn't like the astros right. A lot of people wanted to see them taken down for reasons that in many ways we're deserve one of them is that they were a change agent. they were disruptor and their strategies worked and that really piss people off and the fifth is frankly the culture. I don't think you can overlook that this where iconoclasts were exceptional redo things differently. We're the astros. And i think that played into this activity as well and again. The question is where does that come from. Who's to blame for that culture. And i have an answer. That's different or at least more complicated than the one. That's popularly believed. And what's that answer. My answer is that it largely comes from the top. I talk a lot to jeff. Liu known this podcast and understand how some listeners would say that it's sympathetic to luneau. And i'm certainly interested in what he has to say and i believe what he has to say but i'm not absolving him for his role in this by any means but two things can be true. Jeff luneau can be responsible. He certainly takes responsibility on some level and he's served your suspension and he's probably blackballed from the game going forward. He's currently suing the astros for twenty two million dollars because they tore up his contract firing him for cause in relation to this. But i think there's other people as well. And i think that s get into in the very end of the series an organization's culture as we know is largely or significantly set from its top. And i think that the fact that the commissioner who mostly has actually employed by the owners of major league baseball the fact that the commissioner so obviously sought to absolve the owner of the team. Right off the bat for any responsibility on any level. That said something to me. It's almost like the commissioner protest too much on that so i dive into that in the podcast as well. Why do you think the commissioner did that. What are the incentives as the commissioner that would lead him to absolve the head of the organization. When something like this happens there are a few. I think he wants to limit the damage and luna says this pretty extensively you want to say these are the perpetrators and this has happened throughout baseball history right whenever there's a systemic problem one of the things explorers that sign stealing was not at all limited to the astros right. Nobody believes the team doing it. They might have been pushing it farther than anybody else but they weren't alone but if you can hold some public executions you can suggest. Hey we're taking this seriously. Also we've dealt with the problem. So i think that was part of it and also quite frankly a lot of people think of the commissioner as this almost like judge like figure presiding over the game looking out for the good of the sport all else like a steward. That's not what he is. I mean rob manfred even describe until his almost a ceo and the board members slash shareholders. If you will are the owners the owners of the one who hired him the owners of the ones who can fire him. The owners are the ones whose pockets. He's trying to fill increasingly more every year. So it's not an impartial. Judge at somebody who works for the guy or at least you know. This is one of thirty guys. He works for and it would be very very unusual for a commissioner to come down hard on an owner accept a really really really extreme circumstance and this one obviously didn't qualify so then when you take a step down from manfred down to ownership you did walk through the interesting history of the owner of the astros. Yes as we know houston has always been a hub of innovation. Elise start you know starting wildcatters through the space race technology hub now and that was the spirit in which the organization was founded by judge. Roy hof hines in the nineteen sixty is kind of larger than life. Character down there. He was a federal judge. He was the mayor he was a businessman. He was the one who conceived of the astrodome. Which was the first domed stadium in the history of the world. This was his vision. So i love that part of the show. Because i wanted to establish houston as this place where change happens. Change happens in sports. Change happens in all sorts of industries. The one thing the judge could never do though was win right like he had this great stadium. People loved it as exciting. Never wanna world series. That was left to a new innovator who came to town at the of two thousand eleven. Jim crane is the current owner of the astros. He made his fortune in shipping and logistics freight and logistics in the eighties. He started his company with a ten thousand dollar loan from his sister. And now he's a billionaire he's got a conglomerate he's a mogul he's a titan and in two thousand eleven after a pretty long approval process for some complicated reasons he became the owner of the astros. He bought them for about six hundred million dollars. Less than ten years later they're worth estimates between two billion two and a half billion so this is in many ways his greatest investment yet. Right a quadrupling. Your investment in under a decade is probably pretty good by any measure plus. He's been bringing in revenue every single year. I asked someone in the podcast. This is the biggest scandal in some measures in like baseball history or at least in recent decades in baseball you go back to the steroids era. Did this materially affect. Jim crane the owner of the team or the team. In any way he says no. He was fined five million dollars. Five million dollars right. That's the maximum fine then. Owner can receive in baseball. He lost a few draft picks but keeps. His ring keeps his players. Keeps the franchise valuations and the franchise. Valuation is really one of the least understood parts of like a sports owners. Play here because we look at yearly revenues which are cloudy to begin with because owners don't open their books. We know what all the players make. We don't know what the owners make but sports teams like never go down in valuation and people never want to sell them so the entire to that valuation goes to the owner. That's not shared with anybody else. Who helped create a wealth. I players don't get stock or equity in the franchises. They play for so. That's really the long term play here. In some ways year revenue would ever is almost inconsequential thomas secondary to owners. Who are looking at what they're going to get when they sell the asset she. You mentioned that claims approval process wasn't so smooth. Why was that the case. There are several reasons one is that he had tried several times before to buy major league teams and they need other owners approval to buy. It hadn't been pleased with how gone about it. He kind of gone behind people's backs and things like that. There are other issues too. He had the eeoc had a hundred page report some years earlier. Documenting discrimination within his companies hiring practices that were discriminating against minorities. There were discriminating against women. There is a manager at his company. Who had been sent to jail for war profiteering. There were some questionable things in his history. And look i get it. You're running a company of thousands and thousands of employees on something like that. You probably can't conceivably know what they're doing at all times but you also couldn't help but think about that pattern when the astros signed stealing thing happened right it's like yes once again. I'm the guy who benefits the most from this company. I'm the guy who owns it. But i'm also the guy who whenever something goes wrong and say i didn't know about that. I don't have any responsibility. Accountability for that does seem to be a pattern over the last bunch of years. You've had unfettered access to the astros in a way that very few journalists do and you wrote the story. i'm wondering as this played out and you dove back in. How did you think about what you might have missed. Why wouldn't say was unfettered the last several years first of all as want to be clear about what my access was in twenty fourteen. I did have really good almost unprecedented access in my understanding. At least since. Billy bean invited michael lewis into the as for moneyball. This is not something that teams do let. Journalists sit in on meetings talked whatever executives they want so back then it was as they got better and maybe needed like press less. It became tougher and tougher to get inside that already had a lot of relationships and sources and things so is less of an issue as far as the access the actually probably the better way to have access right which is not to have to have the door opened for you so that was really the nature of my access when the suing scheme came to light. Ted i got a lot of messages saying how could you not know about the trash can banging you were there. Some people said you knew about this and you were hiding it. You know things like that people can say whatever they want to understand why people are upset about it. I did not have that kind of access right. I was not in the dugout. I was not in the club house. Not in a position to hear the banging. They did this to one hundred pictures that year. Some of these guys guys. Twenty years of experience most of them didn't hear down the field etc. I did go back through my notes and my recordings spent a lotta time like try to see. If there's any threat. I might have pulled. That would have like unraveled. This sign stealing scheme and there really wasn't what i did think about was had. I missed something about the culture of the team. Or had i perhaps like underplayed a certain ruthlessness to their program to this drive for efficiency and success maybe above all other considerations in some ways to like the financial ization of baseball back in twenty fourteen. I concluded that. I probably had most of my reporting happened before thousand seventeen which is the year which the cheating happened. Now's a big part of my task. And my goal in this podcast was good to go back and look at you know what i think. I didn't see i didn't know to look for. I didn't quite understand all of the implications that this extreme modernizing of this organization might have. And i think when i look back at it now. The sign stealing scheme is a symptom of them. It's obviously not hard to draw a parallel in or world of investing and investment managers and rooting for them as a fan would or maybe in your case for journalists to do well. I'm curious in that period of time as you look back. Are there questions that you think. You could've asked that you might have had an instinct to ask. But didn't that might have pulled the thread to what ultimately ended up in crossing the line. I would think it's less about asking questions and more about framing the framework through. Which i'm looking at this story. There were some people at the time including evan drellich who was a houston chronicle reporter back in two thousand fourteen twenty fifteen beat writer for the astros ended up being one of the two reporters along with ken rosenthal. Who broke the sign stealing story and twenty nineteen. He was probably the biggest critic. The astros were doing turning people into numbers viewing players not as humans but as assets. Maybe he was onto something in some measure. Part of me says look. Baseball's always been a very brutal business right. Baseball's always been a business in which a player could lose his job in an instant. Just like mike bolinger did so. Wouldn't you rather if you were player know that there were like very strong analytical reasons. Here's the evidence why you're being sent down to the minors as opposed to the coach. Didn't like you or something like that the way it used to happen. There's something to be said for that right. And in some respect were all numbers like we all receive compensation or all valued like this valuation approach. To everything in baseball interrogating those a little with a little bit more critical. I at the time as something that i wish i had done. So let's say you look at it from today. What changes in the game. And how do you think differently about. I think very little has changed. I think people are going to be stealing signs in the same way. That's for sure. First of all nobody's gonna do with the astros did second all. The league has belatedly instituted. Some very significant rules like real regulations. About how you can use technology how you can't use technology but in a larger way this is the way the game has gone right. The astros were once at the vanguard as far as the valuation slash efficiency based approach to team building and running the organization. They're not really an outlier anymore. This is how everybody operates were stuck in this time between when we think of baseball as america's pastime like oh owners owned teams because they love ball and they love fresh cut grass. And all of that. That's just not how it is anymore. Baseball's a ten point seven billion dollar industry now as far as we know and now ownership is diversifying and all sorts of ways into cable networks and a lot of teams have property. Real estate plays surrounding the stadium. If you've been to wrigley feel that any time recently. You've certainly seen that in chicago. So this is a really big business. Run with modern cutting edge big business strategies across the sport. And maybe fans don't care ted right like the end of the day. Maybe they just care that they have a winning team on the field. They don't care what the owners doing. they don't care about how equitable the pay structure is or anything like that. But i think it's important that they know about it till you make that decision for themselves you're describing it as a pastime that's become a business driven by money and if you walk through what that means that money gets driven clearly what happened with the astros to the winning teams and so the question is what do you do to win. Well that's another problem with is that the money doesn't always get driven only to the winning teams. Winning is in baseball in particular less incentivized than you would think so. There's plenty of teams out there. Who don't seem to try to win very hard. They'll do anyway because of the revenue sharing structure because of just the fact that team valuations. Continue to go up and up and up. No matter what they do i mean. Look at the miami marlins sold for a couple years ago to the group that included derek. Jeter i forget exactly what was definitely in the mid one billions right for probably the worst franchise always there is so actually. I think it's a problem that winning is as broadly incentivized as you think so. What does that imply for the way the game has changed and in particular i think the most apparent from fan's perspective is the culmination of kind of infield shifts and home runs and strike outs. Which makes the game much less interesting to look at. But then when you compare it to other sports there are these evolved rules. I can basketball. You have the key and they moved back three point line and so at what point in time does major league baseball. Think about changing the rules to make the game better to watch as tyra something very smart on this stuff the other day and he pointed out that basil not the only sport fence currently being driven to be the most efficient perfect version of itself. It so happens that in some of the other sports like that actually results in a better entertainment product arguably right in the nba. It means is more run and gun. it's more threes. it's like a more open game. Same thing in the nfl. Really aided by some rule changes but it's kind of opened up offenses like high scoring is more exciting. The most perfect efficient based version of baseball means. Nothing happens essentially as you say. It's a lot of strikeouts hitters. Sell out to hit home runs. Fielder's shift so that went hitters. Don't hit home runs. They'll be in perfect position to catch the ball. Very little athleticism in a given game. So i don't know if it's just like the specific nature of baseball's rule set that results in this. But it certainly problem that the commissioner is going to have to address probably via rule changes very soon. But we've seen the so many times especially in baseball. There's always this like butterfly effect. They changed a rule. And then all these other things happen. That are probably not as good and not as anticipated so base is very traditional but it's traditional changing. Its rules for a reason because it knows if it changes one thing. All sorts of other negative results could happen. So yeah i do think especially 'cause at the end of the day it's an entertainment product. I do think. We'll see the commissioner trying to make some significant changes. Maybe it's to the strike zone. Maybe it's moving the mound back to get more offense in particular more action on the field sometime soon as you looked at the astros and thought about creating the story of this podcast there are plenty of examples of highly effective organizations. That then crossed the line. And you can think back in the financial world. Michael milkin did that. Some tape bernie. Madoff did that. What did you find in the culture that led the astros to doing that. It's many things just to sum it up. I'll say that the ethical backbone of the organization was not always apparent. Jeff luneau the general manager as we know took the fall and i talked to people and they said i've never ever thought of jeff is a cheater. He would never encourage the breaking of rules. He was kind of by the book. Guide certainly pushed the rules as far as they can go and find all search loopholes but he'd never break the rules but that's different from insisting and instilling a culture of rule following. It's actually quite different. When you think about it is guys would send him emails and there be little mentions on page five of things like this system and the dark arts and luna's defense and granted. These are like two emails. The league found that luna actually turned over to the league out of sixty thousand. And something like this was mentioned. in right. and leonard's defense is everybody knows that. I don't read past the first paragraph of emails. I didn't see these things. And if i had i wouldn't actually know that they were to rule breaking anyway and that could be true. I've talked to people who said i do not personally believe the jeff lunar knew that this was happening rally people within the organization. It's very hard to find somebody who says otherwise. But that doesn't mean that everybody knew we better follow the rules in this organization. Or we're gonna get in trouble just wasn't a priority and i think that was coming down from the top. I think that's coming from jeff. I think that was coming from. Jim crane it was not a priority of the organization. So i think that contributed to it. As i think there's just a general lack of oversight in the organization part of the reason the organization was so successful is hired very very smart people and put them these pretty low level. Pretty low paid jobs. And we're like you know you better produce here or you're out or you're not gonna move up is just a lot of pressure and i've come to learn this how it works. A lot of hedge fund certain hedge funds your year over year performance is all that matters. If you don't hit your number you're gone so these guys were incentivized to probably push the line a lot. Further and further and further every year and one thing i found was very interesting. Is that. there's this structure in baseball called playoff shares. Which had heard a little bit about is essentially like teams are compensated for going further in the playoffs again. Like you get a share of the gate receipts so in twenty seventeen. If you're the astros and you win the world series it was like four hundred and fifty thousand dollar bonus per player which is actually a lot of money. Even for a baseball player. Minimum salary guys would double their salary based on this plowshare but the players are also responsible for voting on who else got a cut of these pleasures which non-players and those could include people like the guys who worked in the video room who were helping the players out all year and these are guys who make fifty thousand dollars a year. Maybe ninety thousand dollars a year if you're a manager so if the players decide to vote you wanted these playoffs shares your salaries going from ninety thousand five hundred and fifty thousand right now. The players decision. So where are your incentives. Gonna lie like you're going to try to keep these players happy and give them any information. They want improve your worth them. Hoping you're going to get this enormous bonus at their whim. When i think about it when i think about like why did people in the organization do this. Why do these video room guys do this. That's frankly the best explanation. I came across follow the money. So you mentioned the hedge fund business and there have been some parallels for sure. The most recent crossover with baseball of course purchase of the mets. And you framed your last episode in and around. Steve cohen. what are your thoughts on that for. Some reason as thinking about steve cohen's story in relation to the story from the very beginning back in february back in march urine before it partially because they use the same terminology. Like this idea of edge. That's what the astros at always say. We're looking for ed looking for bleeding edge. Probably in part because a lot of them came from the financial world or at least the business world. And that's a steve. Cohen was looking for two. But then when you start diving into the way. The organization for structured the way accountability was distributed who face consequences for wrongdoing and who did not face consequences for wrongdoing onto the defensive. I didn't read the emails. Which if you follow the steve cohen story you know that was a big part of his defense at various points. The crossovers were just significant. The resonances were significant. And i thought that it showed how some of the problems that have affected. The finance industry have now crept into baseball from the beginning. Lo and behold the week that this episode comes out like eight months later is the week. That steve cohen does a welcomed celebrated press conference as the new owner of the mets. And somebody. who's gonna people are gonna gonna open up. His pocket books like he does for giacometti sculpture. Or something like that. But i didn't think it was interesting baseball having just gotten through this huge ethical scandal cleaned up the game. We've kicked jeff out for a year. We've kicked the manager out. We really care about ethics and then they turn around and they rush through the approval process. A guy who's had this sort of history on wall street and who by the way is now like the richest owner in baseball by a factor of three and got me thinking about which of those things actually matters more among other things so in the last decade or so. We've had this wave and baseball. We had the whole steroid scandal. Now we have this. Maybe the culture of major league baseball hasn't changed. And so as you look out. What do you think will be the next surprise the next edge. I think there's going to be a lot coming as far as health. Health is a big thing that teams have still not really cracked as far as especially at a key pitchers healthy if you wanna look at it from an asset perspective which. I don't really like doing anymore. And i think journalists should get away from that. How do you maintain this assets value over the course of your investment. So things like that. But frankly if i look ahead i think on a labor front baseball's in for a really rough time coming ahead because i think that players are just seeing things as less and less equitable. You see a season in which the ownership the commissioner really put the screws on the players during the covid seasons far as you know like salaries and how much we're gonna play months of back and forth losing all this money and like two months later. The mets are sold for two and a half billion dollars. If you're a player like wait a minute like this is actually what the industries valued at and yet suppressing salaries. You're firing employees. All replace your crying poor. I think that that might just be fuel on the fire of a labor battle. That's probably been coming for a while. Have been the last time. We close out the podcast. I had asked you finish this great bestseller. What's gonna be next and talked about stories. We certainly didn't expect we'd be talking about this again. So we are you focusing next. I'd just finish this thing last week if you can believe it. I was recording the final episode. The day before it dropped. I tunes apple podcasts. Wherever wherever you're podcasts. But i do think as you found ted. I think there's something about this medium that's really rich and really allows for kind of an emotional storytelling side. Certainly like to look for season. Two of the edge. I don't think it's going to be at the astros. I think this time. I might be done writing about the astros. But exploring these lines between cheating gamesmanship between ethical behavior and unethical behavior. Maybe in sports may be out of it. Those are certainly questions that i think about and really at the end of the day. It's about investigating. How power works in these industries like. That's really what the story is about. Who has the power. How does the power operate who doesn't have the power at the end of the day. That's how i saw the story and just to close out on the end of this story. You now have a bunch of people that have been treated quite differently as you said like clan the owner. Everything's fine luneau zada baseball. Aj hinch just got rehired. Beltran corre how have you thought through consequences. I won't say. Aj hinch is back as a manager of the tigers. Alex cora who was the ringleader along with beltran of this whole thing he was rehired as the manager of the red sox. And i've been wondering why a lot of people asking. Are you surprised by this. Not rice i all. They did pay real penalties for this being suspended for a full season as a significant penalty. No matter what and second of all there were kind of insiders there are ballplayers themselves. They're more part of the firmament of major league baseball there were very well liked their proven winners so yeah. It makes sense that they're back. Jeff luneau i think we'll have a tougher road while especially now that he's doing the astros for twenty two million dollars. That probably doesn't help his chances but he was always somebody who never quite shed his outsider status and a lot of ways. He embraced that he liked being that iconoclastic figure ruffling feathers changing things so i think that he'll have a harder time getting back but again he somebody who is so talented and so visionary and has so much experience in all sorts of fields. I wouldn't think you'd have trouble getting a job of some sort. Sometimes all right. Ben as you look back on this whole experience what have you learned that you wish you knew at the beginning a lot. I wish i don't wanna say ted. That always look twice at things. That seem to be too good to be true but i admit that i along with everybody else might have been a little caught up in this rise as exciting rise. The astros and we predicted on the cover. Sports illustrated in two thousand fourteen. This terrible team's gonna win the world series in twenty seventeen and they actually did and it was fun and what they did was new and it was like intoxicating in some ways and it wasn't all bs right like they did make a lot of really positive innovations in major league baseball and they are model organization that and they helped people to like. They helped a lot of players. Get the best out of themselves. Who might not have anywhere else. They brought a world series to a city that had been thirsting for for fifty six years so there are a lot of positives to this story but just always be more critical and always look under the hood especially when something seems like a fairytale because it usually isn't if you make it this far each week you're probably ready for the closing questions but wait. There's more if you sign up a premium membership. You can access our premium feet which includes an additional set of closing questions each week and removes all the ads from the show including this little pitch to subscribe hop onto the website to sign up. Thanks and let's get on with ben. I have a few new closing questions since you were last on the show so let me rip those off. What's your favorite hobby or activity outside of work and family and probably reading just all day long writing reporting product. Too much of it reading on twitter buddy. No just reading for sure as one of them other than that. I'll do anything to be in or on open water in any capacity so reading and water. I guess and along those lines. What is your favorite book. You've probably heard this one before on the show but it's the powerbroker her by robert caro. It's almost painful to read as a journalist. Because sometimes you'll rena single page of it and you could tell that carol put like months of reporting into that one page and their twelve hundred pages but as a new yorker. You need to read this because you'll never take a walk drive around the city again without thinking about it but also you know. His main concern is power and what he always says. Power doesn't always corrupt but it always reveals and that kind of underpins every story and it's something that i kept in mind every single day as ours reporting and making the edge create one more before return to a couple of for premium members. What's your most important daily habit. This question always makes me think that. I should have a habit as i could probably use one beyond the basics of hygiene and all that i basically been working on this podcast like fifteen hours a day since the summer so i guess my habit was working on the podcast and i'm gonna need a new one now that this is done. Ben thanks so much again. Thanks to anytime. Thanks for listening to this episode. I hope you've found a nugget or two to take away and apply in your besting and your life. If you'd like what you heard. Please tell a friend and maybe even right review on i. Tubes you'll help others discover the show and i thank you for it. Have a good one and see next time.

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