Philadelphia Front Office Executives Speak Openly At Rothman Institute’s Impact Of Sports Panel

By Andrew Porter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Howie Roseman, Ruben Amaro Jr., Scott O’Neil, and Ron Hextall represented their respective Philadelphia sports franchises at Rothman Institute’s Impact of Sports Panel on Wednesday morning. Collectively, the four front office members sat next to one another on stage, and spoke rather candidly in a relaxed atmosphere on the Club Level at Lincoln Financial Field.

“For five years we went for it,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said when speaking about his philosophy as Phillies general manager. “Now we are paying for it in some regard. Now we are transitioning. Our goal is to get to the point where we give our fans hope every single year. There is a fine line between going for he brass ring every year and rebuilding, and that’s why we’re transitioning.”

“Our philosophy is quite simply 10 years over 10 minutes,” said Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil. “We want our players to be good for 10 years. You have to remember they’re just kids.”

With the advancement of technology, studying analytics have quickly become a new-age approach in building professional sports franchises. We’ve seen it with Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, most prominently displayed in a featured film called ‘Moneyball.’ However, Ruben Amaro Jr. and the declining Phillies have been frequently criticized for their recent use of analytics, or should I say, lack there of.

“There is a misconception that we’ve tossed it aside for last 30 years,” Amaro explained on Wednesday. “First thing our scouts do is, they pick up a stat sheet and start to analyze it. We’re going into a fully integrated system now. I don’t want to get into it too much.”

“I will always err on the side of scouting and player development and passion, but there is certainly a world out here that we can tap into and we’re in the process of doing it,” Amaro admitted.

“Analytics has been going on for several years, we were kind of dabbling in it when I was in LA for seven years,” said Flyers general manager Ron Hextall. “Specifically, we do look at things like how many times you are entering the zone with possession of the puck. Top teams are in the high 80’s, low 90’s. Hockey is a real passionate game, and if you don’t have the passion and hockey sense you are not going to have real good numbers.”

“At end of day with the draft and free agency, we’re probably only making 20 decisions a year and if you’re hitting a good percentage of those, you’re going to be good,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.

The Sixers, of course, brought in new GM Sam Hinkie in May of 2013 to rebuild the franchise. Hinkie, formerly with the Houston Rockets, is known for his use of analytics. O’Neil told a story about Hinkie while he was working in Houston with then Rockets coach, Jeff Van Gundy, from 2005-2007.

“Sam was convinced a certain rotation would matchup well for the Rockets against their opponent late in a certain game,” O’Neil explained. “Hinkie and Van Gundy discussed it for 45 minutes before the game. Two minutes left in the game, Stan switched the lineup and Sam asked, ‘What happened?’ After the game, Van Gundy said he was looking over at the bench and one of our guys was struggling emotionally. Stan knew he needed to play him him on this night, so he could use that player for the next three nights. The marriage of the two is important.”

In today’s day and age, it’s hard to keep athletes in the same city for extended periods of time. Hextall, in his first year as Flyers general manager, was forced to trade fan-favorite Scott Hartnell.

“It was the most difficult decision I’ve made,” Hextall admitted. “It as a very difficult decision and I thought about it for days, I even woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. At that time, I felt like it was right move for the club. Cap was the biggest reason, but I also wanted to get quicker and get younger. We brought back R.J. Umberger who is the same age, but had less years on his contract.”

O’Neil had a more general philosophy when dealing with athletes changing teams.

“We inspire to be more of a front of the jersey team than a back of the jersey team,” said O’Neil. “In the NBA that’s difficult, but at end of the day fans will fall in love with winning more than a player. I don’t think there is any player more important than the team.”

Avoiding and dealing with injuries are a huge part of professional sports. Rothman Institute’s Sports Medicine team is the leading provider of sports medicine orthopaedic care in the Philadelphia region. They provide care for all levels of athletes including the Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles, among many other teams.

“Injuries are a major part of everything we do,” said Amaro. “Our [medical] team is second to none. We have a great relationship with the Rothman Institute and I think trust is a huge word. If you don’t know this very well, the players don’t really trust anybody with their bodies. The player has so much power in the offseason and we don’t really have the control we would like to have. So we have to be able to trust the care the players are getting from Rothman, and they’ve been great in that regard.”

 

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