When Sandy Alderson started his baseball management career with the Oakland Athletics in 1983, he was not familiar with all the nuances of baseball.
Currently the general manager of the New York Mets, Alderson spoke about his experiences going from a Harvard Law School graduate to an executive in the MLB on Oct. 27 at Furman Hall. During the event, which was hosted by the Sports Law Committee of the Intellectual Property & Entertainment Law Society, Alderson discussed in-depth what he has learned over his more than 30 years in the league and how he approaches running a baseball team.
Alderson said he was still untested when he was named general manager of the A’s, spending his early years learning the people and vocabulary of baseball.
“The problem I faced was that I didn’t have a lot of experience in the game, but probably the greatest benefit I had at that time was that I had no experience in the game,” Alderson said. “I wasn’t weighed down with a lot of conventional wisdom, a lot of stuff that — while useful — is not necessarily the most efficient way to approach decision-making.”
He pointed out that often those coming from the field of law into baseball are forced to make sacrifices. He added that while a well-rounded background is important, coming into the game fresh requires a realistic perspective.
“If you really want to be involved in sports, you’re going to have to ratchet down your financial expectations and what you think you might be able to do with your education in order to start on the ground floor,” Alderson said. “You have to find a way to differentiate yourself from the next candidate.”
Alderson, however, repeatedly underscored the impact that his background in law has had on his ability to act as an executive of a major league team, and that this knowledge was key to his successes.
“What I do is I make decisions, and that’s my job,” Alderson said. “What is it that allows one to make more good decisions than poor ones? I think it’s how lawyers are trained. It’s about perspective, it’s about fairness.”
This point stood out to law student Justin Gaudenzi, who said he hopes to follow a path similar to Alderson’s.
“It was cool seeing his decision making process, like how he makes trades and how he evaluates players,” Gaudenzi said.
Law student Kenneth Carbajar said he shared this sentiment and enjoyed hearing from someone who had so much experience from all over the game of baseball.
“I thought it was really interesting looking at how they go about looking at talent and how they think about signing players,” Carbajar said. “He’s the GM of the Mets, so in a perfect world, that’s where I want my career to go.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 28 print edition. Email Alex Bazeley at [email protected]