But for now, take David Longley, the club’s new director of technology and player development strategy, as a valid case. Try to break his long title as a spelling contestant.
Origin: The Nationals needed someone to oversee technology, data and player development strategy – they really needed them – so the team hired Longley amid a complete overhaul of its league staff minor this offseason.
Use it in one sentence, please: Longley, the Nationals’ director of technology and player development strategy, comes to Washington after nearly six years with the San Diego Padres, during which he spent four seasons with the major league club and had a helping hand. on the role helping players spot their opponents with analytics and video.
Definition: Sorry. This is where it gets tricky.
“Using the term ‘progressive’ or ‘progressive hiring’ is a little lazy, I think, because it’s not that simple,” Longley said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Whatever titles mean in baseball, we don’t really know, but I help with a lot of things and make information more accessible. The operative question is: how do you bring it into the field? And if it’s not… and I say “it”, meaning data, meaning technology, meaning adjustments… does it really matter? That’s sort of what I’m wondering, where I think sometimes we can get wrapped up in whatever we have access to, but if we’re not able to make it practical and relatable and transferable, and there’s has a number of reasons why you can and can’t do this, then none of this is effective.
It’s the natural place to review Longley’s resume and why he’s a fit for the role. A graduate of Wheaton College in 2012, then of the University of California at San Diego with a master’s degree in Latin American studies, he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as a Spanish interpreter for a year. From there, he spent a year with the New York Yankees as an assistant in amateur scouting and player development. And from there, he began his stint with the Padres, rising from coordinator to assistant manager in baseball operations (and serving, for a time, as the team’s Spanish interpreter to the media).
When the Nationals overhauled their player development operation this winter, infusing more data and technology was a must. The property is committed to closing at least part of the gap between what Washington spends on technology versus more forward-thinking teams. De Jon Watson, their new director of player development, insisted on wanting someone – or several people – to harness the technology, interpret the data and work alongside coaches with traditional baseball backgrounds. This is where Longley came in.
“He’s an interesting cat because he knows both sides,” Watson said of Longley. “He’s been in the game a bit and at the major league level. I think he understood, when we had our conversations, how we’re trying to roll that out, and really grow and educate our players and our staff.
“He was a great listening partner for guys who were just curious. And he was also able to introduce some things and show them exactly how it reads and pull the video and link the video to the numbers real ones, so we can see how that fits in to help develop both the player and the staff. So that’s been wonderful.
Watson offered his assessment during the Nationals’ first minor league camp in late February. When Longley spoke to The Post a week earlier, he had only been in West Palm Beach, Fla., for a few days, which made him cautious to state any big intentions for the role. He thought it would be weird for the coaches to read his plans before meeting him in person. He also explained that players and coaches will dictate details, which will evolve over time.
Evolution, as a concept, seems central to Longley’s task with Washington. It’s no secret that the Nationals have been slow to embrace data and technology and [insert modern baseball buzzword of your choice] in player development. Hiring Longley now was a bit like stepping into 2016 in 2022. So does he feel given the history of the organization that he has a small margin of error with suggestions on a player report? Does he feel like an early success rate is key to earning the trust of coaches and a front office led by Mike Rizzo, who was once a longtime scout and built a culture in his image?
“I’ll settle that with another question,” Longley replied. “It’s never one way or the other, is it?” I think the top teams do a really good job of mixing data and scouting, and in terms of the margin of error, I don’t necessarily think it’s so black and white. It’s not ‘This is the solution, guys.’ It’s more about tapping into everyone’s expertise… A lot of these concepts aren’t new, we just sometimes have a better way to measure them. There are certainly a lot of basic elements that have always made baseball players successful that perhaps we can capture in a different way.