Five more things to know about Rays’ latest staff changes

ST. PETERSBURG – By promoting Peter Bendix to general manager, appointing Will Cousins ​​and Chanda Lawdermilk as vice-presidents and taking a series of other steps, the Rays have reshaped the high-end structure of their baseball operations department under the leadership of President Erik Neander.

Here are five more things about the moves announced Thursday:

Staff matters

As often as the Rays have staff hired for larger titles with other organizations, they pride themselves on being able to fill those openings – usually from within – and keep winning.

Detailing Lawdermilk’s promotion from director of personnel development and recruiting to vice president of baseball operations, Neander said his efforts on all personnel matters have been a key part of their continued success.

Chanda Lawdermilk has been promoted to vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. [ TYLER SCHANK | Tampa Bay Rays ]

“It’s something that has gone from a role that we didn’t have just a few years ago, that we didn’t identify and didn’t really appreciate, to a position where we don’t. can’t imagine without it, “said Neander.” There is certainly a close relationship between the strength of our staff and the success we have in the field. And when it comes to the former, no one has been more influential and has improved these efforts and their importance in recent years than it has been.

Lawdermilk is the first woman to hold a vice president title on the baseball side of the organization, and Neander said they would eventually “broaden her horizons to more traditional roles in baseball operations.”

Good people too

The promotions were made to reward good work, but Neander repeatedly mentioned the quality of the people involved – especially his new management team with Bendix his main lieutenant, and Cousins ​​and Lawdermilk joining Carlos Rodriguez as vice-presidents.

“They are people of high character who get along well, who care about our people, who provide passions, skills, complementary backgrounds and relationships, and care about our people,” said Neander. “Definitely a group that I would consider adaptive and really well positioned to handle wherever the game evolves from here, and however it evolves from here.”

Neander was equally excited about the five business vice presidents who have been promoted to general manager: Rafaela A. Amador Fink (public affairs and communications), Juan Ramirez (technology), Jenn Tran (people and culture) , Bill Walsh (business) and Bill Wiener Jr. (people and community). “We have a lot of great people here across the Rays organization, and certainly way beyond baseball operations,” he said.

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he sees things

Will Cousins ​​has been promoted to vice president of baseball development for the Rays.
Will Cousins ​​has been promoted to vice president of baseball development for the Rays. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays ]

Cousins ​​has nothing to do with a baseball background, holds a math degree from Pepperdine and a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the state of North Carolina, and spent three years doing ocean wave research at MIT before joining the Rays in June 2015. He started as a research and development analyst, then moved on to senior data scientist, director of baseball research and development, and now vice -President of baseball development, with the opportunity to expand its reach.

“Will has a knack for anticipating results, analyzing processes, he’s an incredibly innovative mind,” said Neander. “But one who has immense respect and appreciation for each different perspective that makes up our organization. And that’s such a big part of the influence he had. So the leadership style, the building of trust certainly established a solid foundation for him here and I look forward to seeing his growth and impact beyond (research and development) himself.

they had jokes

Neander gave a good overview of his relationship with Bendix, opening the 30-minute Zoom session saying that “the best part” of the announcement was extra attention for a photo of Bendix from the 2020 World Series in it. that should be taken into account on his “big hair” days.

“There are few pictures on the internet of Pete, as I know you all know,” Neander said, “and so today, in the entirety of why we do this, it’s just to get this pic of him for the World 2020 Series, where he has his hands raised on the railing and his hair blown out again.

Bendix was ready to strike back, offering his own idea when asked to take the GM title that Neander had until his promotion in September to president of baseball operations: “I offered Erik who ‘he could be the Galactic Emperor, and we could kind of work from there. And I still have that in mind. … I think it’s a great way to innovate with titles but it hasn’t caught on yet. I do not give up.”

Since you were wondering …

The Rays are getting creative with certain titles, whether it’s having two presidents (Brian Auld and Matt Silverman), making Tran and Wiener the CEOs of “people” and culture / community, ” have a “process and analytical” coach and up to the various analysts and development-related people who fill their repertoire. And now, with Taylor Smith’s promotion from chief baseball research and development analyst, to a “director of predictive modeling.”

What is it exactly ?

“All we’re trying to do as a baseball operations department is try to make our best guess on how well the players are performing and what to expect in the future,” Bendix said. “And an important part of that is our research and development angle, and one of those parts is predictive modeling. That’s a very important aspect that kind of goes into the whole pie, if you will, about how we end up making decisions.

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