SpyCast 11.1.22
Ep 562 | 11.1.22

“Baseball & Espionage” –with World Series Champion Ryan Zimmerman & Marc Polymeropoulos (Part 2 of 2)


Andrew Hammond: Hi, and welcome to "SpyCast." I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond, historian and curator here at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. "SpyCast's" sole purpose is to educate our listeners about the past, present and future of intelligence and espionage. Every week, through engaging conversations, we explore some aspect of a vast ecosystem that looms beneath the surface of everyday life. We talk to spies, operators, mole hunters, defectors, analysts and authors to explore the stories and secrets, tradecraft and technology of the secret world. We are "SpyCast." Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Andrew Hammond: Welcome to this week's episode of "SpyCast." This is the second part of a two-part podcast on baseball and espionage with Ryan Zimmerman and Marc Polymeropoulos. The timing is perfect, coinciding as it does with Game 5 of the 2022 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros. In this week's episode, we talk about running a baseball counterintelligence operation, moving a runner over in espionage, ethics and integrity in baseball and spying and the implications of big data intelligence for baseball and for espionage. 

Andrew Hammond: Ryan Zimmerman played for the Washington Nationals from 2005 up until 2021, when his number 11 jersey was retired after his departure. He is a 2019 World Series champion. Marc Polymeropoulos is a former CIA operations officer who received awards such as the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the Intelligence Commendation Medal and the Intelligence Medal of Merit. He's the author of the 2021 book "Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA." 

Andrew Hammond: Please consider leaving us five stars on Apple Podcasts if you enjoy the show. If you're able to spare a moment of your time to rate something and a review, it really would make all the hard work we put onto every show worth it. That's right. Just 60 seconds of your time or 60 billion nanoseconds or rather a lot of the smallest unit of time ever measured, zeptoseconds. Enjoy. 

Andrew Hammond: I wonder if we could just talk about the Nats' counterintelligence operation against the Astros. So... 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah, I mean, you know, supposedly by 2019, the Astros weren't doing this anymore, which you can either believe or not believe. We were going to obviously take the safe way and not believe it. And I played with Aaron Boone, who is now the manager of the Yankees. And they lost that series, you know, to the Astros on the Altuve walk-off home run that was very controversial. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Got a 100-mile-an-hour fastball from Chapman, right? 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: So, like, I just texted him. I was like, hey, man, like, what do we need to be careful of? And, you know, he's like, listen. Just be more careful than you think you need to be. You know, he didn't really give me anything. But he just said, I'm not going to sit here and say they're doing things. And I obviously don't want to accuse anyone of anything, but when you get to that level, you'd rather just be overprepared or more careful than, you know, look back and be like, ah, we should have done that. So we kind of took that approach. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And, you know, it probably slowed the game down. It probably wasn't the most efficient way to do things, but we basically just had - it was more just the pitchers and the catchers. And, you know, the catcher would have a wristband, and they could change - like, they - and then the the pitcher would have something in his hat that was like a little index card. And they had, like, three or four different signs - sets of signs for that inning. And then when they got those three outs, our video people upstairs would then print out all new signs for them. So we had, you know, nine different sets. So, like, even if they did have a long inning or - you know, they would switch pretty much every batter. Like, I don't know - if you go back and look at the video. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And still, people were doing that even after - like, they would - you know, they would put one, two, three or four up. And then the pitcher would take the hat off and look. And, you know, a fastball would be a three, and a curveball would be a one. And so you - it was almost impossible not because they're incredibly complex. They're just - they didn't have the time to figure it out and relay it. And then we would switch it. They'd probably figure it out. But by the time they'd figure it out, we're already on to the next one. So it was pretty simple. It was almost just changing it so much that we just figured we weren't going to take the chance. 

Andrew Hammond: It's like one-time pads. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Well, it is. And so this is some great, you know, CIA tradecraft. So you think about - and I'm trying - I got to be careful in what I say here, but this is really old-school stuff. So, you know, if you're going to make a phone call to trigger an agent meeting - and maybe you have to use an open line to do it, which you never want to do, of course. But you'd call a number, and someone would pick up. And you'd say something like, you know, I'm going to see you, you know, tomorrow at 3 o'clock. But really, what you have precooked with your agent is that actually means three days before or three days after and six hours - you know, four to six hours back or so. It's something that is just obviously not what is kind of said there - just something with a sign. It's just that - the sign doesn't mean anything because there's kind of preset ways in which you would move forward, you know, the time, place, date of an operational meeting. So it's the exact same, so - and - you know, and again, the simplicity is the beautiful part of it. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah, and then you can go the other way now with the technology that's not simple, and it's like - you know, these teams buy these - there's cameras all around. And it's - I forget the name of the program, but it basically watches a pitcher and, you know, some pitchers do something different when they throw a slider instead of a fastball. But to the naked eye, you wouldn't be able to see it. But these - you know, these new technology - these new programs put - like, if Gerrit Cole's pitching and he throws a fastball, they put him on there throwing a fastball. And then for a slider, they put a hologram over him on that same pitch, and it's a lot easier to see a little difference if the hologram's doing something. So, like, we've even seen, like, a guy sticks his tongue out when he throws a slider, or he has his mouth open and mouth closed. And you wouldn't think that you can see it. But when someone points it out to you and you go up there - usually it's on deck. They'll be like, hey, we see this. See if you can see it. Because if you don't see it, don't - I used to tell them, unless it's really easy, don't tell me, because then I'll be like... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: It's getting in your head. Yep, totally, right? 

Ryan Zimmerman: I'm sitting up there... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...And then all of a sudden I'm like, oh, man, I'm not even paying attention. So I'm - I can't do that stuff. Some people were really good - Daniel Murphy - unbelievable. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Professional hitter. Right. Yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And it's just - like, they see things that don't - like Kyle Hendricks on the Cubs - change up. I hate facing that guy. Murph knew every time he was throwing a change-up. And he'd be like, don't you see it? He like puffs his hands or his - and I'm like, Murph. 


Andrew Hammond: I love it. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Sometimes I think he was just making things up in his head, and it was, like, the placebo effect. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: That's right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Like - and it was, like, his thing. But some guys are just amazing at it. And that used to be part of the game. Now, they have computer programs that do it for you. And you could say, I mean, is that cheating? Is it not cheating? But, you know, the pitcher probably has the same technology as well, so now it's his turn to fix the mistake. And it's kind of the cat and mouse that used to go on between human beings, and now it's basically going on between AI, which is undefeated. 


Andrew Hammond: Right. Right. And that's got a great crossover to your world, right? It used to be spy against spy. It used to be mainly human. But technology, facial recognition... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Sure. 

Andrew Hammond: ...Surveillance - they have all changed the game that you're involved in. Can you speak a little bit about that, Marc? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. Well, a little bit, maybe. 

Andrew Hammond: Yeah, just a little bit - just a little bit. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: No, but, I mean - so, you know, in the past, you know, you go out for an agent meeting, and you run a surveillance detection route. But so much has changed now. You know, there are smart cities, meaning there's cameras everywhere. Even when, you know, transiting airports or - there's biometrics. There's facial recognition, you know? So there's so much out there in terms of technology that makes it much harder to frankly do our core business, which is to meet another human being - an agent on the streets. And so - but you have to figure out ways to beat that. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And so, you know, just like, you know, baseball is evolving, well, you know, espionage has to evolve as well. And one of the things I always kind of point out is that, you know, no matter what, we always have to be able to meet an agent - another human being - someone who's spying for us. That human interaction is really important. It just gets a lot harder, you know, with the advent of technology. But I'll - you know, just like, you know, Major League Baseball teams are - you know, are using AI - they're hiring data scientists - I'm sure the Nats are advancing that - same thing with, you know, the intelligence services all around the world. I mean, data scientists, you know, are being used. And they should be because, again, you know, technology is certainly involving. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: But, you know, on the baseball side, it is amazing to me, you know, kind of the explosion in analytics and how important that is. Sometimes, as a fan, you know, I think there are some intangibles that are lost. Like, so, you know, there was a column the other day about Alex Verdugo of the Red Sox. And whatever it was, they came up with some, you know, some kind of statistics or something he was doing that they didn't like. But, you know, he hit .270 and had a pretty good year, and he's a great team leader. And that leadership part, sometimes, I think is missed when you kind of focus on the analytics. And that kind of bugs me as a fan and someone who's studies leadership, but it's here to stay. There's no doubt. You probably have folks, you know, about 20, 25 years old in the analytics shop... 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: ...At that - in Nat's park. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah, the - they call it the Ivy League mafia. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: That's right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: They've never played, thrown a pitch or... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Nothing. Yep. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And they're making decisions. And, you know, I'm with you. I think analytics are necessary, and it's a great tool. My favorite line that I always tell those guys is baseball isn't played inside of a computer. And they do get very frustrated because you can't put chemistry, leadership - you can't put those into an algorithm. You can't value those traits. And they want to be able to value everything because that's what they're - you know, that's how they're built. You know, we're built to play baseball. They're built to assign value and... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Make equations to make - you know, to explain things. You know, my problem with analytics and - they're useful. I think they're great. I think they make, you know - they're great for players as well. They can teach you things about yourself that you didn't know. But I think it needs to be a hybrid or a combination. I think too many teams, too many managers - they basically just use it as a parachute now. You know, they make their decision 100% based on what that says. And if it doesn't work out, they say, well, you know, that's what they told me to do, so what do you want me to do? 

Andrew Hammond: Vanish. 

Ryan Zimmerman: It's like, well, those are human beings. Like, you know, you knowing your players and you knowing who - your job is to put your players in the best chance to succeed - the best position to succeed. And sometimes that might not be what the computer tells you to do, and that's your... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Job to figure that out. But you need to use the information that they give you to kind of learn your players more and to help also put them in the - but you have to - they're human beings. They're not robots. So, like, as a manager, I think that's the most important job now - is to know your players, know who has the best chance to succeed in certain situations. And even if something's telling you to do something, have the stones to make a decision. And if it doesn't work out, go in front of the media and say, that was on me. And if it does, then your players are going to respect you a lot more than they would. 

Andrew Hammond: That's what's really interesting to me. Even thinking about the 2019 Nats victory in the World Series. Do you think that part of the reason - besides the counterintelligence operation at the World Series itself, do you think part of the reason that the Nats were successful against the Astros as opposed to, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers - I have a friend who's a Dodgers fan, and he's still hopping mad about all of this stuff (laughter), understandably so. Do you think that part of the reason the Nats won is because they were wild-card variable, almost? They were - you know, no one expected them to - you know, even the documentary is called "Improbable," right? 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Andrew Hammond: The Astros predictions only go so far, and it can't account for every single instance of something that's going to happen. So the Nats come from left field, and the - you know, I guess the Astros were at the forefront of this more cold, analytical, objective kind of model of trying to win. But it seems to me that the Nats were almost an insurgency of chemistry and initiative and these other intangible things that you were speaking about, Ryan. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Well, I think, you know, it's very well known that we had the oldest roster in the league that year, and I think that made it harder 'cause we - the older guys - we have the ability to change quickly. And I'm not saying - you know, I'm not trying to bash younger players, but players are different now than 20 years ago, when I first came up. You know, when I came up, if there was a runner on second base and there was nobody out, and you weren't, like, Albert Pujols or someone - like, if you didn't hit a ground ball to second base and basically give your at-bat up, like, that was bad - really bad. Like, if you grounded out to third base or shortstop - like, when you came back into the dugout, you can guarantee, like, a veteran guy was going to be like, hey, man, that's not what we do. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Now, they tell you, you know, it doesn't matter because, you know, even if you get that guy to third base with one out, the percentage chance of that guy scoring because of the strikeouts and all this stuff, like - so I think, to answer the question, is we had a bunch of those guys that kind of did those things - the little things. And those little things I don't think are accounted for now in a lot of those algorithms, where teams just don't think you're going to do it. And, I mean, you know, you know the ending - the ending of the story. Like, it works. It's selfless. I think it, you know, it makes everyone work together. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Statistically, is it the right or the wrong thing to do? I mean, I think you can make statistics say whatever you want to make them say. I think you can make things look good, and you can make things look bad. I think that's where analytics and statistics can get people in trouble. You can make them say whatever you want to say. You can kind of shape or mold, you know, kind of your theory or your hypothesis. If you have enough numbers, you can do whatever you want. So I think - I don't know if they couldn't game-plan against us. I just think we had guys that were so dedicated to doing little things - whether it was making an out, whether it was, you know, doing something that really isn't in the game anymore - and those little things, I think, added up and gave us an advantage. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: So yeah, I love that - you know? - and that - kind of that notion of kind of picking your teammates up, you know? I mean, you know, these are your - you know, whatever sport, these are your brothers and sisters in arms, and that's something that I always tried to teach as well. And I would actually use that exact example of moving a runner over - which, again, doesn't show up in the stat line, but, you know... 

Ryan Zimmerman: It's not even taught anymore... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: ...If you have - right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...I don't think, in baseball. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: But if you have a selfless team, you know, that's what you do. And, you know, the comparison - I mean, there are so many of them I could think of, but I wrote about it in the book. I was in Beirut, Lebanon, on an operation. And it was a high-threat operation, and we're meeting someone. And so, you know, we were - we needed to have what's called counter-surveillance. You know, we had - other officers had to be on the street to ensure my safety. And I remember one officer who literally spent, you know, about seven or eight hours, you know, on a street corner somewhere, just waiting and watching. And afterwards, when we, you know, met up, you know, for a beer when it was all done, I said - you know, I was like, you know, hey, man, that was awesome. Thank you. And he's like, come on, it's what we do. I mean, it's just that's just part of the job. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And when you start - you know, when you start having or experiencing teams like that, you understand kind of that notion of being selfless. Again, they're not the superstars. They're not getting any of the credits. They're not going to be in the headlines. I ran the op. I collected the intelligence. Washington's happy. The station chief's happy. But, you know, that - you know, that officer who did counter-surveillance the whole time deserves just as much credit. It's just the same idea of moving a runner over. And, you know, going back to what Ryan said before, I mean, I think that Davey was an old-school manager, and you had, you know, players like Max and others who just - you know, they want the ball. And so it doesn't matter what the stats say. You know, do you want to put those guys out in the field, you know, at crunch times - yourself included? I mean, so, you know, same kind of thing - and you just have that gut - that instinctive feel that analytics won't tell you about. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah, I remember, too - I'm trying to remember which player it was. It was when I was younger, so, you know, 13, 14 years ago. I was listening to some guy talk to reporters. And he said, oh, you know, you went 2 for 4, with two RBIs - good game. And then there was a veteran guy next to him. And he was like, no, he had 2 1/2 RBIs. And like, the reporters were like, what the hell are you talking about - 2 1/2 RBIs? He goes, well, with nobody out, you know, on one of his outs, he grounded out to second base, and then the guy behind him hit a sac fly. So he was like, we used to say that's a half RBI, because that sac fly wouldn't have mattered unless you got that guy to third. So, you know, could that guy maybe got a hit and scored the run anyway? But the sense of doing something for the person behind you - it just builds that chemistry that might not show up in, like, one day or in April or in May. But, like, in September - if you do that for six months, I think it builds and builds and builds, and that's where you get, like, kind of that chemistry and that cohesiveness. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And one quick thing, and you'll see - and Ryan certainly practiced this - but you'll see - and baseball fans - true fans will see it. You know, that happens. Everyone's up on the dugout steps when that - you know, when that guy who moved the runner over is coming off. He made an out. He's 0 for 1, 0 for 2, but everyone's up on the steps 'cause they understand what they did. And that's - you know, people who understand the game, people who understand that notion of selflessness - you know, it's pretty clear. But I'm sure that that's what you did all the time when - and to kind of bolster that notion of a true team, you have to celebrate those plays as well. 

Andrew Hammond: We'll be right back after this. 

Andrew Hammond: Just as a student of leadership, Marc, what's your view on analytics, numbers? So just thinking about your book, "Clarity In Crisis," which, I think when we discussed it last year, you said in some ways is a baseball book as much as anything else, but it's also a book about leadership and the leadership skills that you learned over the years in the CIA. Like, where do you see numbers and analytics? Because it seems to me that a lot of leaders these days - especially, you know, there's this notion that you can crunch the numbers on the way to success. And I'm not saying that they don't play a part, but just what's your view on how numbers and analytics fit into the package of leadership? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: You know, so I mean, of course, you know, you're always looking for ways to kind of measure effectiveness. So I get it. It's necessary. You do have to measure statistics in baseball, You have to, you know, measure the impact of a CIA station. So for example, you know, how many of the intelligence reports that we've collected have made it into the president's daily brief? But then, you know, again, there are also other kind of intangibles. And so, for example, you know, so if we see a pending conflict coming, and we have to recruit a safe house, maybe behind enemy lines, for a downed pilot, you know, that's - no intelligence is coming out of that. But that's still a critical core function of what we do. And perhaps, down the line, it's going to save someone's life. But you don't get credit for it. There's no number that gets you credit for it. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And then kind of the other piece, too, is, you know, in the age now of kind of this explosion in open-source information, you know, the clandestine world has changed, but it's not the quantity. It's the quality of our agents - of our sources. So, you know, do we need, you know, a hundred, you know, Russians sitting on the street corner telling us what's happening in Moscow? No. We need a penetration of Vladimir Putin's inner circle. Now, that CIA station might not, you know, get a ton of credit for numbers in terms of recruitments, but what about the quality? And so that, to me - you know, as a manager in a station, you always had to kind of do a little bit of a deeper dive because numbers don't tell you anything. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And, you know, there's kind of famous stories in CIA lore. I think McKinsey came in and did kind of a reorganization of CIA. And all we could hear after that is all these business, you know, school terms of MOEs - measures of effectiveness. I don't know how you measure that kind of stuff. And it drove kind of a lot of the old timers like me kind of crazy. Again, so it's not - you don't have free rein to do nothing. You do have to have some way of measuring the performance of an operational outfit. But I think sometimes there's definitely too much. And then - and there's also, you know, again, for a baseball veteran or a veteran manager, you have a feel for something. You know, that's really important - you know? - your gut - your feel based on experience. But ultimately, the, you know, analytics can tell us one piece, but that's certainly not everything. 

Andrew Hammond: It's interesting to me as well that baseball teams now - a lot of them have a director of advance information or sports information director, and there's another way to call - to term that stuff in your former world, Marc, which is intelligence - right? - trying to predict what's coming over the horizon, trying to figure out what other countries are going to do - adversaries, friends, etc. So it's really, really interesting to me, now, the ways in which baseball teams and the CIA collect information. They bring all the information together, and then they try to analyze it to use it. So in both of those respects, there's a lot of similarity as well. And I think that's really, really interesting - that fusion. Have you thought about that a bit more? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: I think Ryan should bring me on in the Nats as a consultant. I mean, again, it's - you're always trying to get ahead of your - the adversary - your opponent. And you know, this is certainly one way to do it. And so again, the explosion of, you know, AI - artificial intelligence - the explosion of, you know, data science and analytics. I mean, there's a lot you can learn from these. I think we've been talking about how it's not everything, but, you know, a baseball team would be remiss in not doing this. I mean, you have to have these parts of the organization - again because, you know, that's just - it's a way to get ahead. 

Andrew Hammond: And one of the things that I wanted to discuss next was, like, in the CIA, you have an inspector general if people are doing something wrong or something needs to be investigated. And then in baseball, you have the commissioner and the commissioner's report and stuff. So I don't want to get too into blaming individual people or whatever, but it's quite interesting to me, if you look at some of the cases - so let's call it what it was, cyberespionage - Chris Correa from the Cardinals hacks into the Houston - the Astros' computer in 2017, has a look at their Excel spreadsheets on their potential draft picks. And he uses the password of a former colleague who now works for the Astros. So to me, it's wrong that he did it. It's not what you should do. But to use an old colleague's password - OK, like, we can think about that. 

Andrew Hammond: But then, with the Astros, you've got Luhnow, Correa, Hinch, Beltran. You've got all of the players that came through that system. You've got one of them that eventually blows the whistle on the whole operation. But where you've got systemic failure where people are not doing anything versus one guy who uses a password of an old colleague and looks through a spreadsheet that's only going to affect some draft picks, he gets 46 months inside. But yet, you have all of these people that - they've probably ruined people's careers or are taking money out of people's pockets or, as we're speaking about earlier, they've basically cheated fans, they've cheated players, they've cheated other teams, they've cheated the game itself. But yet, there's like, here's a ban, and now we've got some of them as managers. 

Andrew Hammond: So that's a long-winded way of saying, what's going on here? One guy - some dorky ex-PhD student - goes in, takes an Excel spreadsheet, gets some information about some draft picks, gets 46 months inside. And then you've got an entire operation that's systemically involved in cheating everybody involved in the sport except their own team, but it's - you know, nothing much seems to happen. 

Ryan Zimmerman: I think the simple answer is because when players are involved, they get protected. And if you look at who really got - I mean, the managers are the ones who really got - besides, you know, obviously, the password stealing. You know, that's more front office, things like that. So - but, I mean, our union, too - it's a gift and a curse because it's a very strong - it's probably one of the strongest unions in the - I mean, certainly labor unions around. So we kind of to a fault protect our players. And that was actually - you know, when all this was going on, some players questioned why we were protecting these guys. We said, hey, these guys'll talk to the commissioner. They'll talk as long as they basically get immunity, which, you know, he probably knows about. But, you know, he does a lot more of that negotiating with immunity and things like that. But, you know, when all that was going on, and I think there was some people who said, why are we protecting these guys, you know? But it is technically the union's job to protect them. 

Ryan Zimmerman: So the simple question is that's why they didn't get in trouble more. And also, if they wouldn't have said we won't do anything, then those players probably would never would've talked, and then nobody would've gotten in trouble. So I think the commissioner and MLB kind of had to make that decision of, do we really want to get to the bottom of it, but the players kind of get a free ride, or do we just kind of - and I think for public optics, they had no choice. And I think that's why - we knew they had no choice. They had to get the information. Then we used it to our advantage to protect our players. But that being said, it definitely wasn't unanimous among all the other people and the other players in the union that we should protect these guys. But it gets tricky. You can't pick and choose when you want to - like, your - the goal is to protect those players. 

Ryan Zimmerman: But I'm with you. I mean, if you cheat - and I've said all along, if, you know - and I don't like blaming A.J. Hinch. I don't like blaming the GM there. But, you know, I've met A.J., and - nice guy, like, but the fact that they said they didn't know this stuff was going on - there's no chance that you didn't know it was going on. And even if you did, all you had to do one time is just call a meeting and just be like, hey, guys, MLB just called, you know, me and the GM. And they said, hey, we know what's going on. If you guys stop now, completely stop, we won't do anything. We'll - you know, but this can't happen in the game. If you do it again, big trouble. Even if MLB never called, that's all A.J. Hinch would have had to say. Just have one meeting like that. And then the players would be like, oh - like - it would - and it would have been over. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Like, so I think - you said systematic failure in leadership is - a lot of players - I mean, it's cutthroat to be in the big leagues. And like you said, unfortunately, some players probably lost jobs, lost money. But some of those players used that information and maybe signed a contract. Like, there's two ways to look at it, and there's good people and there's bad people, and you can take it all the way back to the steroid - Barry Bonds always, you know - he's never been - there's no proof that - but, you know, Barry Bonds was basically the best player in the game. And then all these guys really started using that stuff and basically closed the gap. And he had the mental confusion of, well, should I let these guys close the gap or should I do what they're doing? And then why - like, so I think you get that inner struggle as a player, too - whether you should take advantage of it. And it comes down to, basically, your moral compass, I guess. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And it's a lot easier for someone who is a star player or has a contract already to take the high road. Oh, yeah. Don't worry about that. But, like, the 25th guy that's going up and down from Triple-A that's got three kids and this is his only skill - I mean, that's a tough - I mean, put yourself in his shoes. Like, do you want to know when fastball's coming? And maybe you're in the big leagues for two more years and you make an extra 1.5 million bucks? Like, it's - it sounds like an easy decision. Like, everyone's like, oh, yeah, there's no way I would do that. But then you sit back and think about it for a second and you're like, it's a lot harder than you think. It's a lot - it's not an easy decision for those guys. 

Andrew Hammond: It seems to me it's also similar to the world that you were in, Marc, where, you know, there's a strong sense of - and correct me if I'm wrong - there's a strong sense of, within the institution, amongst your teammates or amongst your colleagues who are also in the business, you're meant to strictly walk an ethical and a moral line. But when you're doing the job, then, you know, you do what you need to to do the job. But there's still a certain internal standard. But there must also be - if you fabricate or you make up a source or you just make yourself look better and you get your name known and you get promoted and so forth - I mean, there's always a temptation to just, like, give a story a little extra 5% or 10%. And then there's obviously a spectrum where people just start fabricating things. So, like, yeah, I mean, it's so - there's also a line - I mean, I guess it's a line that everybody walks, but it's more - you know, it's more acute in particular professions. But in your profession, can you speak a little about... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Well, sure. I mean, so you think about the job or the role of a CIA case officer, an operations officer. So we go out, on our own, to meet an agent. And so I'm sitting in the car in XYZ country, and no one else is with me. There's no recording device. And this agent - he's not handing us documents. He's too scared to. But he's telling us what President Xi of China or Vladimir Putin or the Iranian regime is going to do. And it's verbal. It's a verbal report. And I have to go back and I have to - you know, I have to - or I'm taking notes there, but it's all based on my integrity when I'm writing. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Now, if I write what that report - or what that agent is saying, maybe it's something that's - boring is the wrong word, but, no, nothing has changed in that country's policy. What if I embellish it a little bit? Well, it's going to get attention back home. And so you can see how there's that temptation. So the idea of honesty and integrity is so absolutely critical because it's such a unique job in which you are one-on-one with someone who is providing information that - you could conceivably change U.S. policy. And so you have to have that kind of, you know, that moral and ethical streak. And, of course, it's ironic we're talking about the CIA, here. So we steal other people's secrets. We do kind of nasty things... 

Andrew Hammond: (Laughter). 

Marc Polymeropoulos: ...To other countries, but we have to have that - you know, that notion of being, you know, pure as the driven snow when it comes to this. And it's really important. And there has been times over the years where people have gotten caught embellishing. Because why? It's the same thing. Because they're going to get, you know, maybe some praise, maybe get promoted. Very easy to do and not always easy to get caught. I mean, this sounds like the old, you know, the PED issue... 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: ...Performance-enhancing drug issue. Going back to what you asked Ryan before, though, I think one of the - it's interesting. As a baseball fan, you know, there is no position - I'm trying to think of something more controversial as a job than commissioner of baseball, where you have a very difficult job. People are mad at you constantly on things. And so, you know, it's - you know, it really is kind of that tough line on where to go on so many of these issues. And you're not going to satisfy everybody. We just saw Aaron Judge, you know, break a record - well, sort of, yes - definitely American League. You know, but the record - the overall home run record, I don't know. And people have - you know, are - have, you know, very strong views on - what's your - what is your view on that? I'm going to put you on the spot, here. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: (Laughter). 

Ryan Zimmerman: You know, it's so tough because - and I have this conversation with, you know, a lot of my friend - and, you know, I think any record - the game is so different now. Take out the PED argument. Just, like, the hit streak will never be broken. Like, you just - you don't - you face the same pitcher maybe twice in a game, if you're lucky. So, like, the game is so different now. So 62 home runs right now is unbelievable. Like, I don't even know what the next closest guy was. Was it 40? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. Yeah. Might've been Kyle Schwarber. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 40... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: It was 40, yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: He had 42... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...For the - like, I mean, if you get to 40 now, that's basically, like, 60. This guy got to 60, like, so - I mean, it's almost like - I mean, it's hard to take records away. I mean... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: You know, it... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Do you put an asterisk there? I mean, what do you for the record books? 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah, but that - you know, that was the times. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right, yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: It's so hard. And, you know, I have my really good friends at home that I grew up playing baseball with and, like, you know, their dads. And we get into these generational talks. And I'm like, guys, it's impossible... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...To compare generations. You know, how many home runs of those 72 did he hit off of guys using steroids? No one ever asked that question. Like, how many pitchers were you - like, so do those count 'cause that's a level... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Playing field? Like, you just can't - there's no right answer. But I think what Aaron - I mean, Aaron Judge is - like, if you look at the frequency of over 62 home runs, those four or five years - I think, what? Sosa did it three times. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: McGwire. 

Ryan Zimmerman: McGwire. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yep. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Like, those all happened within, like... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. There's a commonality amongst all them, yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Five or six years, I believe. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And other than that, like, 60 home runs happened... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. Yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Two other times? Ruth hit 60, and then Maris 61. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Maris, yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: So, like, just by pure - just by the eye test, you would think something was going on during those five years. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: But is - should you take it away? I mean, I don't know the answer. But I know the - the answer I do know is that what Aaron Judge did this year is ridiculous. And I don't - I mean, he could do it. He's probably the only - I mean, he is so - I mean, he's a tight end playing... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Baseball. And he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, so it makes you feel better. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And he's going to get paid (laughter). 

Ryan Zimmerman: He bet on himself. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: He's going to get it paid. 

Ryan Zimmerman: He bet on himself. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Extraordinary. He did, yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. He took a chance on himself and... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Amazing. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...It probably worked out OK for him. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah. 


Andrew Hammond: Moving on to baseball now, I wanted to ask both of you - A, who do you want to win the World Series? And, B, who do you think will win the World Series? And it obviously could be the - both of them could be the same thing. But who do you want to win the World Series, and who do you think will win the World Series? 

Ryan Zimmerman: So who do I want? So this is, like, a tricky question for me because we spent this whole time talking about the Astros. I love Dusty Baker. I think he's a great human being. He's done so much for the game of baseball as a player, as a manager and just as a person. I really want him to win a World Series. 


Ryan Zimmerman: And, you know, like, the stuff that's been put in place - a lot of the people on that Houston Astros team were not affiliated at all. So, like, at some point, you have to turn the page, right? Like, I think, like, the Yankees people, it's harder for them to turn the page. I mean, we - if we would have lost in 2019, I think I maybe would be talking a little differently. 


Ryan Zimmerman: But, you know, I really want Dusty to win the World Series. I think it'd be great for baseball. I think it'd be good for him. Who do I think's going to win? I mean, the Dodgers have created a machine. I mean, they're basically the perfect combination of the analytics with somewhat of the old-school gut feeling, managing humans instead of just - I mean, they still let numbers make a lot of their decisions. And then they also just have unlimited bankroll. So you basically took Freeman from the Rays, who was, like, not the inventor of all this, but probably the best at it, and then put him on the team with an unlimited bankroll. So they get all the great analytic players and the role players that can help, and they can put in the right situations and then they go sign Mookie Betts and have Trea Turner. And, you know, those guys are, like, analytic proof. They just play every day, and they're going to be unbelievable. 

Ryan Zimmerman: So for me, like, the Padres are good, and I think the five-game series is a huge advantage for the Padres. If it was seven - if every game was - every round was seven, I don't think anyone would beat the Dodgers. I just think seven games - it's hard to win four. You know, and it seems like, oh, well, it's only - like, it just - a lot of things can happen. You know, the other - the Padres can use their pitchers more - the - you know, the seven games makes you - it exposes your depth. Five games - not as much. So I want Dusty and the Astros to win. I think the Dodgers will win. 

Andrew Hammond: They're a juggernaut, aren't they? 

Ryan Zimmerman: They're just the perfect combination of payroll and analytics done the right way, drafting - I mean, they do - they spend as much as you can possibly spend on every aspect in it, and it shows. 

Andrew Hammond: I think we spoke about the Trea Turner move in last year's podcast. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: I'm still devastated. 

Andrew Hammond: And I said it broke my heart. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah. 

Andrew Hammond: And you said that you... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Totally. 

Andrew Hammond: ...Protested and didn't go to a game for a month. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: I didn't. I didn't. 

Ryan Zimmerman: He was mad. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: I was so upset. I mean, it's so - and when you think about, you know - so, again, as a fan, you know, you look to players on the various teams, now, who you followed, who you liked, who you respected. And so, you know, I - you know, seeing the Padres win was great because you have, you know, Juan and Josh Bell and - you know, Josh Bell, who had a tough season when he moved over. But, you know, all of a sudden, he might end up being a really big contributor. So - and, of course, you know, Ryan knows these folks. But for all intents - for all we see as a fan, Josh Bell, he was great as a Nat in terms of the community. And so I liked seeing them. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: You know, one player who I've enjoyed and I think is just kind of a warhorse is Kyle Schwarber. So it's hard to root for the Phillies only because when the Philly fans come to Washington, there's nothing more annoying than sitting in the stands with them. But Kyle Schwarber is a heck of a player, so it's fun to see him succeed. And, you know, I think the Yankees have got a heck of a team. And so that's going to be - they're going to be hard to beat. And then, of course, you know, I love, you know, Terry Francona, the manager of the Guardians. Again, you know, like a Dusty Baker - just really great, you know, baseball minds and baseball figures. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: I'll tell you one thing, there's no more fun time than the playoffs, where you go home and there's two or three games on, aside for some rain-outs. I mean, there's just - and the baseball's been really compelling. You know, there was something - I don't know where it started - that - this notion, over the last year or two on social media, that baseball was boring. I don't get that because I don't think it is at all. I think the game is in - it seems to me that the game is in great shape. Oh, on that note, I wanted to ask you about the rule changes. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: What do you think of those - the rules? But yeah... 

Ryan Zimmerman: Well... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: But again, the notion of... 

Ryan Zimmerman: Baseball is boring because people can't pay attention for 10 seconds... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. For anything, yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Let alone six months. That's what we've created. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: This is our own... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: It's society's... 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...This is our own problem. We've... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: That's right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Created this problem. But, yeah. The rule changes - also Francona - two of my really good buddies that I played with at UVA are now with the Guardians, high up in, like, their front office. And they say it's the best work environment. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Amazing. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Like, the communication... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...The trust, the honor - like, the teamwork. And it shows. They're another one of those teams that can't spend a ton of money. They're in the playoffs every year. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: They draft unbelievably, and then they develop the people that they draft. But - great organization. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Rule changes - I mean, I think a lot of the rule changes, honestly, you won't even - you know, like the pitch clock thing everyone's making a big deal about. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Whatever. 

Ryan Zimmerman: I think after the first two weeks, there's not even that many pitchers or hitters that will have a problem with that pitch clock. And honestly, some of the pitchers and some of the hitters that take too long, I'm kind of OK with it. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah. 

Ryan Zimmerman: You know, I might - you know, I might piss off some purists and some things like that, but like, you know, when Robinson Cano would take, like, a minute in between each pitch... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: It's like, oh, God. 

Ryan Zimmerman: I love Robbie - great hitter - you know, unbelievable person to watch, but like, can we just get in the box, man? Like, you know, it's just - so that - like, the - what's the other ones? The bigger bases - I don't think you'll notice. You know, the shift, I would argue, is probably the biggest one that people are - optically, obviously, would be the biggest one, but I sort of agree with it. I think, you know, I think the rules state you can't have more than two people on either side of second base. I think it should just be, the infielders can play whatever they want. They just have to be on the dirt. That's what an infielder is. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Like - and my argument with the whole putting the third baseman or the second baseman out in, like, short right field is - like, what people don't really understand is, like, now the right fielder - the right fielder's not going to play on the other side closer to the line. So what the analytics tells you is, if - like, the double down the right field line, nobody's catching that ball anyway. So you might as well just give that up. So like, if you put the second baseman or the third baseman in short right field, now your right fielder can go basically to right center. Your center fielder now goes to left center. And then your left fielder, who's usually the worst defensive player and just hits homers, basically just has to cover a sliver of the outfield. So you're making it so hard to get hits. Like, you found the cheat code. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: You're giving up the right field line because those balls aren't caught anyway. What used to be a single is now caught. And then, oh, by the way, like, the line drive - if you have a good second baseman - right? - like, Manny Machado's unbelievable at, like - it's basically a fourth outfielder, and you get ground - like, so I just don't think that's the game of baseball. I think if you wanted to put three guys on the right side of the second base and they're all in the dirt, you should be able to do that. But putting someone in, like, that rover position in the outfielder is - I don't think that's how the game was meant to be played. 

Andrew Hammond: And just moving on to the final part of our conversation, I wondered if you could both tell us - obviously in your case, Marc, you may not be able to tell as a name - but is there someone that you have worked with respectively in your professions that you're like, wow, I'm so blessed to have played alongside that person, or just - is a someone that you were just, like - you felt really grateful to play alongside or to be alongside? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Well, there certainly was for me. I mean, and I - actually, I can talk about it. He's passed away now. His name is Charlie Seidel. And I talk about it in the book. I call him Charlie. But, you know, when I go through the - kind of the publication review process, the agency lets me talk about him. But he was, you know, he was the - one of these legendary - we call them Arabists - someone who has spent their entire career in the Middle East, spoke beautiful Arabic, grew up in the region. And so he was really a true expert. But what set him apart was his willingness and ability to mentor officers. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: You know, he recently received - after he was passed away, his family received it - you know, a fairly prestigious award from the agency. And what was interesting as - and I was invited back to headquarters, and I went to the award ceremony. What was interesting is, really the entire leadership of the director of operations, one point or the other, had been mentored by Charlie. And so that, to me, you know, personified what a great leader is about. So Charlie's exploits in the field were legendary, but no one remembers what he did. But you know what? They certainly remember that he kind of - you know, he mentored and he groomed the next, you know, generation of officers, and so that notion of passing the torch. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And a great story about Charlie - I was, you know, I was in Iraq. You know, him and I went, you know, in with the invasion in 2003. I was - you know, I was co-located with the Naval Special Warfare units, and we were - if you remember, the Saddam Hussein's deck of 55 cards - so we were catching high value targets, including many of those. It was, you know, incredible operational run for me. It was one of those times where I had a lot of success. I received a very prestigious intelligence medal from that. But when I came back after half a year, something was not right. And I had a pretty bad case of PTS, of post-traumatic stress, and I wasn't sleeping well. I was seeing - my wife was really concerned about my well-being, and she called Charlie, who was obviously alive at the time, and he had returned also as the job of chief of station. And he gathered the entire old Baghdad team who all went in on that first, you know, in-fill. And he had a house in Cape Cod, Mass., and he brought everybody there. Everyone rented houses, and we recreated that bond, you know, that brotherhood that you're very familiar with, you know, from teams, and - but the families were all there. And so that kind of helped my process and healing. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: So, you know, again, I look - Charlie was always an inspiration to me, you know, not only because of his genius as an intelligence officer, but he got that notion of taking care of his - the men and women in his command, and just that notion of mentorship. There's nothing to me more, you know, more important as a leader than kind of passing the torch to the next generation, whether it's next generation of players. You know, Ryan, I've heard a lot from, you know, from players who played - the, you know, rookies who played under - you know, Juan or anyone else - the importance that you meant to them. That's your legacy. And that to me is, you know, was - that's what Charlie certainly personified. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. Yeah, for me, it's kind of - you know, there's so many people. I almost break it up into when I - the first five years or so where you come up and you literally, like, try to just not say anything, not be seen. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: (Laughter) That's right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: Like, those guys were - Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson, you know, those guys taught me how to be professional. I mean, Frank Robinson being my first manager, I mean, you know, terrifying. But then the amount of knowledge I got from him in such a short time - how to carry yourself, how to represent, you know, the organization, how to do things the right way on a daily basis at - I was 20 years old. I turned 21 that September. Like, to have that knowledge from guys like Frank and Nick and Brian, you know, that's kind of like the first step in my career of learning how to be a professional. And I don't think - you don't - like, leaders, they just become a leader. People who say they're a leader usually aren't leaders. That's what I've learned. And the people who talk the most usually aren't leaders, as well. 

Ryan Zimmerman: So I think I sat back and watched a lot of those guys for the first five or six years, and then sort of the middle part of my career, I sort of - I don't want to say found my voice, but I was always, like, a lead-by-example person. And, you know, those years, it was, you know, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche and Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn, those kind of people. Ian was the guy that I really - you know, he came up after me and was younger than me. But then, I think he sort of matured into one of the best leaders I've ever seen. And nobody really thinks of him that way, but he was a big-time voice and leader in that clubhouse for those teams where we, like, kind of started taking that step forward. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And then, you know, obviously, the last part of my career where you become that guy - but being able to watch guys like Howie Kendrick, Max Scherzer go about his business and just watch Anibal Sanchez, Gerardo Parra - like, watch them talk to other people. 'Cause it's - you have to learn how to talk to other people. You have to learn when to, like, I don't want to say take chances, but when to maybe be a little bit more confrontational 'cause some guys can't handle it. Some guy - and I don't mean, like, yell and be like - telling someone they're doing something wrong. You have to kind of know which ones can take the constructive criticism and which can't. 

Ryan Zimmerman: You know, I have a story about Ian. I'll never forget it. You know, Ian had become, you know, I mean, he was a great shortstop - Silver Slugger, you know, one of the most athletic people I've ever seen. And I won't name the person, but a certain person didn't run out a ground ball, super - a star player and didn't get taken out of the game. You know, we lost the game. And I'll never forget. He went into the manager's office and he said, don't put me in the lineup tomorrow. And the guy's like what the hell you talking about? He's like, if you let that guy get away with that, then I don't want to be a part of it. And he's like, oh, whatever. So he came in the next day and he was in the lineup. And he took the lineup - he said, I'm not playing. I'm not doing it. I'm not playing. And, like, eventually Rizz (ph) came down. He's like, hey, man. You're playing. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: (Laughter) You got to play. 

Ryan Zimmerman: But that person, they called him in the office and, like, at the time, obviously, they're, you know, shouting. I mean, this is normal. This happens five or six times a year. So it's not like anyone hated each other. You know, I think down the road, that person that Ian kind of like, I don't want to say called out, but I bet you, like, if you ask him about this story, he probably respects Ian for doing it. And, like, that kind of stuff is not the easy stuff to do, where you take a stand and sometimes you put yourself out there. But watching him do that, like, didn't make me want to do that, but made me have more confidence to, like, go talk to people and be like, hey, man, if you don't do this, then it's OK for everyone to do it. 

Ryan Zimmerman: And, you know, that's - that was one thing Dusty always said, too. He would call, like, the four or five, like, main guys on the team in spring training. He goes, hey, guys, we're not going to have a bunch of team meetings, but, like, once or twice during the year, I'm just going to, like, yell at you guys. And he was like, don't worry about it. I don't mean anything. Like, you guys could be doing great and you guys could've gone three for four. He goes, but if I can yell at you in front of everybody, then I can yell at everybody in front of everybody. He's like, you got to be my guys. And we'll work together. And if we want to win, this is how it's going to have to work. And if you're honest, like, that's what - so, like, I feel like when you're looked at as that player, you almost have to hold yourself at a higher standard because if you do it, the other people have no choice. That's kind of my thoughts on leadership is there's more pressure on you to be on every day. But that's - you know, if you're the guy that's your job. 

Andrew Hammond: And taking advantage of both of you - because both of you had very long, successful careers in your respective professions. And there will be people out there that look up to yous or say that's who I want to be. So if you could give a piece of advice to someone that's trying to make it into the major leagues or trying to - maybe it's someone that's in there already who wants to have a successful career like you, or someone who's just joined the CIA or is trying to join the CIA to become a case officer or another officer - what piece of advice would you give to both of them based on both having long, successful careers yourselves? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: I mean, for me, it was always that nothing's given, everything's earned. It's just hard work. It's the grind. You know, everyone wants to join the CIA and then, you know, become a station chief. But it's really - you have to earn everything in my old profession, including respect from others. But the great thing about that is that it's all - that's everything that you can control. And so it's the amount of work you put in, it's how you can, you know, comport yourself, it's honesty, integrity. And so there's a comfort in that - in that you actually do have some control on that. And it's - but it's the idea of nothing's going to be given to you. 

Ryan Zimmerman: I would agree with that. My advice is, to all these younger kids that are - like, listen more than you talk. I think - everyone has the answers now. And, like, I'm not saying I have the answers, but, like, listen and step outside of your comfort zone and maybe listen or talk to someone that you don't agree with or you don't think has something that you - of worth to you. Because I think, a lot of the times, the people that you're most hesitant to talk to, even if they have a different view of something or don't agree with you on something - like, those are the people you learn the most from. The people that you always are comfortable talking to you 99 out of 100 times agree and have the same - like, you're not learning any. You're just affirming what you already know... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: That's right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Which is satisfying, so it's easy to do that. But, like, you know, take a chance. Go outside your box. Listen to people and, like, don't just watch them while they talk to you. Actually, like, listen to them. And then ask questions. I think, you know, these young - like, asking questions, especially in baseball - it's similar to the - you know, like, there's so much information in front of you, like, if you just pay attention. Like, we talk about sign stealing. We talk about - you know, watch the game. That's the way I would tell it. Like, some of these guys who aren't playing or, you know, they sit - they don't want - watch the game. Like, even if you're not playing, there's so much you can learn. And I just think you always have to want to learn. And listening, to me - and I've learned as I've gotten older to listen to people maybe I don't agree with or take a meeting or take a, you know, lunch or go listen to someone speak that you have nothing in common with. That's - I try to do that now - or listen to a podcast or read a book with someone who you completely disagree with. And at the end of the book, you might still completely... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Right. 

Ryan Zimmerman: ...Or they might have something in there where you're like, you know what? I - you know, I've never thought about that. And that's the only way to become a better person. 

Andrew Hammond: And this goes back to something you've spoke about before, Marc. In the long run, you'll never defeat - can't get beyond the game. And, like, you just have to respect the process and respect the game because, in the long run, you'll never beat it. Like, if you're sloppy with your tradecraft, eventually you get found out. There's no short circuit to becoming a successful baseball player. It's the grain that's all the - that famous Muhammad Ali quote - the fight’s already lost or won when you see me dancing under the lights, you know? It's all being done in the training room... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Yeah, right. 

Andrew Hammond: It's all of the stuff that you've never seen and probably never will see. That's what makes success, which I think is quite interesting. 

Andrew Hammond: Just to be playful - just as we wind up here - Marc, I thought it would be interesting to ask. If you could map the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency onto baseball teams, which would each one of them be? 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Oh, my God, what a question. 

Ryan Zimmerman: (Laughter). 

Marc Polymeropoulos: Wow. 

Andrew Hammond: Would one of them be the Yankees? Would one of them be the Dodgers? Would one of them be the... 

Marc Polymeropoulos: That's tough. What I like doing, actually - so that's - I have to think about that one. But what I always joke about is, you know, let's do, like, the United States and our adversaries. So, you know, the Yankees are the evil empire. So, you know, the Yankees are the old - what? - the old Soviet Union or now Russia? I don't know. 


Marc Polymeropoulos: And, you know, who are the good - you know, what's Ukraine - kind of the little underdog? Who's that? 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: You know, maybe it's - I don't know. Maybe it's one of the teams that has kind of snuck into the playoffs. But, you know, that's right, and you actually see it on social media a lot. People do love kind of making these comparisons. You know, what is - you know, the FBI is always seen as these, you know, great Americans, but, you know, wearing, you know, the fancy suit as the - you know, the old G-men - the federal agents. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: The CIA - I always joked around that, you know, I'd wear kind of jeans and a shirt anywhere. I remember I was overseas in an embassy one time, and the ambassador was calling a meeting. And I was not the station chief. I was actually the No. 3 there. But for whatever reason, you know, they weren't able to attend the meeting, and it was actually - it was in the Gulf, and it was about 130 degrees out. So that day, I wore literally shorts, flip-flops and a T-shirt. And this is really not what you do. And then I had to go up and see the ambassador, and I'm like, oh, God. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: And I walked up there, and I kind of - where the CIA station chief would sit in these what you call a country team meeting is next to the ambassador. Everyone else is in a suit. The State Department - very button-up, polished. I'm in flip-flops. And I'm like - at this point, I'm like, well, F it, I'm just going. This is going to be funny. And the ambassador looked at me, and he just - and he's looking at me. And of course, the State Department folks were kind of were like, oh, Marc's going to get in trouble. And the ambassador just smiled, and he's just kind of shaking his head, thinking, you CIA guys. And, you know, it was OK. It worked out. So I don't know. I think, you know, maybe it's - we dress a little more casually for the agency, but we're on the street all the time. It's what you're supposed to do. 

Andrew Hammond: Just to bring it all to a head now, I was just wondering if I could ask you both again, at the end of long, very successful careers, do you go back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, very often? Do you go back to Nationals Park? Do you go back to Langley? How does that make you feel? Is it - I had a good time, or are you like, God, I just wish I could be back? I mean, so I just want to - what's your relationship like with your former profession and with the scene of the crime? 

Ryan Zimmerman: Yeah. I mean, I definitely still - baseball will always be, I think, a part of kind of who I am. I mean, I'm going to have to find something else as well. I just can't do that for the rest of my life. I mean, you know, I'm 38, so I have the weird, you know, retirement at 38. I mean, I have hopefully a lot of years left... 


Ryan Zimmerman: ...Of, you know, production in many aspects of my life. You know, I miss playing. I don't miss having to do this stuff every day. My body - it was the right time for me. But mentally, like, being involved in the game of baseball, helping the organization continue to become one of the better organizations - I think I have a lot of value for them. And this year, we had our fourth kid, so it's been busy. So this year was kind of a wash. Being at home is a, you know, blessing to be at home and help with the four kids. And, you know, once they get a little bit older and they're in school and - I definitely can see myself moving into kind of a hybrid role about, you know, being around the players, being there to talk to the young guys, being in that environment, but still having their trust and doing stuff with the front office. 

Ryan Zimmerman: We've - you know, over the last five or 10 years, it's - the relationship between players and organization has become so toxic and divisive. And, you know, I think some of it's warranted, but I think most of it is just - it's kind of just been put into us. And I have the feeling that, if we were to work together, everyone would be more successful. And I don't think a lot of teams have anyone that that could do that. So if I could do that for the Nationals, I think it would give us an advantage. You know, if you're working together - if the players actually want to play for their front office 'cause the front office actually knows how to take care of the player - you know, what does really matter to the players? You know, a lot of organizations just throw money at things and, you know, I can hopefully help them, you know, allocate or reallocate, you know, where these things need to go. 

Ryan Zimmerman: So for me, baseball-wise, like, being a part of that aspect of it - building up the organization, hopefully helping them continue to do well and be a part of winning a World Series kind of on the other side would be fun. And then, obviously, finding something else to do - meeting people, talking to a lot of people that I've met throughout the years and finding another passion besides baseball because I'm going to have to do something else. 

Andrew Hammond: (Laughter). 

Ryan Zimmerman: I love the game of baseball, but, you know, it's time for me to branch out and find something else I'm passionate about as well. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: So I think that, you know, it's - these are chapters in your life journey. And you can look back very fondly, and you look at the relationships that you made, look at the success that you had - sometimes at the failures, too. But for - you know, look, we also - Ryan lives, you know, 20 minutes from Nats Park, and I live 12 miles from CIA headquarters. So you're still in the area, so you run into people all the time. It's almost impossible not to have ties to the place. But, you know, one of the things that I looked for was, you know, just, again, the next chapter. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: But what I've done a lot now is - you know, I go on TV a lot and talk about national security. Well, you know, that sounds like it's easy, but, you know, it's also - there's a million people watching. And so I put myself in crazy uncomfortable situations, which I was not used to. And so that's when I talk about - you know, you still challenge yourself. I mean, I'm 53 now, so, you know, hopefully I have some time left as well. But ultimately, it's still trying to do things that are a bit uncomfortable, you know, to challenge your mind. And that's 'cause that's what I was used to. You know, one of the things - and I'm sure it's the same as a professional athlete - but for someone, you know, in the CIA or the special operations community, so much of who - you know, that becomes part of your identity. And there's a problem with that sometimes. And so - 'cause people, you know, will like you, respect you, were kind to you or not based on that kind of title that you had. 

Marc Polymeropoulos: But there - again, there is a lot more, kind of, to life. I missed a lot of my - you know, I missed - I was gone for almost three years in the war zone, so I certainly want to spend time with my family more. My kids are - you know, one's in college, and one is out. My son is playing junior college baseball. You know, I'm heading off tomorrow down to Virginia Beach to see him play in a fall ball game. And so, you know, that's fun that I'm able to do that. I missed a lot of that. But it's - your life has different chapters in it, and so it's not putting the CIA aside, but it's kind of just moving on to something else. I do - I clearly remember - you know, this was a while ago. This was when I was in Afghanistan in 2012, flying - and I was my 40s - flying around in helicopters there. And I'm like, my back hurts. I can't do this anymore. Like, there's a limited shelf life, and you know you got to kind of hang it up. And that was certainly it for me. 

Andrew Hammond: Well, thanks ever so much for your time. This has been a lot of fun. I appreciate it very much. 

Andrew Hammond: Thanks for listening to this episode of "SpyCast." Go to our webpage, where you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes and full transcripts. We have over 500 episodes in our back catalog for you to explore. Please follow the show on Twitter @INTLSpyCast and share your favorite quotes and insights or start a conversation. If you have any additional feedback, please email us at spycast@spymuseum.org. I'm your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond, and you can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @spyhistorian. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence- and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum. The "SpyCast" team includes Mike Mincey and Memphis Vaughn III. See you for next week's show.