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Paid to Play, or Paid to Win?

Posted by Dave Clark on July 24, 2006

Demand Greatness, Accept Nothing Less than Victory

By David Josef Clark

Taking an unplanned month away from the Internet – the blogs, message boards, new sites and even e-mail – gave me the opportunity to reevaluate my thoughts on baseball, sports and life in general. The sale of the NBA’s Seattle Sonics, who employed me for portions of three seasons, pinpointed and highlighted the particular issue of organizational goal-setting and stakeholder buy-in that I have refined during this time.

The fact is that in my 13 years of adult life I have been employed by only two organizations that could be considered dominant. While many of the others were very good at what they did – particularly my affiliation with Locked on Sports on KJR – only the 5th Special Forces Group of the US Army and Starbucks, Inc. have excelled at pretty much everything they do.

A large part of what makes these “companies” special is also what makes the following three Major League Baseball Clubs extraordinary. The New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals have all performed at consistently superior levels for extended periods of time. Within all three baseball clubs, the Special Forces and Starbucks there is a fairly unique thing displayed as American companies.

It is a complete understanding by all stakeholders, including employees, players, soldiers, partners, officers, executives, opponents, customers, and fans, that victory and/or success is the only acceptable conclusions to a season, mission or fiscal year. This success orientation is more than just part of a publicly displayed mission statement; it is the expectation and culture of the institution.

Cultural traits such as these are what empower Corporals to override a Captain’s suggestion as long as the evidence of victory is strong. They are what get the executive level partners working in coffeehouses for a few days per quarter just to gain an understanding of the impact of their decisions while connecting with the customers and partners at the level that determines Starbucks’ ultimate success.

It is this cultural expectation of victory that lead Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz to accept a two-year detour as a dominant closer and then happily moving back to the starting rotation when it became apparent that those roles would best lead his club to continue their NL East supremacy.

These expectations of victory are the authority behind Walt Jocketty gambling on aging veterans like Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire or having the natural magnificence of Albert Pujols available to become one of the three greatest players of the time.

And the ‘Culture of Victory’ within baseball is most clearly demonstrated by the behavior of everyone affiliated with the New York Yankees baseball club. Where the concept of “these guys are paid to play” is not even tolerated, much less accepted. No Yankees roster member is paid to play baseball. They are paid to win baseball games. Victory is what matters.

If the Yankees are a better team by paying a player to not play for them that is what they do – they separate themselves from losing. Sunk costs do not matter. The driving force behind the Joe Torre/Brian Cashman New York Yankees is one thing – victory.

Expectations this high place a lot of pressure on the organizations’ employees/players. But such success brings the same level of pleasure to the customers/fans and develops a brand loyalty that is nearly unbreakable. With such high stress, how is it that many of these organizations have turnover rates that rank lower than their industry standards?


Horizontal Management

This theory is called many names, but is an aversion to the traditional, nearly feudal management structure of large organizations. It is the ability of stakeholders to influence decisions that affect the entire company. It empowers even simple lower enlisted soldiers, hourly baristas and bench players to make positive contributions to the success of the organizations.

Within baseball this is exhibited by an immense trust in advance scouts, faith in new theories of roster management. This is shown by a willingness to reward excellence in the minors with a call up to the Majors. When a gold glove shortstop lets the organization know that he will move a few strides right – damaging his own defensive reputation for the sake of the team – that’s the kind of bottom up management that takes advantage of the minds of the many, rather than the power of the few. This theory diminishes the power of the entrenched veteran and prefers performance in the now, and the future over past success.

The Braves even do this in a somewhat unique manner by locating all of their minor league clubs within the greater South. This enhances their ability to judge talent in traditional top down style. What it also does is allow a greater level of interaction with the same people who developed the talent that is currently performing – at a Major League level.

Active participation by all stakeholders across levels of participation is the key to this theory. It means that if a customer, a blogger, a player, an employee, a manager and as traditional an executive comes up with a good idea, it is evaluated, and if valuable, enacted accordingly.

There are enormously valuable resources available to all organizations free of charge these days – customers, fans, blogs, google, etc. Organizations willing to capture these ideas, and evaluate and quickly implement those that compliment the success-based mission statement will be the organizations that dominate over long stretches of time.

The Seattle Mariners

All of this mission statement and management theory is just theory right? Every organization wants to succeed, don’t they?

Certainly, but each entity defines its success differently. Some are willing to accept odd things as “success” in baseball. Some call it “competitive baseball.” Organizations that demand victory don’t shoot for competitive baseball. They aim for dominance.

In the business world, organizations that want to compete rather than lead the pack, wind up being the Tully’s to the big dog – Starbucks. When another nation sees the Special Forces show up they know that the Green Berets aren’t there to just compete, they are there for victory and fear shall take its toll.

The Boston Red Sox have their Yankees Complex and for much of their history the idea that they were not pursuing overall victory kept them second best. The Yankees, the Braves and the Cardinals all pursue the World Series on an annual basis. Being good is not enough for them. Only the concept of being great – every year – is acceptable.

The Seattle Mariners organization accepts being simply competitive. For the Baseball Club of Seattle, good is good enough. The lack of an overriding management philosophy shows up when the power pinch-hit bats play every other week. It shows up when the field manager frowns on the performing prospect in favor of the seasoned veteran. It is again under display when front office personnel are under valid criticism for pursuing a fan friendly environment and three million attendees over shear greatness.

Any organization that strives to be bedir than average will only win by accident, not by intent or design. Those organizations for which being bedir than average is failure will have sustained success. The Mariners have actually chosen to not be great. The Seattle Ball Club has chosen mediocrity and the whims of random chance. Their aim to be above average means that at times they will be great, such as 2000 and 2001, and at times they will fail, as they have miserably the past two seasons.

A skeptic will say that when the opposition knows the mission statement they have an intelligence or scouting advantage. That same skeptic would then need to show how even though every baseball organization knows exactly how the Yankees, Braves and Cardinals go about their business, they continue to enjoy prolonged success.

One would need to show how even though Starbucks has made its Mission Statement and Guiding Principles publicly available for years, they still dominate the coffee business. There are reams of data for public consumption on how the Special Forces operate, and yet none of their opposition stands for long.

The Seattle Mariners Baseball club needs a clear and concise organizational philosophy that is centered on dominating the American League West – every single year; they can still do this through player centric stories while attracting more than three million fans that enjoy watching the past time in one of the most amazing ballparks in the world.

The Mariners would do this by combining their success at attracting international talent, developing amazing bullpen arms, recognizing that success at a major league level is superior to a “hot minor league prospect” and continuing to capture the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest, Southwest Canada and the entire Pacific Rim.

The Mariners need to choose and demand greatness on a daily basis – from everyone within the organization; no one should be paid to play. This franchise needs to pay the players, and everyone else behind the scenes, to WIN.

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89 Responses to “Paid to Play, or Paid to Win?”

  1. Willmore said

    Good thoughts.

    The “winning at any cost” strategy is an effective one, but it fails as often as it succeeds. It worked for the Soviet Union in WW2, but wasn’t so hot for Germany in the very same one. It sure made New York a winner, but look at Baltimore ? They spend, they acquire, they do whatever it takes, and get bupkes. The Blazers and Knicks tried to win at any cost, but they are no Pistons or Lakers. The Army Special Forces are a force, for sure, but even they had Op. Eagle Claw.

    By trying to win at any cost, an organization can become blinded by ambition, and end up like the Yankees are right now – devoid of a farm sytem that will help them down the road. The Mariners are, indeed, without good leadership, but the organization philosophy is not horrible, it’s just badly executed. The philosophy being, that you build from the ground up, invest in a farm system, sign good talent, don’t give ridiculous contracts to old players with limited potential. This philosophy isn’t glamorous, it won’t give you 3 world series titles in a decade, but it will provide a winning team that will be able to compete effectively every year. Then, there are some years that the team will shoot up and above most teams, with only a one or two other teams able to compete for a World Series. In the past, our team did nothing in those years, in the future, those years have to be recognized and the philosophy has to be adjusted. Winning at all costs has be a selective philosophy, used sometimes, but not all the time, otherwise, you’ll have the Cardinals’ 90s and the Yankees 80s. If we have better leadership in the upper tiers of our organization, we might have a shot at doing great things.

    New ideas and original thought is a must, but this is a sport of tradition and old-school. Change is slow, and the Mariners have been caught with their pants down under Gillick. Bavasi is also more of a traditionalist, and Armstrong with Lincoln aren’t baseball guys to think of something original.

    In the end, as fans we might gripe and yell and screams, but we matter little to the team. Fans don’t change teams, teams change themselves, from the top. We will need either a new owner, or some new upper management. Yamauchi is growing in age, and I don’t see Nintendo of America having much interest in the Mariners after Yamauchi dies. It serves little financial or marketing purposes for them, IMO. Paul Allen might be a good owner, but will the Mariners be his Blazers or his Hawks ?

  2. I don’t think Dave is speaking in terms of winning at all costs.

    Just change the goal and run your organization accordingly. If you shoot for the moon, you can land on it. If you shoot for 1st ave, you won’t get anywhere near the moon.

  3. Fred said

    Two very thoughtful contributions. The first, though, is the most important.

    A “victory” mindset would not have traded away Varitek and Lowe for Slocomb or David Ortiz for a journayman infielder. It would not have secured Aurilia, Spiezio, Lawton and Everett—faded journeyman—or kept Boone, Olerud and Guardado a year too long. It would not, in the present situation, trade off Jones or Clement for a Soriano or other half-season, rent-a-player big name. It would have traded Reed in the off-season for Lester, Papelbon or any other young pitching talent. It would trade Ibanez now, at the very top of his market value, before he tails off further in the remainder of 2006 and the two remaining years on his contract. It would keep and acquire players with superior athletic talents and competitive mentalities and discard players who had only one of those qualities.

    Finally, the manager. Hargrove clearly is a professional. He has won before and knows how to run a ballclub. He does not use his bench well and tends to be rigidly formulaic in using his pitchers. He is sold. His talent level is in line with the talent level of the current roster. But he clearly is not someone to demand higher performance when it is needed. The team loses too many one-run and extra-inning games. Good teams find a way to win those.

    Hargrove does not deserve to be fired. His performance can be assessed at the end of the season. But, if as expected the Mariners stay at .500 or slightly below, the team would benefit from a manager a bit more demanding. Another piece of management philosophy: The best leaders are those who not only are liked but who also are feared. Veterans wasting an at-bat, failing to catch a sign, or ignoring the need for situational hitting should be afraid to return to the dugout—and to face the manager after the game.
    The demand for excellence and professionalism should be everywhere.

  4. Willmore, you may need to explain why you interpret the article to be in favor of “winning at any cost.” That is not the attitude that I have seen. It scares me when my writing is taken so differently than the meaning that I intend.

    There are a few things that initiated this writing, the primary being a recent Matt Sinatro (spelling?) quote about Everett possibly being angry about not playing against lefthanded pitching. Sinatro’s response? “He’s paid to play, he shouldn’t complain.” That to me seemed to sum up the Mariner attitude for quite some time. They are professionals, sure. But when one focuses on being paid to play rather than win one can become married to poor concepts.

    Like batting Everett against left-handers. Or starting Joel Piniero. Or bringing up ShinSoo Choo for a week to play Center Field after less than a dozen starts at that position over the past three years.

    The opposite is Mark McGuire’s last years in St.Louis where he was pinch-run and even pinch hit for at times. His public persona was “What ever helps the team win.” In the Yankees organization asks Jason Giambi to just be the power lefty off the bench during the final years of his contract he will do so, and happily.

    The Seattle Mariners do not have that culture. The Seattle Mariners organization from the top on down accept mediocrity and professionalism. They are willing to be decent but not great.

    I can’t tell you about the culture of the Special Forces in 1979-1980 that lead to the failed hostage rescue. I can only explain the culture as it sits from 1990 onward as I interacted with those people on a daily basis. They are a dynamic, victory driven group that does not walk to any specific convention but instead willingly and readily adapts to differing threats.

    The baseball version would be to embrace change. To challenge the traditions. The Mariners have taken a few breif foray’s into that, but only as pertains to International Signings. They need to fully embrace that.

    As I state here

    The Seattle Mariners Baseball club needs a clear and concise organizational philosophy that is centered on dominating the American League West – every single year; they can still do this through player centric stories while attracting more than three million fans that enjoy watching the past time in one of the most amazing ballparks in the world.

    The Mariners would do this by combining their success at attracting international talent, developing amazing bullpen arms, recognizing that success at a major league level is superior to a “hot minor league prospect” and continuing to capture the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest, Southwest Canada and the entire Pacific Rim.

    There is nothing about ignoring the farm as you seem to imply. They only real message is to embrace and demand victory. Victory generates a fan base better than anything else. With the winning the Mariners marketing could create amazing stories that generate near sell-outs on a nightly basis.

    Howard Lincoln is not a fool. When he was fully in charge of Nintendo North America they dominated the business. What he needs to understand about business in the 21st century is that brands must be participatory. He can take a page from Lego and invite the Geeks in Mariner Blog Land into the sanctum. The Danish company is using that strategy to recapture its market.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.02/lego.html

    Early 21st Century businesses will be those that adapt to participatory models in the information age. A victory-centric culture on a baseball team willing to broaden its base of experts will be one that forges new ground and dominates while the league adjusts.

  5. Wiggen said

    I think you have summarized the philosophy of the Mariners accurately. The corporate structure that is the Seattle Mariners is not in the business of winning, they are in the business of making money. While the two concepts are clearly not mutually exclusive – indeed the teams you have mentioned do both – with the Mariners, the primary goal as always been the latter.

    This does not mean the Mariners don’t want to win. I think they – and I’m speaking here about the Mariners as an entity and not as a baseball team – would clearly rather win than lose, if for no other reason than you are far more likely to be profitable over the long run if you win rather than lose.

    What is equally apparent, however, is that winning the world series is not what appears at the top of the list of goals and objectives that all organizations have. And until it does, this will never be a New York Yankees, or a St. Louis Cardinals, or an Atlanta Braves type franchise.

    Sadly, they can get away with this because we, the fans, allow them to do it. We do not insist on excellence, we do not demand winning, we are perfectly willing to accept ‘competitiveness’ as our goal each season. As long as the ballpark remains a nice place to spend a summer evening, the hydro races and the find the ball videos continue to work, and we win now and again, the majority of the people attending Mariner games will be happy.

    I am, however, encouraged by some recent developments. We have seen an influx of young, talented players recently – something we had not seen in the previous ten years. I do believe at least the talent evaluation and acquisition part of the structure is on the right track. Without the committment you mentioned in your article, it won’t be enough by itself. But it is a start.

  6. Willmore said

    I took “win at any cost” from several things in your piece, if it was not the idea of it, I’m sorry. But, when you use the Yankees as an example of a well-run team and say that “victory and/or success is the only acceptable conclusions to a season, mission or fiscal year.” It’s tough to interpret the idea as anything but winning at any cost.

    If your idea is that “the only real message is to embrace and demand victory,” it’s hard to believe that the Mariners don’t subscribe to that idea. You bring up the Yankees, and say that Giambi would be fine with a pinch-hitting role at the end of his career, and I agree, but only if the Yankees are winning at the moment and have another shot at a title. Gary Payton agreed to a secondary role with the Heat, not because of the Heat’s philosophy of winning, which doesn’t exist yet, but because he had a shot at the title with some of the best players available. That’s why he chose to play with the Lakers before that, and would have played with any other team. Payton himself didn’t change, he was the same selfish prick that he was in Seattle, but not, his ego didn’t want minutes or points, it wanted a ring. Giambi, in my opinion, will be the same. The Yankees are in a unique position of perenial winners, and they might be lucky, they might be good, but I don’t think that any team can replicate them. We shouldn’t try, or we will lose. We should, instead, try to become the next Yankees, in our own way, whatever it may be.

    “There is nothing about ignoring the farm as you seem to imply.” No, that was an expansion on why we shouldn’t become the Yankees. Your roadmap to wins sounds fine, though there has to be a minor clarification. You say that major league level success is superior to a “hot minor league prospect,” what exactly do you mean by that ? I would agree with it in principle, but I would not trade, say, Justin Upton for Gil Meche, if I were the D-Backs, even though one is a hot prospect and the other is performing in the majors. Just like I wouldn’t trade Jones for any 35-year old, even if he has an .850 OPS and has a few years left on his contract. Alternatively, I’ll jump at the Upton trade from the Mariners standpoint, even if it sacrifices the Mariners’ performance the rest of the year. Alternatively, the sentence can be interpreted as giving prospects a shot at the Majors, because it helps the big club, and actually impacts the important stat – wins. I would completely agree with that in relation to Snelling, though they game Jones a shot with the big club, and he’s not helping much.

    Embracing change is great, I love change. Einstein said that “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot
    change their minds cannot change anything.” Very true, so can you expect a bunch of men in they late 40s, 50s and 60s change their minds now ? No, if you can’t change the mind of the person, you change the person. It’s really that simple. There will be no change in either the philosophy or the approach to baseball coming out of the front office, until there’s is a change in leadership.

  7. Willmore said

    I really should read before I post:

    “and would have played with any other team. ” should be “and would have played with any other team with a shot at the title”.

    “Payton himself didn’t change, he was the same selfish prick that he was in Seattle, but not, his ego didn’t want minutes or points, it wanted a ring. ” should be “Payton himself didn’t change, he was the same selfish prick that he was in Seattle but now his ego didn’t want minutes or points, it wanted a ring.”

    “though they game Jones a shot with the big club,” should be “though they gave Jones a shot with the big club,”

    “No, if you can’t change the mind of the” Should be “No, so if you can’t change the mind of the”

  8. Willmore, why do you focus on the Yankees and ignore the other two baseball teams that are mentioned?

    Also the Heat went embraced a culture of victory BEFORE they won the title. That’s part of the reason they had Shaq, Mourning, Payton, Antoine Walker. Proven and capable talents all. Yet they also understood that every organization needs to invest in its future. In sports this is by investing in future AllStars (top 5% players).

    Sometimes cheesy motivational business quotes are just that. Sometimes they are a true indicator of the people who believe in them.
    “The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker
    That quote is one of the things that guides the CEO of Starbucks International on a daily basis. I know that because I see him lead that segment to amazing heights. Starbucks International is succeeding in non-coffee markets where people in the past refused to take food to go.

    The point is that it is key to any organization that succeeds for the long term to develop its talent internally and grow its leaders from within its own operations. This home grown talent can then be suplemented with the expertise of previous winners.

    You can focus on the Yankees seeming mismanagement, but I think that they have been rather successful lately. Or do you frown upon the idea of making the playoffs 11 straight years while having a shot this year? Would you rather be the Oakland Athletics over that stretch? The Atlanta Braves have a stretch of 14 years of division titles only interupted by a strike. The St. Louis Cardinals have made the playoffs five of the last six years and have a .552 winning percentage in their decade under LaRussa with his demands of victory.

    It is not that demanding victory ensures victory, it just means that anything less will be a motivaion for change. It also means that at all levels every stakeholder knows exactly what is expected. You know the adage about “Bullpens are better when every guy knows their role?” I think that LIFE is better that way.

  9. Willmore said

    I focus on the Yankees because they are the easiest target to criticise. 🙂

    I doubt that the Heat embraced winning, they wanted to win, but I think that Mark Cuban wants to win just as much, if not more, he exudes winning, he gets nothing. The Orioles spent busloads of money on proven talent, they get nothing. Toronto spent and said they want to win, nothing. Instead, the best team in the majors this year is a perennial loser and butt of jokes. The NHL champions aren’t the Red Wings for a few years now.

    Professional sports is unlike real life, it does not live by the laws and conceptions of outside industries. It’s the only business where loss of money is acceptable and under certain conditions, expected. It is also a service industry, meaning that the team strives to provide the product that is required. I think that it’s as much of a Seattle problem, with the acceptance of losing, as it is anything else. In New York, nothing short of a Stanley Cup, or World Series or NBA title or Lombardi trophy is good enough. The same, but to a slightly lesser extent in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, LA with varying degrees between the major sports in those areas.

    Seattle has had 2 Championships in the major sports, and one of those was in the beginning of last century, the other – 30 years ago. Since then Seattle has cheered on losers in every sport. We accepted the struggles of the Seahawks, we’ve learned to live with a crappy baseball franchise, we find solace in a late-year run by a basketball team destined to not make the post-season. We love the good days, sure, when the Sonics make the finals or the Seahwks play in the Superbowl, or the Mariners had a miracle season, but we don’t expect it. We hope for it and are extatic when it happens, but we are not the fans that live and breathe wins. We live and breathe for sports.

    Maybe it’s better that way.

  10. Willmore, how is it that I could make more clear the difference between full stakeholder buy-in to the Culture of Victory vs the “I paid for you so WIN!” attitude of a Peter Angelos?

    In a culture of victory one is willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

    Angelos has run the Orioles into the ground getting players who are paid to PLAY, not win. You see it in HOW they play the game. Albert Belle being a prime example.

  11. Willmore said

    My point being that any team that is expected to compete for the WS, in any year, can have players that are paid to win. Every player playing on such team is a player paid to win. I just don’t think that a culture of victory exists in the way you describe it. If the Yankees next year are 10-20 games under .500 (hypothetically), Giambi, A-Rod, Jeter and everyone else will become a player paid to play. The Oakland A’s of the late 80s were a team that was paid to play, that didn’t stop them from becoming dominant. The Mariners circa 2001 had what you describe as the culture of victory, they lost.

    There are plenty of egos in New York that care about stats more than wins, but they are overshadowed by the “team first” attitudes of Jeter and Bernie and Rivera and Posada.

    Only winning creates a culture of victory, anything else is just talk. And why did you focus on Baltimore ? 😉

  12. Willmore said

    I just reread that and my points didn’t make much sense. The short and clear version:

    I just don’t think that a culture of victory exists in the way you describe it.
    There are plenty of egos in New York that care about stats more than wins, but they are overshadowed by the “team first” attitudes of Jeter and Bernie and Rivera and Posada. The same can probably be said of Atlanta and St. Louis.
    Only winning creates a culture of victory, anything else is just talk.

  13. Why is winning just talk, but rebuilding through youth a valid concept?

  14. Dave Cairns said

    Jason and others

    Picking up on David’s comment earlier

    “What he needs to understand about business in the 21st century is that brands must be participatory. He can take a page from Lego and invite the Geeks in Mariner Blog Land into the sanctum.”

    Does anyone know if anyone from the Mariners organisation – management, staff or players etc; read the musings of the fans on this site ?

    Have you had any feedback from the organisation Jason ?

  15. Willmore said

    “Why is winning just talk, but rebuilding through youth a valid concept?”

    It’s not. Nothing is for real until it works. At the end of the day it’s about making the team better, and honestly, I don’t care how, as long as it works. You might very well be right in your concepts, I don’t know, it’s certainly a good enough notion to try it, it can’t hurt.

    To Dave: Jason has covered that and essentially, noone important cares about the blogosphere.

  16. They CARE, and they READ. But they aren’t ever going to care enough to let us find out they care.

  17. I have it on good faith that certain family members of baseball players read blogs quite regularly, and, of course, pass on information, whether good or bad. And I’m not just talking GS52 here. Thanks to Google, a lot of players’ family members find MORE information about their children/brothers (etc.) on the blogs than in the mainstream media. There was an article over at the Seattle P-I talking about Joel Pineiro’s mom, for example. I happen to know that this happens quite frequently.

    It is not that demanding victory ensures victory, it just means that anything less will be a motiva[t]ion for change

    Brilliant thoughts, David! Paired with your “Boldly…” stuff, these are very excellent contributions to the blog-o-sphere. I’m with you all the way here. I’m constantly baffled how a very successful businessman could help lead a video game company to market domination, yet he has no clue how to run an MLB franchise. I realize the businesses are different, but still, with all the tech-savvy and forward-thinking intellectuals in the greater PNW region, you would think that the M’s FO folks would catch on. I’d give Bavasi a bit of credit here, for having a decent balance of old-school baseball knowledge and yet not being afraid of neo-modern saber-analysis.

    That’s why I’m 100% behind your efforts to swap Chuck Armstrong out for Bill Bavasi. He’d be a MUCH better President than GM. He’d actually have more authority to demand victory and change things as motivated when victory is not achieved…

  18. I know of several players’ family members who read this blog and others, including more than just a couple of current big leaguers.

    The team knows what the main bloggers and commenters think. It just doesn’t matter enough to Lincoln and Armstrong.

    Bavasi seems to care more, however.

  19. Oly Rainiers Fan said

    Jeff Angus has a book out called Management by Baseball that talks about various management philosophies of baseball clubs as compared with/against more ‘real world’ businesses. He did an interesting presentation (at the SABR convention) on the mind-set of the White Sox organization last year, and how it was permeated through the organization – giving specific examples of why it worked. Roland Hemond, White Sox assistant GM and longtime scout/executive extraordinaire was in attendance, agreeing wholeheartedly.

    Jeff’s doing reading/booksigning at Barnes & Noble in U-village 7:30 Thursday night if any of y’all want to swing by and check it out. Inteesting stuff to be sure.

    FWIW, there is at least one Mariners starting pitcher who would wholeheartedly agree with this article’s assessment of what is wrong with the Mariners, that is is a problem much deeper than simply replacing one manager or signing one more left-handed batter – it runs throughout the organization and all its employees.

    Nice article, thanks for posting it.

  20. Yeah. It’s like the root or something 😉

    Indeed, Bavasi seems to pay attention to what the main M’s bloggers think. He’s actually rather aligned in his thinking with a lot of what the mainstream M’s blogs discuss. He also thinks Logan’s site is kinda funny. Bavasi’s quite hip, really.

    And, really, Lincoln could give a rats ass. Talk about someone who really should not be involved in baseball.

  21. Edman said

    Funny, isn’t it? Teams that are winning, get attributed with the “Victory is the only option” tag, leaving those that are losing with the “content to compete”.

    It’s a red herring. People have to quantify “winning”. We assume that those teams that aren’t winning, choose to lose. Thus, those that win, must have a special approach the others lack.

    There is something to this article, but, it’s only a small piece of the puzzle. And, certainly, citing Starbucks, considering the recent sale of the Sonics, certainly questions the knowledge of that “Victory” concept.

    And please, letting the words of Matt Sinatro inspire you. He’s a freakin’ commentator. And, he wasn’t speaking for the organization, he was speaking just as you, and every other poster here does…..as a fan.

    FYI…..Seattle has based a lot on Atlanta’s model, from the mid 1990’s on. Exact model, no. But, from all I’ve read, found the Braves to be a viable model of both competative baseball with fiscal responsibilities.

  22. Edman, Sinatro isn’t just “a freakin’ commentator,” he spent decades as a player and coach in the game. He understands the Front Office better than anyone out here in the blogoshpere.

    Your claim that Seattle emulates Atlanta is intriguing, maybe you could point out where Atlanta’s Front Office targeted “being competitive” or rebuilt? In the Cox/Scheuerholz era the goal has always been the same. That goal has nothing to do with being OK.

  23. Edman said

    David,

    So, from Sinatro’s words, you worked all that out into the Mariner mission statement?

    You’re a far brighter man and I, then.

  24. As I listen to the only sports radio station in town (sad but Spokane has two) I have heard that the Minnesota Twins have won 32 of their last 40. What does that have to do with anything?

    Their streak started against the Mariners…well yes, but that isn’t what I noted.

    The Twins streak started when they gave up on their two Free Agent acquisitions of Tony Batista and Ruben Sierra and instead went with the youngsters that have grown in the culture of the Twins. That team at one point had 21 of the 25 man roster living in the same neighborhood. Their prospects are taught from day one to sacrifice their own performance if it increases the chances of winning.

    The Minnesotta Twins started their hot streak when they reinjected the culture of winning into their club. For them the attiture really goes from Kirby Puckett to Brad Radke to Torii Hunter. The fact is that the Minnesotta Twins under the Kelly/Gardenhire + Ryan management triumverate have grossly overperformed. Three of the last four years they won their division and though they suffered from four straight losing seasons their culture and expectation of victory never changed and never waivered. Yes, they lost a lot of baseball games, much of that was due to their poor stadium and market situation forcing their financial hands, but the team’s culture hung on through the disasters to resurect the club.

  25. Interesting read, David.

    Just curious though – how did you decide that the Yankees, Cardinals, and Braves have this “winning is mandatory” mentality? Was it obvious because they win?

    So, they won because they had this mentality, and we know they had this mentality because they won?

    Seems to me like, while this is a nice theory, it’d be impossible to substantiate without having worked for each of these organizations at high levels and having interacted with all different types of employees to assess if this is true or not.

    To me, it looks like a classic case of circular logic.

  26. So, from Sinatro’s words, you worked all that out into the Mariner mission statement?

    Actually, the idea started to emerge while it came apparent that Carl Everett was almost certain to hit his vesting option. Then I asked around to people I worked with while at KJR.

    And they asked around. Some people cruised the Internet for me.

    Guess what? The Mariners do not have a public, or even private mission statement. They do not have an overriding organizational philosophy. The Seattle Mariners lack cohesion, they break down into somewhere between two and four differing camps.

    So then while on my little retreat I pondered what was so different about the organizations that I have had the pleasure with which to partner and those that were failures.

  27. Dave Cameron,

    While I can not stastically prove that any of the baseball organizations I have mentioned truly have a culture of victory and it would be difficult if not impossible to do such a study, I think that the perception throughout baseball is that those organizations do have differing cultures than the rest of the league.

    Is that culture due to their having already won? Or did the culture start before the winning?

    That would seem to be the question you want answered. A valid question that I will look further into, but I will admit one that deserves being answered.

    Oddly enough is that the Mariners have become apathetic over the past couple years, and yet if winning creates culture, should they have already had the culture from their success of 1995-2002/3?

    Is their any doubt though that organizations that only accept winning would not be playing veterans worse than replacement level for almost 300 ABs?

  28. Is that culture due to their having already won? Or did the culture start before the winning?

    Or, alternately, are we, as outsiders, projecting this “culture” upon them because they’re winning, and if they had this culture, it would fit well with our theory?

    Is their any doubt though that organizations that only accept winning would not be playing veterans worse than replacement level for almost 300 ABs?

    If the organization as a whole failed to understand the concept of replacement level, then yes. The Mariners have historically shown a very poor ability to evaluate performance – they do a nice job of evaluating talent/skills/tools, but when it comes to deciding if a player is actually performing or not, they struggle.

    Is Carl Everett still playing because they don’t care about winning (doubtful, in my mind), or because key people in decision making positions aren’t sure they can do any better (likely, in my opinion)?

  29. Edman said

    David Cameron, you made my point, if I’d had enough time to think it out.

    Certainly, winning is something relatively new to the Mariners. They’re hopefully learning. I think Gillick’s hitting on gold with guys like Boone unfortunately gave them the impression that you could find value in lesser players. They learned by that, going after Beltre and Sexson.

    We can all argue that they failed to get the players they needed. But, you can’t argue that they changed their approach in an attempt to be more competative.

    You can praise the Braves all you want. But, you failed to mention that the Braves have done most their building from within. They either use their farm system to fill organizational needs, or use prospects in trade for pieces they need. They do make key FA acquisitions, but they in general don’t go nuts at the deadline, nor do they build via free agency.

    There is a parallel there, to what Bavasi is trying to do. The key is a strong farm system.

    Personally, I’m sick of the “Carl Everett” card. Would you be satisfied that the M’s want to win, if they brought up Snelling? Carl probably isn’t here for too much longer. But please, lets stop using him as some form of statement.

    Just curious. Are the other 27 teams not interested in “VICTORY”?

    Oh, and BTW, if you REALLY are interested in the “VICTORY” concept, then you better be willing to embrace Carl Everett. He’s one guy with the “WARRIOR” attitude, sitting on that bench. He doesn’t show up to chat with the firstbasemen on the other team. He’s there to win, period. So, while you deem it necessary to equate his being on the roster as a statement of mediocrity, you fail to note his attitude in the locker room, expressing that “WINNING” is the only reason they are there.

  30. Is Carl Everett still playing because they don’t care about winning (doubtful, in my mind), or because key people in decision making positions aren’t sure they can do any better (likely, in my opinion)?

    I’m not so sure these are mutually exclusive.

    I don’t think Dave Clark’s trying to argue that they’re apathetic towards winning. Even being somewhat oblivious as to how to run a successful baseball franchise, Howard Lincoln is not making business decisions precisely because he doesn’t care about winning. His vision of success is what’s in question here.

    Or, alternately, are we, as outsiders, projecting this “culture” upon them because they’re winning, and if they had this culture, it would fit well with our theory?

    That’s a very good question, of course. Indeed as outsiders, both from the M’s org and the other orgs Dave Clark discusses, we don’t really know what the culture is inside the walls. All we have, then, is our perceptions. We can get anecdotal info from inside the walls, but really, I think what’s important here is the perception from the outside. I don’t think you can have a successful organization without having some emphasis on being successful within the culture of that organization.

    Before the season started, in the M’s case, one could say that success would mean a .500 season this year. I go back to Art Thiel’s reporting of Jay Buhner’s reaction to the M’s going hog wild in 1991 after they won the game guaranteeing .500. He was completely baffled as to why it was that big of a deal. While it is anecdotal, it’s further evidence for what Dave Clark’s saying here. Coming from the Yankees, Buhner was caught off guard as to why a team would go apeshit over mediocrity.

    It’s that sense, really, that’s at least the perception. And one of the reasons Hargrove lobbied hard for Everett. He was counting on Everett being that Buhner-sized spark plug to ignite the attitude in the clubhouse. Obviously Everett needed the performance to back it up. Save the two games at Safeco where he won the game for the M’s via walkoff HR, Everett’s performance has definitely not been enough to give him an edge in the clubhouse.

  31. Edman, first yes several of the teams in baseball place many things above being a championship contender. The Boston Red Sox for much of their history are more concerned with the New York Yankees than they are with being contenders. The Florida Marlins build on a roller coaster model willlingly losing for a few years to reload, win and then explode. Several teams would rather make money than win. The Detroit Tigers basically accepted losing for three years.

    Your claim that Everett is there to win is belied by the fact that the Mariners have had ideal platoon partners on the club the entire season. Rather than see the chances of victory increase by being part of a willing platoon he explodes at the manager for not playing. He has placed personal performance above the team winning.

    Is this a consistent problem for the Mariners? Eddie Guardado was doing a fine job as a LOOGY after he lost his role. A team first-victory oriented player would be willing to help the team win in whatever role was better for the club.

    You also claim that I failed to recognize that the Braves built from within, I also make no mention that the Mariners should or should not be built from within. In fact I credit them in the opening article for building an amazing bullpen.

    But oddly enough the claim that they don’t go nuts at the deadline during their run, you are right, but they also acquire significan talent via trade during the offseason. It is not all built from within.

    Cameron, why is it that the expectations for certain organizations in sports are clear and understood? Do you really have any doubt what the goal of the Cardinals, Yankees or Braves are? Did we know what the goal of the Mariners were at the beginning of the season?

    How can one acheive greatness when their goal is mediocrity?

  32. Ben said

    You’re entitled to your opinion….

    …but I just cannot buy that winning 116 games in a year is an “accident”…especially since it was a major league record.

    To simply say that being “better than average” is the organization goal is an overly harsh assesment. Actually, to suggest that any Seattle sports franchise does not care if it wins it all doesn’t make very much sense. If history has taught area franchises anything…it’s that Seattle will NOT support a losing team…while cities like Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Boston and Atlanta would. Seattle sportsfans have always tended to be bandwagon-type fans….lacking the loyalty in the cities that you’ve mentioned (St. Louis, New York, and Atlanta). Ask the Seahawks and the Sonics…they would probably tell you the same thing. Seattle sports fans do tend to dissappear at the first sign of trouble….much faster than fans in the cities you mentioned (which is painfully obvious). As fans….maybe we need to take a step back and look in the mirror…..maybe the fan support has a little something to do with creating that winning culture.

    Another important point is that Seattle has lacked the history (time period) in which to create winning seasons….unlike the teams mentioned (St. Louis, New York, and Atlanta)

    The point I guess I’m trying to make is that….a “winning culture” takes a LONG time to develop….I really don’t think 30 years is enough. Years such as 1995 and 2001 are the building blocks to creating a winning culture that will eventually trickle down to future management. It takes LONG time to learn from mistakes in sports….And how fans support the team during rough patches (such as the last 2-3 years – which, btw, is still a relatively short period) helps create that “winning culture”.

  33. Cameron, why is it that the expectations for certain organizations in sports are clear and understood? Do you really have any doubt what the goal of the Cardinals, Yankees or Braves are? Did we know what the goal of the Mariners were at the beginning of the season?

    I’m not saying the Yankees don’t have this culture of winning that you refer to. I’m questioning why you don’t believe, for instance, that the Angels, Twins, Indians, Astros, Mets, Dodgers, and Giants also have this mentality? Why did you just pick the Yankees, Cardinals, and Braves?

    To me, it appears that you picked them because they’ve won the most consistently throughout the past decade. So-probably subconciously-you’ve self-selected the teams that have this culture because they are winning organizations… and then made the leap that they win because they have this culture.

    I have friends in a lot of organizations throughout MLB, and I can tell you, those three organizations aren’t that unique. The Cardinals, for instance, hired a group of “internet experts” to form an advisory panel, which included Ron Shandler, Mitchel Lichtman, and Deric McKamey. These guys are very bright and know quite a bit about the game – none of them are currently employed by the Cardinals, and all had significant issues getting the decision makers in charge to listen to their suggestions. The tension between the baseball people and the advisory panel was clear from day one, and neither side had much respect for the other.

    It wasn’t a good situation, and it didn’t last. That whole scenario goes completely counter to your assertions about an organization that has this culture of winning where any good idea is evaluated and put to use.

    I could bring up similar examples with the Yankees, who have had more factions in their front office than the Crips and Bloods in recent years. Their front office has been the exact opposite of unity and harmony, instead consisting of a bunch of talented people who dislike and distrust each other.

    The Braves, I think, are a pretty good example of what you’re talking about – John Schuerholz is, without a doubt, one of the foremost leaders involved in baseball. Sandy Alderson implemented something similar in the mid-80’s with Oakland, and Beane has been able to sustain a small part of that.

    But, in my opinion, the Cleveland Indians have the closest organization to what you’re describing in baseball, and yet they’re floundering at .500 this year – why? Because it happens, and baseball is a weird game with many variables. It isn’t because they lack the will to win, or they care less about victory than the Yankees or Cardinals.

    I know the point you’re getting at – I just think there’s circular logic in the examples you selected, and by choosing teams that are successful to be examples of this culture you’re referring to, you’re overstating the perceived value of organizational cohesiveness.

    Could the M’s be run better? Absolutely. Are the Yankees and Cardinals model organizations? No, I don’t think so. And I think they’re good examples of how you can win without having this kind of top-down cohesiveness.

    It’s nice, but its not mandatory.

  34. Dave, I actually thought about including the Twins on the list, but I thought that the subtley of a team obsessed with winning while hampered by stadium and revenue issues and a losing record in the 90s would confuse people. I did add them in the comments.

    Your mention of the Indians is notable. I haven’t looked at them in the depth that I have the Cardinals, Yankees and Braves. I don’t know a former player there personally like I did the Twins. They may be going for it every year. Their rebuilding seemed to be quite deliberate buy why high and sell to reload. I don’t know.

    I just don’t see many organizations in any industry that say “Our goal is to be mediocre for this year and maybe next” that go out and dominate.

    Why are the Mariners unwilling to state their goal?

  35. Edman said

    David,

    To be blunt, your observations are surface level only, and from the perspective of the fan. We all here lack the knowledge to know what the true goals of the Mariners, or any other organization are.

    And, you remove the fiscal part, which plays a big role. The Royals don’t want to be victorious? Would you come to that conclusion based on their record?

    You also discount the obvious EXTRA income involved with the three teams you mentioned. All three have ONE common denominator…..their own sports networks, which while on paper, doesn’t provide income, but in reality, does allow them to be a bit more aggressive with their decision making.

    For example, George Steinvader can lose money, and lots of it, on his baseball franchise…..while the YES networks rakes in millions.

    I don’t want to get into who spends how much, but to simply imply it’s a matter of will, rather than means, is a short sided.

    If it was simply a matter of will, every team would be doing it.

  36. eponymous coward said

    Hmm, you’d think that the Mariners, who apparently are oon a mission to be mediocre, might notice things like:

    – mediocre teams don’t draw well (except for the Cubs, who are a special case, being in a much larger market and having a deep history and fan base to draw on).

    – Mariner attendance is highly correlated with winning (see: 1996 compared with any year before, 2006 compared with 2002).

    – Teams usually set attendance records the year AFTER major success (most teams draw better the year after they appear in or win a World Series, as opposed to the year of, see the previous examples- 1996 was a better year than 1195, and 2002 was as good as 2001).

    I have an alternate hypothesis to the one you advance: the Mariner organization wants to win as much as anyone else (save for teams like the Royals and D-Rays who are basically profiting from being farm teams in MLB for the rest of MLB- cheaping out on salary plus getting revenue sharing). They just aren’t particularly competent at executing a winning strategy, and the Braves, Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals are (and have better management). It’s not a problem with goal-setting, it’s a problem with the strategies they are using to try for those goals. Dave’s pointed some of this out, but I’ll go into it

    – the Mariners have a problem with understanding the concept of replacement-level talent,
    -they overvalue “intangibles” over objective performance,
    – one person in a key position (Bavasi) has a good record in evaluating farm system talent but a poor record in terms of building a major league roster that wins in-season (Bavasi, in 8 years prior to this one, was not a GM of a division-winning or 90 win team, and odds are high this will be a true statement at the end of his ninth year in October)
    – another person in a key position (Hargrove) is a poor in-game manager who is relatively inflexible in adjusting to changed situations and overvalues veteran contributions,
    – senior management (Lincoln and Armstrong) hired these people and generally shares the organizational view embodied by Bavasi and Hargrove…which is why they were hired.

    Those, to me, seem to be the broad problems in the organization that need to be addressed, as opposed to a mission statement of “hey, let’s win the world series”. It’s not a question of desiring to be mediocre (they could be mediocre for considerably less money and still draw 2.3 million to the Safe), but a question of being able to competently execute a winning strategy. They’ve spent 250 million over 3 years.

    This argument (“The Mariners don’t really care about winning, which is why they don’t win”) has always struck me as a big fundamental attribution error, given that they spend as much money as many World Series participants the last 5 years. There’s even the explanation that since a veteran-laden strategy in 2000-2003 worked pretty well, that it was reasonable to assume what worked before would continue to work- or that Bavasi would be able, given sufficient payroll dollars, to rebuild on the fly.

  37. gwangung said

    ec’s got it, I think.

    Let’s not focus on mission statements and what not. It’s the execution of that mission statement that’s relevant, and effective implementation of principles that generate the culture of winning.

    The Mariners a) don’t implement well and b) don’t know what it takes to win. They consistently miscalculate risk, spending money at wrong times and withholding money and risk at the wrong times.

    For all the world, it seems that the management is on different pages in player evaluation, with different parts of the organization valuing different things in different order in players’ makeup. And there doesn’t seem to be a consistent philosophy to developing players and instilling a common approach to the game.

  38. edman, my statements are not from a surface level like any other fan. Unless you think that every fan spent three years inside the clubhouse.

    As for the Mariners income, it is in the top four in the league. Their most recent cable contract actually provides more revenue than even those teams that wholely own their own network. You’ve read all this data from me before, you ignored it then and you will likely ignore it now.

    As for teams like the Royals that I claim don’t want to win, I can clearly say so because they make more money off of the Luxury Tax and Revenue Sharing the spend in total on Payroll and Player Development combined. They have also consistently failed to release what their “rebuilding plan” is. The Indians didn’t do that, they told their fans what they were going to do and how they would do it.

    Last year every one thought they were a year ahead, this year they seem to be a year behind. It seems to me that they might just be on schedule as their overall talent is the same.

    ec and gw, you claim I’m overly focused on mission statements, I challenge you to point out what the Mariners goals are. I also would love to see an organization in any industry that targets mediocrity yet wins it all.

    gw, I’m not saying they don’t spend enough, or even that they are spending improperly. I did not mention finances at all. The lack of cohesive organizational philosophy is apparent. Personally I think that the solution may be as simple as giving Bavasi a promotion to Chuck Armstrong’s role while empowering him to make all decisions necessary to implement his own plan to win a World Series while ensuring that every level of management and player understands that the goal is not competition for the AL West title, but a World Series win.

  39. Until they won the World Series last year, you almost certainly would have classified the White Sox as a team that was not committed to being winners. Jerry Reinsdorf has a long history of ignoring the Pale Hose in lieu of the Bulls. They had a long series of division titles with no World Series appearances, the infamous white flag trade, made moves like swapping budding star Carlos Lee for role player Scott Podsednik, completely mishandled the departure of Frank Thomas-the icon of the organization-and hired a manager who was a complete loose cannon and criticized his boss in public.

    Even now, I don’t see you suggesting that the White Sox are an example of this tyle of organization, yet they’re the defending World Champions, and they’re obvious contenders again this year.

    Having this kind of organizational philosophy, to me, is like putting grade 93 gasoline in your car. Your car can’t run without gas, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be premium gas, and the breaks/engine/transmission are all more vital to the car running well than the grade of petrol that is put in the tank.

  40. eponymous coward said

    I also would love to see an organization in any industry that targets mediocrity yet wins it all.

    I’d like to see proof that when Lincoln says he wants to win it all, he doesn’t mean it. There’s plenty oon the public record as to what his INTENT is.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/baseball/193932_lincoln06.html

    “… I don’t agree there is anything other than full commitment on the part of these owners to bring a World Series to Seattle as soon as we can.”

    “As stakeholders, they feel that something in 2004 was taken away from them. Clearly, the expectations are high — we’d gone to two straight AL Championship Series. Why wouldn’t they be high? It’s important to realize how much they have invested in the Mariners. It’s no fun to think that’s been taken away.

    What I would say to them is, ‘That’s how I feel.’ My job is to get that joy back to the fans as quickly as possible.”

    As for a counterexample of “mediocre teams don’t win titles”: the Florida Marlins. Zero division titles. An organization that’s been repeatedly imploded by their ownership. Two championship rings in the space of a decade. Compare and contrast to the Atlanta Braves, who’ve won FAR more games during their combined existence, FAR more division titles (in the same division, no less), and one less championship, and the exact same number of World Series appearances (two).

    Wayne Huizenga and an owner who helped run the Montreal Expos into the ground before he came to Florida, and seems well on the way for being 2 for 2 on that score, don’t strike me as an ideal management group- and I don’t think ANYONE outside of some true believers would have predicted the 1997 or 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins in April of the years they won- or even July.

    This isn’t to say that we should aspire to 85-90 win seasons and wild card berths and be happy if we luck out, but I think Dave’s point is well-taken- the organizations you’ve mentioned have a correlation with winning. Is the difference between, say. the Dodgers (another example of a franchise with some unremarkable results the last few years) and the Red Sox or Braves REALLY just intent to win and clearly understood organizational goals?

    I honestly believe this discussion topic, which has been around in the M’s blogosphere/discussion boards for years, even back in the days when it was “Pat Gillick doesn’t make a killer trade in July because the M’s don’t really want to win”, is fundamental attribution error- it tries to ascribe to intent (“they really don’t want to win and don’t have goals”) to what I think is properly circumstantial (‘they want to win and have goals- they just can’t execute”).

    And why does Bavasi getting a promotion and more authority over the organization mean anything, honestly? Please name me some general managers who, after nine years of GM’ing teams that:

    – didn’t win their division in nine years of being a GM,
    – didn’t win 90 games in nine years of being a GM,
    – got to sign free agents like Mo Vaughn, Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to lucrative deals (so this means we exclude the guys who GMed small-market craptastic teams who had no realistic shot of EVER contending),

    have gone on to lead their teams to organizational success. I bet it’s a pretty short list.

    The way I see it, Bavasi’s gotten MORE than enough chances to prove he’s a superior GM who can buidl a record of distinguished accomplishment. The evidence on the field is lacking, unless we see some results this year, in a winnable division, and even THAT is marginal (the team would have to win 2 out of 3 the rest of the way to hit 90 wins). How is promoting someone who’s failed to succeed when given some fairly impressive resources, showing people in youir organization and the fans that you’re working towards a goal of a World Series win?

  41. gwangung said

    ec and gw, you claim I’m overly focused on mission statements,

    Well, yes. you said….

    Edman, first yes several of the teams in baseball place many things above being a championship contender. The Boston Red Sox for much of their history are more concerned with the New York Yankees than they are with being contenders. The Florida Marlins build on a roller coaster model willlingly losing for a few years to reload, win and then explode.

    Well. They WON TWO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A SHORT SPAN. No matter what you say about their “mission statement”, THEY WON TWO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. That’s not a frequent occurence in baseball recently, and could arguably be said to be more successful than St. Louis and Atlanta.

    Moreover, I think you well know that establishing a clear mission statement is easy to do in an organization. Any fool can do that. And when any fool can do it, you’ll get the bulk of the organization paying lip service to it. It’s implementing that mission statement in a logical, clear and consistent way on all levels of the organization that’s tough.

    You’re on much stronger ground when you’re talking about the details of implementation.

  42. DrDetecto said

    Re: the White Sox …

    They had a Mariner-like operating philosophy yes, and from 2001-2004 they ran .500 records …

    Then in 2005, they brought in “high maintenance,” emotional players like AJ Pierzynski, Carl Everett and Bobby Jenks …

    Beginning late in 2004, they had begun the new culture with white-knuckle moves like the big Freddy Garcia trade and the Jose Contreras gamble …

    It certainly did not hurt that Jon Garland pulled a miracle out of his ear or, as you have written, that they tightened their D …

    …………………..

    But dollars to donuts that any White Sox player would tell you that the mission began changing at the ASB 2004, with the Garcia trade and with the high-maintenance fiery types that Reinsdorf began bringing in.

    The White Sox’ metamorphosis from 2001-2004 1H into the team they’ve become 2004 2H – 2006, I would take as an exhibit for the point Dave is making.

    ………………..

    It’s a funny thing in pro sports. A team’s mindset can be isolated to an individual year.

    The 1997 and 2003 Florida Marlins, and the 2004-05 Seattle SuperSonics, are examples of teams that got personality transfusions very quickly. The Marlins, of course, receiving theirs when and only when management sounded the bugle call.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  43. DrDetecto said

    The Red Sox …

    Their internal employees will tell you that the mission, and the personality, changed with the willingness to add Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke for 2004 …

    As Pat Gillick (of all people!) has conceded, a dramatic July 31 (or offseason) addition can change the personality in a clubhouse.

    Boston’s mission was different in 2004 and its clubhouse was different. Boston’s employees singled out Schilling, Foulke, and Varitek as the players who personified courage and poise, and whose leadership made the Yankee comeback possible.

    …………………..

    Dave Clark (and I, and Stephen Covey) may be overstating the need for a clear mission.

    But I doubt it 🙂

  44. eponymous coward said

    Again- what proof do you have that Howard Lincoln’s statement made above is false, made only for the fans? Seems pretty clear to me. Why can’t I attribute this team’s failure to a crappy implementation of a clear goal of wanting to win, as opposed to a hidden motive (we don’t really care if we win)?

    This is the problem is that under this scenario, the Mariners spent over $400 million in payroll from 2002 to 2006, and had attendance deteriorate from 3.4 million to what will likely be about 2.1-2.3 million. They’ve significantly impacted their profitability and lost opportunities to build franchise value- because if the Mariners HAD contended and produced good teams through that time (let alone won a championship) there’s no question there’d be better attendance at Safeco.

    So even if they have a goal of “let’s be competitive and take our chances”- they’ve horribly flubbed it, and turned themselves into Texas, or Baltimore- attendance in the low 2 million range, flawed team, nice ballpark in a decent metro area, attendance below what it was in the KINGDOME in the late 90’s, for God’s sake (Mariner attendance for 1998: 2.65 million). In essence, either way you cut it, they’ve been incompetent at managing their asset.

    Why, in light of that, do you think they can fix that with a spiffy mission statement? Why, in light of that, do you think Bavasi, who accepted a job from people who, as you assert, weren’t really committed to winning, is going to suddenly be hypercompetitive and able to beat the pants off Billy Beane once we get some nice bullet points on a Powerpoint presentation? Doesn’t it strike you that he’s part of the problem, too? I know I sure wouldn’t trust someone who accepted a job knowing his mission was to be mediocre- and I don’t see how the thrust of this argument means anything else other than Bavasi was in on the con job, or whe was too stupid to figure it out, EITHER of which should disqualify him, no?

    See, the way I see it, any way you slice it (the Mariners don’t want excellence and are satisfied with “competitive”, or the Mariners want excellence, but are blindly pratfalling into the office furniture because they aren’t executing a plan that will result in excellence, because they are making mistakes in organizational philosophy and talent evaluation, plus they’re getting dealt some bad luck on some things like the Garcia/Winn/Villone trades), you don’t really have an excuse to not want serious housecleaning in the organization come October- unless the Mariners DO pull off a Marlin-esque Houdini act. And at that point, the whole org needs to be addressed, from Armstrong on down.

  45. DrDetecto said

    ++ Why, in light of that, do you think they can fix that with a spiffy mission statement?++

    You don’t get it EC.

    A spiffy mission statement is what loser companies do.

    Take two copies of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits and call me in the morning. 😉

    Seriously, read the book.

  46. cgot said

    Yep,Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits is a amazing book.

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  47. Dwight Schrute said

    David Clark,
    While I understand the point you’re trying to make, I have to respectfully disagree with the entire theoretical basis of your article. For the last four years I have been employed by two different MLB organizations, and it is ludicrous to suggest that the successful teams in MLB simply “want to win” more than the other teams.
    You ask for examples of teams setting low goals and then achieving dominance – how about taking a look at this year’s Tigers? Or the ’03 Marlins? Neither of those teams necessarily “expected success” at the beginning of the season – yet success is exactly what they achieved. Furthermore, you seem to bend the idea of “establishing a culture of winning” to whatever situation you want. In the case of the Twins, “establishing a winning culture” consisted of dropping free agent veterans and replacing them with young players. In the case of the Cardinals, it was signing free agent veterans instead of giving a shot to younger players. I don’t think you’ve done an adequate job of establishing a chain of causation between “a culture of winning” and actual results, nor have you actually defined what a “winning culture” consists of.
    As David Cameron said, baseball is a crazy game. For that matter, sports in general are pretty crazy. You use Starbucks as an example of an organization that has established a culture of success. Yet the chief global strategist of Starbucks, one Howard Schultz, was completely unable to apply those same “culture of success” principles to the basketball team he owned. Applying business principles to the arena of sports is not as simple as you make it sound. Schultz serves as a good example of this. He tried to use business principles from his time at Starbucks in how he managed the Sonics and failed to the extent that he sold the team in an effort to extricate himself from the situation altogether. Sports is simply a different animal. Period.
    Furthermore, even attempting to analogize the running of a sports organization to the U.S. Special Forces is folly. The two enterprises are so different in ethos and objective that its just a waste of time.
    Again, I am not trying to shoot down your entire article here. But there is a lot more to winning than simply “wanting to win,” and to suggest otherwise is insulting to the people like me who spend our hours working our asses off to try to achieve victory in MLB.
    Cheers,
    Dwight

  48. MtGrizzly said

    Does anyone else find it ironic that the best seasons that the M’s have ever had would be considered abject failures by the Yankee’s standards?

  49. Okay, so, the ’04 Red Sox, the ’05 White Sox, and the ’06 White Sox all have this culture of winning… and we know this because they won.

    Again, I’m just pointing out the circular reasoning. We’re identifying teams that want to win pointing to teams that did win, and then claiming that, because they won, they obviously wanted to win.

    It’s easy to look at acquiring Garcia, Contreras, Jenks, and Pierzynski and say “see, they wanted to win, they got guys with bad reputations!”, because they did win. If it hadn’t worked, then we could point and say “see, they didn’t want to win, they kept acquiring other people’s castoffs and reclamation projects”.

    So what do we do if the ’06 White Sox don’t win, with basically the same roster? Do we blame Jim Thome’s 1.050 OPS and say he was playing for money? Or, instead, do we recognize that they’ve gotten less than spectacular performances from their starting rotation, and that in the end, it’s pretty apparent that last years White Sox just got hot at the right time?

    It is possible to have both read Steven Covey and still not believe that we’re capable of discerning the motives of other individuals.

  50. Dwight Schrute said

    I second Cameron’s sentiments.

  51. Love your work too, Dwight.

  52. Willmore said

    Jason, you have an old sidebar about the Tacoma TV game still showing, just so you know.

  53. DrDetecto said

    ++Okay, so, the ‘04 Red Sox, the ‘05 White Sox, and the ‘06 White Sox all have this culture of winning… and we know this because they won.

    Again, I’m just pointing out the circular reasoning. We’re identifying teams that want to win pointing to teams that did win, and then claiming that, because they won, they obviously wanted to win.++

    For sure there can be circular reasoning involved, depending on circumstances…

    Note however that if you were skeptical towards Covey, you could read “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” and make precisely the same arguments against Covey. That he looked for companies that did succeed and then claimed that, because they succeeded, they obviously wanted to succeed.

    In fact I’ve worked for my share of Theory X managers who did just that 🙂

    ………………….

    But the Deming quality principles revolutionized business processes (first in Japan, and then in America) because the selection pressures of the marketplace proved them sound.

    When we talk about Deming TQM business principles as they apply to baseball organizations, we are not starting from Hypothesis Square One. We are taking 50 years of proven business-process technology, and we are simply applying them in the context at hand (MLB).

    This isn’t a new hypothesis that Dave Clark offers: “when the CEO is sincere, the employees will be sincere.” It’s not a hypothesis that he is propping up through circular reasoning.

    The U.S. Army, the Japanese economic revolution, and the F-500 business evolution all exploited the principles of which Dave Clark speaks. When we ask a sports franchise to absorb the lessons learned, we are not using circular reasoning. We’re applying business wisdom.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  54. DrDetecto said

    And, of course, William Deming didn’t invent the idea of top-down messages during WWII. 🙂

    500 BC, Sun-Tzu made it one of his Five Great Principles that “That army will win, that is united by the same spirit throughout its ranks.”

    He observed that before the soldiers will give their lives, the generals must be willing to give their lives. In Asia this is considered a principle of the Tao: harmony among those striving together towards a particular goal.

    It is no surprise that we should re-debate this on a Mariner message board. Corporate America debated it for 40 years before finally succumbing to Deming’s and Covey’s teachings, so why wouldn’t we need a couple of 95-loss seasons to learn it 🙂

    No organism in life is simple, and the Mariner won/loss record is not reducible to any one factor, such as “does their CEO want to win as badly as other CEO’s do.”

    But IMHO the top-down message is an awfully big factor.

  55. Willmore said

    However, in the majority of modern cases, the tops have disproportionally little impact compared to lower ranks. With the Mariners, Hargrove has more impact day-to-day than Lincoln or Armstrong, the Players have more impact than Hargrove etc.

    We can talk about senior management all we want, but they have the smallest impact. Bavasi can bring in as many players as he wants, but they still have to perform and the manager still has to manage well.

    Horrible ownership can’t prevent a team from winning.
    Horrible GMs can’t prevent players from performing.
    Horrible managers can’t manage the team into an unwinnable situation.

    The players are the end-all of success in any franchise.
    The other pieces of an organization is supplemental, they can try to put the players into the best situation to succeed, but ultimately, they can’t do much more than watch and hope in the end.

  56. Oly Rainiers Fan said

    Well, here’s the thing about the ’05 White Sox, from the Jeff Angus SABR presentation I mentioned up top. Angus interviewed the folks in the White Sox organization to come up with his assertion. Which was – the ’05 White Sox were the result of a changed organizational culture. A culture which, from the top down, said with a loud, strong, cohesive voice ‘we are a team; we will only have team players here on this organization’. he told a story during his presentation about a manager or bullpen coach going to kenny williams to say one of the relievers didn’t like his role, and kenny williams responding that he didn’t care what reliever it was, didn’t even want to know the guys name, but that if he wouldn’t fill the role they needed him to fill for the team, he would be traded. period. and that the coach should make sure the rest of the players on the team knew it. and i think (but can’t remember for sure) that williams ended up getting rid of the player, backing his words with action and making his expectations very clear in the process.

    that is what was special about the ’05 white sox. for at least one year, they built a culture where the players, coaches, and front office were all on the same page, that it was about team. that actions would be taken that would better the team, regardless of whether an individual was offended or not. if the ms were to adopt such a philosophy, perhaps ichiro would be playing center. or in yankee stadium. but it sure as hell would send a clear statement of what the organizational goal was. to build the best TEAM.

  57. Dwight Schrute said

    I really have found this discussion to be interesting, and I have a response to a few earlier comments. Once again, I’d like to stress that I enjoyed Clark’s article and I feel that it was a well-thought-out and good piece of writing. Unfortunately, I simply have to respectfully disagree with its basic arguments.
    Dr. Detecto, the idea that “good leadership breeds success” isn’t business wisdom or any sort of ancient ephiphany from Sun Tzu – it’s plain common sense. I assume that Clark’s article was trying to say more than that. It’s possible that I’m wrong, and that all he was trying to say was “winning starts at the top.” I interpreted the article as trying to make a larger point than that.
    Either way, I feel that my earlier point still stands. Let’s ignore the lack of factual support and say that you’re right – that the “U.S. Army, Japanese Economic Revolution, and U.S. Fortune 500 business revolution” all were driven by the “culture of success” principles of which Clark speaks (even though I disagree with this argument). So…then what? Who cares? It’s still very difficult and essentially useless to try to apply those theories to baseball. A model that is applicable to the army or a business/economic revolution is not capable of dispositive application to sports. Even if the “culture of success” theory is responsible for business or military success (which I don’t think it necessarily is), that theory still has no natural applicability to baseball.
    If Clark could display some examples of how this “culture of success” model has actually transferred effectively to the baseball forum, then the argument would be valid. But he has not provided clear examples, because those examples don’t exist. There is no concrete proof to show that a “culture of success” causes a winning baseball franchise, because (1) it is impossible to truly define what this “culture of success” actually is, as it relates to baseball; and (2) because the examples he has given are simply examples of correlation, not actual causation. Perhaps in the case of the Cardinals, Yankees, and Braves, you can say, “Hey, these teams won a lot of games, and they also had a ‘culture of success.'” But that’s only an example of correlation, not causation. You cannot logically leap to the conclusion that this “culture of success” actually CAUSED the victories. Nor has Clark actually defined, in baseball terms, what exactly this “culture of success” is, which destroys any hope of establishing causation from the start.
    Sports are an entirely different beast. You can throw traditional business models and economic theory right out the window. While you’re at it, throw all seven of Stephen Covey’s “habits” right out the window as well – because they have little to no useful applicability to the actual management of a baseball team.
    Cheers,
    Dwight

  58. webreakdigg said

    spam

  59. Dwight you and Dave Cameron (is it just me or are there too many Dave’s in the Mariners fandome?) both are focusing on the three teams in the initial article, and I guess that makes sense, as I picked them as well.

    I am not trying to say that the ONLY way to win is to have a cohesive culture that resonates throughout the organization. Mr.Cameron even points out that the Yankees in particular have a few different camps about how to acheive their overarching goals – Tampa and New York. But their goal remains the same.

    Once of the interesting things about the Schultz case, is that he actually never put forward real effort into implementing his Starbucks business philosophy in the NBA. When he first bought the team he talked about having a weekly radio show, and then a monthly one, and then a monthly one if it was on a regular time when the team was home and then their wasn’t a show. He talked at his earlies points about creating the culture and getting team first players, then oddly both Rashaard Lewis and Ray Allen felt disconnected from the Ownership group. They got treated like assets and not real people with valuable insight into the game. Schultz with the Sonics wanted to implement a Starbucks philosophy in sports, but instead it really became more of the the same.

    So yes sports is different, but one can not know if the Starbucks model would fail, as it was never tried. Of course that could mean that it is so glaringly obvious to the sports industry that it would fail they aren’t going to bother.

    Dwight, you also state that the sports world and the Special Forces are so different it isn’t worth commenting upon, why? I have worked in both fields. The idea of team first, not necessarily talent first seems to be doing quite well in the 21st century – Patriots, Pistons, Spurs, White Sox. You state you have worked for two different MLB organizations, I’m an odd bloke as I will take people on their word on the ‘net and assume truth. But you also did not state that you were affiliated with any Special Operations outfit because you weren’t? Dave Cameron has said that it is quite difficult to assess the motivations of indivuals from the outside, I’ll readily admit that is true. I would think that assessing the motivations of organizations is a bit easier as their is a broader base of public knowledge that can in some ways be supplemented with private knowledge.

    e-c, that link is a fine one. You ask how I know that it is lip service when Howard Lincoln says that he wants to win the World Series. Probably from some of the quotes you didn’t include.

    Q: There is no consensus among them to change the club’s approach?

    A: The most important thing we can do is maintain a very high major league player payroll, at least in the top 10. If we can do that, that’s the most significant contribution the ownership group can make to the Mariners.

    That’s precisely what we intend to do in 2005, even though in doing so we will budget for a loss. We are prepared to accept that loss in order to provide maximum financial flexibility to (general manager) Bill Bavasi and the baseball people, to give them the full opportunity to get things done right.

    An organizations board whose primary role is to provide funding and NOTHING ELSE? And yet certain actions have belied those statements, as not all decisions are Bill Bavasi’s decisions when it comes to Player and Field operations of the teams. Notably the Raul Ibanez extension. One would think that the desire and direction towards victory would be managed by the board. In this case it is not.

    Will a mission statement alone fix things? Almost certainly not. Would a cohesive team-centric philosophy that had buy-in from the General Manager, the Field Manager, the Farm and the Board fix things? It would be a dramatic shift and a great start.

    What’s odd is that everyone brings up teams that win on occaission as rebuttals. But when the philosophy is that the only way to prolonged victory is to have a cohesive organizational culture that emphasizes victory how can a single season be considered prolonged?

    The Flordia Marlins are another interesting case offered in rebuttal. Oddly enough AJ Burnett cost himself money by speaking out against the club because they lost the team focus that they had in the championship season the very next year. This may be because the organizational philosophy puts so much emphasis on the the swappability of players as if they are different peices of Lego Building Blocks. Imagine working in an organization that treats you as fully replacable even when you’ve taken them to the heights of the industry. A rough world that would be, and one that might have me rethinking that the teams cares about the individuals.

    BUT, the organization has successfully implemented their philosophy. It is working and has worked in Miami. Several fans seem to think that winning a World Series would be worth 100 loss seasons. Detroit fans may soon get to test that as well.

    Over at the Fanhome Mariners board one of the older topics (I assume true on other boards/blogs) was which organization would you prefer the Mariners be; Braves (Consistently good, but not great), the Indians (Good for long period, typical rebuild and losing) or the Marlins (the roller coaster model). Each of these organizations has been wholly successful in how they operate, just differently successful. But each is fully committed to the HOW they operate.

    What is the Mariners model? Why won’t they tell us?

  60. Dwight you and Dave Cameron (is it just me or are there too many Dave’s in the Mariners fandome?) both are focusing on the three teams in the initial article, and I guess that makes sense, as I picked them as well.

    My issue, and I’m guessing Dwight’s as well, is that your initial article attempted to separate the Braves, Cardinals, and Yankees from the rest of MLB as being successful because they have a singular focus of winning. That point is the one I’m objecting to – in my opinion, those clubs don’t want to win any more or less than the Indians, Twins, Angels, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers, A’s, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Mets, or Phillies. I don’t believe that, if you actually investigated the culture of these organizations, you’d find a significant difference in how much they want to win, or in the veracity that the organizational focus on winning is communicated to the employees.

    You didn’t pick any of those teams, however, because they haven’t been consistent winners, despite having many of the same characteristics as the teams you lauded above. This goes back to my selection bias argument – the whole argument rests on a retroactive analysis of pointing out the teams that want to win by looking at teams that did win.

    I am not trying to say that the ONLY way to win is to have a cohesive culture that resonates throughout the organization. Mr.Cameron even points out that the Yankees in particular have a few different camps about how to acheive their overarching goals – Tampa and New York. But their goal remains the same.

    So, now, a culture of winning is boiled down to a goal – in the original article, it also had to do with creating an environment where anyone with a good idea would be listened to and empowering lower level employees to make changes when needed. The Yankees are the exact opposite of that kind of organization – there’s no way to fit them into that model.

    So, if the culture of winning is now simply just based on having a “goal of winning the championship”, I’d argue that at least half the teams in baseball went into this season with that goal and honestly believed it was possible. Having a stated, strong goal of winning the World Series does not make the Yankees, Braves, or Cardinals unique.

    So, if it’s not the goal that sets these teams apart, and if we acknowledge that successful organizations don’t fall into the “horizontal management” balloon, then I’m not sure what else is left from the original article.

    If this was intended to be a critique of the M’s organizational philosophy, hey, no arguments here – I’ve been calling for the M’s to overhaul the way the front office is run for years.

    But, knowing people in the organization, I can tell you that they do want to win, just like almost every other team in baseball. The organization’s problem isn’t a lack of desire.

  61. Edman said

    Just curious…..why exactly do we need to know the Mariners’ business model? Do you care what Safeway’s business model is, compared to Albertsons? Does knowing Loews business plan versus the rest of the theater industry influence your decision making, before you’ll see a movie in their theaters?

    Product matters, and that’s ultimately what influences success. Nike for years, has used slightly above slave labor to make the shoes many shove on their feet. I don’t know too many “moral” people who’ve stopped wearing their shoes, other than me.

    And, so what if their business plan was EVERYTHING you think it is? And, what if they stated so, publicly? Is it going to make you feel better, knowing they spilled their guts? You think that the average “paying” fan is going to care enough to stop going?

    They win, they put butts in the seats. They lose, they don’t. Formula is simple and has been, in general, how baseball works. Regardless of business plans and models, winning sells.

    Do I need to know that the man who sold me a used car is a church going, god fearing Christian who proclaims to be honest, in order to feel good about my purchase? From my experience, it’s no guarantee that I made a safe purchase. What someone says and what they do, can be very different things.

    I don’t understand how knowing that the M’s don’t have a savage desire to be “VICTORIOUS” changes anything. Formula is simple, regardless. If you don’t believe in their product, don’t go to games, don’t watch them on TV, and don’t buy merchandise. Believe me, they will get the message. They’re certainly feeling it now.

  62. But, knowing people in the organization, I can tell you that they do want to win, just like almost every other team in baseball. The organization’s problem isn’t a lack of desire.

    Likely not. It probably has to do with a few things like the lack of cohesion between GM and Manager. Why would a GM build a bench like that and not want it used? The lack of cohesion between GM and Front Office is fairly apparent as well.

    So whereas the original article did put forward three ideas – victory oriented culture, horizontal management and the problems in the Mariners organization – it looks as if in Dave Cameron’s mind only one of those premises has validity. Your argument against the the lack of study behind the Culture are solid, I did not do a study. I had a notebook (not the digitial kind), a radio and no cellphone when I wrote the peice camping on Banks Lake out in middle of no where. It wasn’t meant to be a study of baseball organizations. It is apparent that it was more a study of my perception of baseball organizations (and in that my mind can be rather circular).

    StLouis did have issues come up in every attempt at including Sabermetricians in the organization’s management. The Boston RedSox have had a bit of success though. Would you rather that the Mariners Front Office include the public in some form – Focus Groups, reading the ‘net, employment (ala Olkin) – or not? Shouldn’t some form of inclusion strengthen the team?

    I would encourage the organization to tell us what their goals are and a broad brush how to get there.

    Despite this statement

    Just curious…..why exactly do we need to know the Mariners’ business model? Do you care what Safeway’s business model is, compared to Albertsons? Does knowing Loews business plan versus the rest of the theater industry influence your decision making, before you’ll see a movie in their theaters?

    The fact is that America, particularly LeftCoast America does care about how businesses operate. The portion of people who investigate deeply into how companies operate is growing, and Seattle is home to many of the most Socially Responsible companies in the USA. Consumers in the greater Puget Sound want to feel valued and trusted.

    Everyday the ratio of these consumers to traditional American consumerism grows.

    Certainly winning generates attendance, winning with a plan that has buy-in and inclusion of the most devout fans would generate HIGHER attendance.

  63. Willmore said

    “It probably has to do with a few things like the lack of cohesion between GM and Manager.”

    I would disagree with you there. I think it’s Hargrove’s stupidity, rather than lack of cohesion. Hargrove probably asked for a bench lpayer, and Bavasi gave him one, he probablu asked for a bullpen arm and Bavasi gave it, Bavasi might have suggested benching Pineiro but Hargrove didn’t want to. It’s Bavasi’s job to put the players on the team, if Hargrove doesn’t know how to use them, there’s nothing Bavasi can do, except fire him.

  64. Likely not. It probably has to do with a few things like the lack of cohesion between GM and Manager. Why would a GM build a bench like that and not want it used? The lack of cohesion between GM and Front Office is fairly apparent as well.

    Absolutely. I don’t disagree with anything written here. This is a very real problem.

    So whereas the original article did put forward three ideas – victory oriented culture, horizontal management and the problems in the Mariners organization – it looks as if in Dave Cameron’s mind only one of those premises has validity.

    I don’t think I’d phrase it that way. I’d say that victory oriented culture is a good thing, and preferable to losing oriented defeatism (hello Kansas City Royals!), but it’s not the precursor to winning, and it isn’t even mandatory.

    Horizontal management is an interesting concept, but not one really practiced anywhere in baseball – it might work, it might fail, but I haven’t seen one organization where that kind of all-ideas-are-created-equal mentality has actually been applied. The A’s and Indians would probably come the closest, but even then, Billy Beane’s ideas have a lot more weight than David Forst’s ideas.

    And I agree that the Mariners organizational philosophy is flawed – I just think the flaws are different than “don’t want to win badly enough”.

    Your argument against the the lack of study behind the Culture are solid, I did not do a study. I had a notebook (not the digitial kind), a radio and no cellphone when I wrote the peice camping on Banks Lake out in middle of no where. It wasn’t meant to be a study of baseball organizations. It is apparent that it was more a study of my perception of baseball organizations (and in that my mind can be rather circular).

    Hopefully my disagreements didn’t come across as dismissive – I thought your points were interesting, which is why I bothered to respond in the first place. Usually, when people raise this kind of discussion, I just roll my eyes and walk away. You managed to make the discussion worth having, even if I don’t necessarily agree with the scope of your conclusions.

    StLouis did have issues come up in every attempt at including Sabermetricians in the organization’s management. The Boston RedSox have had a bit of success though. Would you rather that the Mariners Front Office include the public in some form – Focus Groups, reading the ‘net, employment (ala Olkin) – or not? Shouldn’t some form of inclusion strengthen the team?

    I’m not sure it doesn’t.

    I would encourage the organization to tell us what their goals are and a broad brush how to get there.

    I’m not sure why this is necessary, and I know they don’t think its necessary. Bavasi had a great quote at a press conference a couple of years ago-I think it was at the press conference announcing Melvin’s dismissal-when a reporter asked him if he cared that Bret Boone and some others had been quoted being supportive of the current coaching staff. Bavasi replied “I do care what these guys think – I don’t care what they tell you.”

    The baseball operations department of the organization is focused on baseball operations, not public relations. To me, that’s a good thing.

    Certainly winning generates attendance, winning with a plan that has buy-in and inclusion of the most devout fans would generate HIGHER attendance.

    Really? Guys like you and me, we’re fans whether this team goes 0-162 or 162-0. I don’t think there’s much the M’s can do to strengthen my loyalties to the club. The core fan base, the guys who read these blogs, the ones who care about these kinds of discussions, we’re already invested and we’re not going anywhere.

    Attendance spikes come from reeling in those who sit on the fence. I’m not sure the M’s could do much to increase attendance by catering to the core fans. And I don’t think the casual fan cares about mission statements, honestly. The casual fan cares about results.

  65. Dave, I think we could count on one hand the number of times you and I have paid to support the Mariners over the last three years. Now sure there are some pretty valid geographic reasons for you. But are you saying you (if living out here) would not put more money into their pockets if you bought into their philosophy? Or would you be mainly a TV/Radio/Internet fan?

    Also, I thank you greatly for your participation on this thread.  I know you read much of the writings on the Mariners and it is a rare time when you directly comment on the origin site.  So maybe I’ve managed to present this in an intriguing enough way.

    I in no way wanted to say that one must agree with me in order to have an opinion worth respecting.  If I had the mind to stay in any sports industry I would have.

    Lastly, I just realized that my default email with this account is not an email I use. bedir_at_hotmail is the address that gets a hold of me.  I’ll have to figure out that gmail address…

  66. Dave, I think we could count on one hand the number of times you and I have paid to support the Mariners over the last three years. Now sure there are some pretty valid geographic reasons for you. But are you saying you (if living out here) would not put more money into their pockets if you bought into their philosophy? Or would you be mainly a TV/Radio/Internet fan?

    I just sent the M’s a check for a couple thousand dollars a few months ago to cover the cost of our USSM get together we held in April. So, even though I might live a couple thousand miles away, the M’s are still getting a pretty good chunk of change from me on an annual basis.

    I love baseball, and, due to the fact that I fell in love with Alvin Davis and Mark Langston and Scott Bankhead before I knew any better, I love the Mariners. If I lived in Seattle, they’d get an awful lot of my money.

  67. eponymous coward said

    And I agree that the Mariners organizational philosophy is flawed – I just think the flaws are different than “don’t want to win badly enough”

    Ding. Dave just got my vote.

  68. Edman said

    Certainly winning generates attendance, winning with a plan that has buy-in and inclusion of the most devout fans would generate HIGHER attendance.

    TOTAL BS…..my friend. In 1995, the fan was as much a part of the M’s success, as the team was. I was there, in the Kingdom, when it was so loud the other team had to feel the pressure.

    Did we have to know or care that the M’s plan was to not just win, but be VICTORIOUS? Absolutely not. What brought that on, was the way the team played the momentum generated by winning.

    The very idea that the M’s openly embrace and coddle fans like you and I, is pathetic. What YOU want, is to be able to feel good about your own knowledge of the game. It would stroke your ego to thing that when you suggest that Hargrove be fired, or Beltre traded, or Everett DFA, that YOUR ideas carry some form of weight, versus the thousands of “paying” fans, that you admit you aren’t.

    I just hate the “pander to me, because my opinion matters” crap. Yes, I’m sure Bavasi and many other Mariner types monitor this and other boards, to get a feel for what we have to say. But, to think that they owe it to you to give your or I a higher pedistal to stand on, simply because we think we’re smarter than the average fan….is just….well, egotisical.

    The M’s listen….and listen to EVERYONE….not just us.

    The problem with what you want, is that if you open Pandora’s box, you can’t easily close it. Suddenly, we get a direct line to Bavasi. We in a massive hoard, scream for Everett to be DFA. He, having to look at all things considered, decides now isn’t the time. Suddenly, we are spiteful and feel neglected.

    Yeah, that’s good for business.

  69. The very idea that the M’s openly embrace and coddle fans like you and I, is pathetic. What YOU want, is to be able to feel good about your own knowledge of the game. It would stroke your ego to thing that when you suggest that Hargrove be fired, or Beltre traded, or Everett DFA, that YOUR ideas carry some form of weight, versus the thousands of “paying” fans, that you admit you aren’t.

    You do an excellent job of trying to speak for me. Even when you are wrong. There are many things in life I would be doing differently if I had the ego you describe.

    As for me not paying, it is about budgets. Why should I fund something in which I know I disagree with when I can get enjoyment at home for free? By your logic you everyone should be obligated to write checks out to every organization for which you consider yourself a fan. You can’t be a fan with a radio, TV or net connection. Paying customers only in your world. Of course in your world the Mariners wouldn’t be getting over 30M$ a year for TV rights.

    Dave, you did write a check for the USSM Feed. I believe that. I would rather not get into personal economics. What I am getting at is that the die hard fans of the game, the ones writing thousands of words a week, are not a fullly tapped financial resource at this time. The Mariners could expand their revenue in this arena I believe.

  70. Dave, you did write a check for the USSM Feed. I believe that. I would rather not get into personal economics. What I am getting at is that the die hard fans of the game, the ones writing thousands of words a week, are not a fullly tapped financial resource at this time. The Mariners could expand their revenue in this arena I believe.

    Yea, I’d agree with that. That’s probably true. But I’m not sure what the overall impact of maximizing the revenue from the core fans would be, especially when lack of revenue isn’t really this team’s problem.

  71. DrDetecto said

    Meaning no offense …

    The debate position opposing Clark’s here? Is continually defining the problem as “stated goals” and “wanting to win.”

    Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” book is not the only one that defines the differences between Theory X and Theory Y management, but it is the most accessible that I know of.

    We all really need to read it. The comments here do not “get” Theory Y.

    All 30 MLB teams would like to win, of course. But the teams Dave Clark listed *are* Theory Y organizations.

    If we think that the difference between X and Y is a “spiffy mission statement” or “wanting to make a cheaper, better, faster widget” then we have misread Deming entirely.

    It’s tough to debate against Deming and Covey et al if you don’t understand them.

  72. DrDetecto said

    Stating a few of the Theory Y principles in oversimplified terms:

    1. Every person in the organization MUST be CONVINCED 100% that the leaders will PERSONALLY SACRIFICE ANYTHING NECESSARY to get the clear mission accomplished.

    2. Management must itself accept primary responsibility for whether the widget is cheaper, faster, and better.

    3. The org’s PURPOSE IN LIFE must be the mission. If other things get in the way, they are sacrificed.

    4. Win/Win, re: the customers and the employees. (Not stated, but lived.)

    5. DELIGHTED customers rather than “satisfied” customers. OVERdeliver on your promises.

    6. etc. etc. … those just give the flavor.

  73. DrDetecto said

    Now as it applies to the Mariners:

    ……………

    “Delighted” customers, to them, are defined as those who sat next to nobody drunk. Delighted customers are not defined as those who have witnessed three pennants in four years.

    (The Cards’ fans haven’t witnessed that, but they have witnessed the attempt.)

    The Mariners define customers’ satisfaction for them, from behind the counter, and define it in terms of the atmosphere in the ballpark, as opposed to defining it in terms of the pennant.

    ………………

    The leaders in Seattle will NOT sacrifice the way that the Yankees’ and Cards’ will.

    Gainsaying aside, and a few counterexamples aside, we all know that the Mariners prefer to manage boy scouts, relatively speaking. Thiel’s book remarked on Lincoln’s unwillingness to accept “bad actors,” because it created inconveniences for management.

    Lincoln will not go to Japan and fight for higher payroll.

    The Mariners will not go out on a limb and give a Miguel Tejada a 6-year deal. Instead, they’ll offer $45m, $50m, $60m deals, advertise on their website that these set club records, as if unaware that other teams offer two and three and four times those, in their commitment to chase a pennant.

    ……………..

    etc.

    ………………

    Each of these points is debatable in isolation.

    The big picture? Is that the Mariners are committed to “a quality family night at the park,” not to the pennant.

    Other rich teams *are* committed to the pennant.

    ………………

    The Mariners aren’t giving us radial tires in return for our $200 a night. They’re not giving us CPA service. They are, supposedly, giving us a pennant fight.

    That pennant fight, which should be at the core of the experience, is completely negotiable with the M’s Committee. What is not negotiable, is the “quality family experience.” And this attitude permeates to the clubhouse.

  74. Oly Rainiers Fan said

    My referring to the ’05 white sox was meant to address the idea of cohesion in the organization. a lot of this discussion has gotten hung up on ‘mission statement’, which, yes, is one way to try to put an organization on a cohesive track towards some sort of definable goal. but it is useless unless those individuals within the organization are acting towards that goal. which is what kenny williams, ozzie guillen, and the rest of the white sox front office and team staff did. they took it farther than lip service. whether that can last longer than a year depends. changing an organizational culture long term is a tough thing; enough folks have to stick around to proselytize the new staff, players, etc. but when you start having a cohesive goal for a few years, that’s when you start building winning franchises.

    i don’t think the ms have cohesion in any sense of it. the front office can override the gm at will. the gm does/does not have the power to can the manager. the manager can trot everett out there every day if he wants. if bavasi and fontaine head out the door (and based on stuff i heard fontaine say about bavasi at the sabr convention, i’m convinced the two go together, period) – if they leave, then the approach to our drafting and farm system walks out with them, and the new guys come in with a whole different approach. because the top dogs (lincoln and armstrong) haven’t been clear with their actions or words. it doesn’t require a mission statement to do that; it requires consistency and requires that when they hire people, they delegate real authority to them to do their jobs instead of micromanaging them.

    micromanagement with the ms organization goes all the way down to every team store employee, every parking lot attendant. THAT is the organizational culture of the mariners.

  75. We all really need to read it. The comments here do not “get” Theory Y.

    I’ve read it. Read John Maxwell, too. This isn’t new to me. I don’t fail to grasp the concept. I disagree with the application.

    Interesting how the man putting across the initial point understands that reasonable people can disagree, but the obsessive fringe does not.

    Perhaps we can get Steven Covey to write a book on humility?

  76. DrDetecto said

    ++ I disagree with the application. ++

    There isn’t any way to disagree with the application. It’s not about humility, it’s about acknowledging that the sky is blue.

    …………………………

    Quoting Covey specifically:

    ++ Being “proactive” means taking responsibility for everything in life, rather than blaming other people and circumstances for obstacles or problems. Initiative, and taking action will then follow.++

    Quoting Lincoln specifically:

    “We’ll win in the playoffs when the breaks go our way.”

    ……………………….

    Quoting Covey specifically:

    “Begin with the end in mind.”

    Quoting Armstrong specifically:

    “We will provide a competitive team and a quality family night at the ballpark.”

    ……………………….

    The entire business model of “delighted customers” as opposed to “satisfied customers” is obviously counter to the Mariners’ concept that 10 games over .500, and a park with no drunks in it, is plenty good enough.

    ……………………….

    There isn’t a TQM F-500 management consultant alive — or a Green Beret instructor — who doesn’t see the Mariners’ problem at a glance.

    It’s not about humility; it’s about the fact that Dave Clark has worked in TQM organizations and understands that the Mariners ain’t one.

  77. eponymous coward said

    Other rich teams *are* committed to the pennant.

    Firstly, St. Louis, one of your examples, isn’t a rich team. Go look at their salaries for the last few years. You’ll find the M’s consistently outspend them. They live within a budget, just like the M’s do. The difference is that they execute better WITHIN the budget.

    Ditto the White Sox. You could use Houston as well.

    Also, you’re citing the proof that certain organizations are winning as the proof that they are committed. THAT is the circular argument Dave is pointing out.

    That pennant fight, which should be at the core of the experience, is completely negotiable with the M’s Committee.

    It’s not, in the long term, even if you assume the Mariners are primarily interested in profit as opposed to pennants. Go look at the attendance figures from 2002 to 2006. The bloom’s off the Safeco rose, folks, and the Mariners will not draw the sort of attendance they saw during their 2000-2003 run until they win again. If they run a mediocre organization, basically, they turn into Baltimore or Texas- occasional good spurts, attendance around 2.1 to 2.4 million coming out to a good ballpark- and a huge amount of untapped revenue potential because they don’t win. Really, you think Lincoln is happy with attendance of 2.4 million instead of 3.4 million?

    As the past history of the Mariners and Seahawks, and current events regarding the Sonics and Mariners should illustrate, the idea that Seattle sports fans will show infinite patience and support with nothing to show for it on the field is demonstrably false, and for Lincoln and Armstrong to think pennants are an optional feature in baseball, they would have to have amnesia about the 1980’s through mid-90’s regarding the franchise they are running. I suspect Armstrong remembers the 1980’s- which WERE what you are describing for the Mariners, a franchise that knew it was screwed, was a farm team for MLB, and decided to promote players and family fun because they thought excellence wasn’t an acheivable goal.

  78. Willmore said

    Nag Nag Nag. I don’t see you going out there and hitting 50 homers for the team. Why don’t you get off your ass and start contributing to this ballclub ? 🙂

  79. eponymous coward said

    I do contribute to this ballclub. Season tickets, no less (16 game plan + extra tickets as well).

  80. Mike said

    I can see lots of frustration and venom directed towards Mariner management (and some of it with good reason), but there’s three things wrong with the original article–some of these have been expanded on. They all relate to this: You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.

    1)Anyone who cries foul over trading Ortiz for Dave Hollins, Cruz for Timlin/Spoljaric, V-tek/Lowe for Slocumb, et al. Trades of young talent for mediocre players, but that’s largely what the MLB trade deadline is.

    Isn’t this what THE SAME people cried foul about the M’s NOT doing in 2003? I remember several trade rumors for iffy veterans/utility players, none of whom would be on my all-time team. OK so Clint Nageotte is an injury case and Rett Johnson never made it but what about JJ Putz, Jose Lopez? You’d have had them gone for Rondell white three years ago! And then you’d be pissed that Rondell white is old and Lopez/Putz are stars someplace else. Well pick one side and stick with it. You’re either for this or not.

    2)As far as Tejada goes, he may be putting up all-star numbers, yet the Orioles are worse than the M’s and look stuck behind the Yanks, sox, and Jays for at least the next five years. Even if Beltre is underperforming–although even that’s just with the longball, I’ll still take that and the current M’s youth movement of the last two years over Baltimore. Hell Tejada’s done nothing but whine about being traded ever since he signed with the O’s (maybe like Steve Hutchinson and Alex Rodriguez, signing for a little less in Seattle wouldn’t have been so bad) anyway, now he might get his wish.

    3)Any reference of a steroid user discredits this article as far as I’m concerned, guess ‘Big Mac’ was shootin’ those roids to win. But as he says, I’m not here to talk about the past.

  81. beanball said

    Off topic but hey!!!!! no more Carl Everett 🙂

  82. DIQ said

    JAC,

    How do you feel about the addition of Ben Broussard to the team?

    What do you think is likely to happen with Snelling/Jones and Broussard, roster adjustments/line-ups?

    Thanks buddy!

    And farewell Choo. We barely knew you.

  83. Dave Cairns said

    Snelling is BACK !!!

    http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060726&content_id=1576384&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb&partnered=rss_mlb

  84. johnb said

    Can we dump the picture of Lincoln?
    It is a major buzz kill!

  85. marc w. said

    83-
    But will he play, now that the M’s have brought in Broussard as the lefty half of the DH platoon?

    I hope so, but then where does Broussard go?

    Any way you cut it, a damn good hitter is going to be riding the pine.
    either that, or they ship Snelling back down to Tacoma now that they added Broussard to the 25-man…

  86. DIQ said

    Good hitters will find a place to play on the team. I honestly think it’s time for Ichiro to move to CF and move Snelling to RF.

    But in the meantime Snelling has played CF in Tacoma, I see it more likely that Jones and Snelling split time up the middle while either spells rest for Ibanez/Broussard.

    Snelling actually hits lefties well. So a 60-40 split of Jones hitting most RHP and 80-20 split of Snelling hitting most lefties could make sense.

    Either way that’s alot of flexibility to work with. Let’s hope Hargrove doesn’t make any more blunders with the line-up cards with this surplus of hitting talent.

    I will puke if I see Bloomquist penciled in the starting line-up this week.

  87. Oly Rainiers Fan said

    Yet Hargrove just said on KJR that he doesn’t see Snelling breaking into the outfield. So if he doesn’t get sent back to Tacoma, he’s going to sit. Could you find a better example of a non-cohesive organizatioal madness?

  88. Oly Chris said

    It’s totally disfunctional. Think how many times folks here have tried to evaluate a potential roster change and then surrendered by concluding that Hargrove would pervert the plan in the end. He is truly the elephant in the living room that the organization is choosing to ignore.

  89. Oly Chris said

    I’d be disappointed, but not totally shocked to see Hargrove pull some sort of brain-dead reactionary move (Bloomquist against a RH with Snelling on the bench) to show his displeasure at losing his hand-picked DH toy. Sad to say, but before you dispute this remember Hargrove said in May, “change the batting order? What good would that do?”.

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