Monday, October 08, 2007

The Mets' Black Mark

Baseball, like any business, is dependent upon its relationship with the audiences that support it. Baseball primarily relies on the fans that buy tickets to see the games, tune in to radio and TV for play-by-play and read the media, both online and off, to get commentary and the after-game reports.

Every business that wants to stay in business makes a pact with its customers that it will do its very best to serve them. If best efforts are not provided to paying customers, credibility suffers.

That is the situation the New York Mets baseball team finds itself in, following the biggest collapse in baseball history, as the team, having dominated first place for most of the 2007 season, lost a seven game lead on Sept. 17 and lost the division to the Philadelphia Phillies. What further contributed to the letdown was the hype over the new Mets team, built over the last three years, as one of the best, if not the best team in baseball.

The reason for the collapse? “Complacency,” according to the Mets’ manager, Willie Randolph, in an Oct. 3 interview in the New York Times. Complacent, to me, means self-satisfied, content with the status-quo, and lacking in drive to reach the greatest heights possible. What a bitter pill for paying fans to swallow! That is certainly not fan ROI. Win or lose, we at least want to know that we are getting best efforts. In this case, the manager admits that we have been short-changed.

As The Times’s Ben Shpigel points out, “He [the manager] is in charge of getting the most out of his players and convincing them not to take anything for granted.” Isn’t that a fundamental leadership expectation? Major league players, on the other hand, many of whom make more money in an hour than most people make in a year, are expected to be motivated.

Thus, how do you explain the rumored comment of one star player, who said, “We’re so good, I am bored”? Or Tom Glavine, the Mets’ superstar 300-game winning pitcher, who allowed seven runs in the first inning against the Phillies, totally demoralizing the fans, in the all-important division-deciding last game of the season? He reportedly said he was not devastated by the loss. What does it take to devastate Tom Glavine? Wouldn’t it have been appropriate to hear some emotion, some personal regret – even if only to observe fan protocol? Why didn’t the manager remove Glavine earlier in the first inning preventing the game from becoming lopsided from the get-go?

Randolph also attributed the collapse to young players who had never been through late season pressure. In reality the Mets’ lineup had more veterans than young players. Yet baseball history is loaded with young motivated teams that have won many times over. Randolph advised that some young players were becoming too celebratory and acting silly. Doesn’t management set protocols?

As a fan myself, I come out of 2007 a skeptic. You cannot shortchange your fans and keep them. Yet the manager has been told he is staying as is the rest of the leadership. The Mets will have to do some fancy footwork to regain the credibility they had built up over the past three years. Perhaps the leadership can start by issuing an apology to the fans for permitting complacency to fester and guaranteeing that it will never happen again.

Technorati Tags: baseball, New York Mets, Willie Randolph, Ben Shpigel, Tom Glavine, leadership, credibility, business, communications, public relations

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