Sunday, November 06, 2005

Games People Play

Simple minds would believe the Red Sox exist solely for the purpose of playing baseball. Recent events belie that truth. Only the Patriots ascension prevents them from playing 'Monopoly' (sorry Danny) and the Sox have revealed their Parchesi Management style. However, the Sox are all about playing high stakes baseball chess, 'Battle Chess' style.

From the top, we have King Henry with the all-powerful Queen, Larry Lucchino at his side. Think of him as Luqueeno. The next most powerful pieces on the board are the cornerstones/castles, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The bishops? Statesmen of the team Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield. The knights of the team were, of course, Theo Epstein (on his high horse apparently) and free agent jumper Johnny Damon. Of course, most of the players are pawns, but pawns are not exclusively players. Globe scribe Dan Shaughnessy got into the game as a pawn, too.

Henry's performance the other day brought tears to my eyes, Crock of Dial up streaming radio tears naturally, as we heard how the owner couldn't imagine that Theo Epstein might leave. Henry's legendary investing brilliance contrasted with his lack of imagination as el jefe of the regional treasure.

Ah, but there's the rub. As Red Sox fans, we suffer the delusion (according to colleague Dr. Edward Fischer) that we control a 'private issue in the public domain.' The Red Sox maintain a highly profitable, highly successful business that they rule. Remember the Golden Rule of business, "he who has the gold makes the rules."

We ask ourselves ponderous questions about 'our team'. What is the mission and the vision of the Boston Red Sox, the 'Prime Directive'. The Red Sox mission statement would read something like, "to provide entertainment to the baseball fans of New England, providing an exciting atmosphere and a winning team (while making money hand over fist)". Events demonstrate that management believes the position of General Manager to be fungible and secondary to business operations. Second, we can't know what constitutes management's vision. From a strictly business standpoint, if the Sox could develop the talent evaluation, development, and procurement success of (let's say) Oakland or Minnesota, then they could field playoff caliber teams with payroll perhaps 75 percent or less of current.

With whatever debt service the Sox have, good businessmen and women certainly must desire to increase their net cashflow, both through revenue growth (ticket prices, additional seating, merchandise, cable and media), debt reduction if possible, and through cost reduction (farm system success raising lower salaried talent, bargain free agents, attrition of expensive contracts, jettisoning problem contracts like Manny Ramirez'). I can't fault them for exercising good business acumen.

As fans, we have to ask when or if sound business thinking results in inreparable damage to the franchise. Certainly, the apotheosis of Theo overstates his value ("the show must go on"), but John Henry also knows that the majority of profits come from the minority of trades (home runs). The Red Sox calculated Epstein's loss as wholely acceptable. Luqeeno's statement yesterday reaffirms that judgement.

From a 'risk management' standpoint (that is how these guys think), everyone is expendable (pawns) as long as the proprietary business status remains. There's no National League franchise showing up at Nickerson Field and the reporters will soon focus (happening already) on moving on and discounting the administrative faux pas that will soon enough be a footnote in Red Sox history. Game on.

75 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Lucchino and Henry have always made me queasy since that Samson-Loria Montreal>Marlins, Lucchino/Henry to Boston arrangement they had with MLB.

Most baseball fans probably have no clue to what Im talking to but Henry has been a player for along time. His Larry is the front routine plays well..very well.

Simmons ripped into Dan O'Shaugn. in a column on ESPN that is by far the best I raed about this topic.

Yes, I feel like im living in eastern euriop where people have to have a built in BS detector to decipher what the news were givign them.
The media situation in Boston is also very distasty and similar to our problems with with national media. (Journalist on Sporting News radio mentioned a few weeks ago that 90% of our foreign stories come from one source, AP) Listen to CNN reports and those from around the planet if you hve a dish and you'll see that we live in an Ed TV world.
Our Boston media situation had a great deal to do with this situation and one reason why Red Sox Reality Check and such sites are very important.

darl

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