Roger Clemens and System Failure

Posted on June 19, 2012 | in Baseball, Defects, Sports, Toyota Way | by

Yesterday former major league pitcher Roger Clemens was found not guilty on all counts of perjury with respect to the accusation that he lied to and obstructed Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs during his playing career.

In a very long and tedious litigation process that included lots of expert testimony, tax dollars being spent, a mistrial in 2011, and jurors being excused from the proceedings because they fell asleep during the trial, the public still doesn’t have the truth about how widespread the steroids problem in baseball truly was distributed. Clemens isn’t the only one at the center of the controversy – Ryan Braun found himself involved as well.

Lots of money spent, no concrete answers, and the problem is still here.

As Buster Olney writes in his review of the Clemens trial outcome (premium content – sorry):

“The entire institution of baseball — the union leaders, the owners, [Bud] Selig, clean and dirty players, those who covered the sport in the media — failed to respond quickly as the use of performance-enhancing drugs grew exponentially during a period of about 20 to 25 years.”

I think Buster points out an overall systemic failure – not attacking problems as soon as they start to surface. To review, Toyota Way Principle #5 states:

“Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.”

So because of a failure to act early, the costs of acting late are far, far higher than they should be.

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4 Responses to “Roger Clemens and System Failure”

  1. Mark Graban says:

    I think the players and Bud Selig all failed Toyota Way principle #1 on making decisions for the long term, even at the expense of the short term.

    Choosing to use PABs or looking the other way… that was a short-term decision all around, for health of bodies and health of the game.

    • Chad Walters says:

      I think that is a fair point that we can glean today, but were we so sure back then about the long-term damage to player health and the double standards that have impacted the game today?

      It’s hard to hold folks accountable in the 1960’s and 1970’s because I don’t think the implications of using amphetamines, greenies, or other drugs were known and there weren’t really any rules specifically governing them in place. That being said, when the health hazards of using steroids or other performance enhancers were discovered and validated, the fact that the commissioner and the players did not act in the best interest of the players’ health and the sanctity of the game by completely outlawing their use certainly applies to the violation of principle #1.

      Sometimes I feel that baseball simply can’t get out of the way of its own progress. A good commissioner (and good leader) does what is best for the good of the game and not the pockets of the owners. It’s very hard to consider Bud a good leader and flagbearer for baseball despite the financial success of MLB.

      • Mark Graban says:

        People knew steroids were dangerous in the mid to late 1990s. This wasn’t cigarettes in the 1950s. The harm to player health was known and the potential harm to the game wasn’t hard to anticipate.

        • Chad Walters says:

          I agree – we knew steroids were dangerous in the 1990’s but when I say “back then” I am referring to the 1960’s and 1970’s. Referencing the book Ball Four by Jim Bouton for a second, he discussed greenies in the Seattle Pilots clubhouse in great detail and implied that their use was not considered a big deal at the time. Of course, NOW we know otherwise and they are considered illegal substances.

          Also, Bud Selig took office as the Commissioner in 1994/1995 after the strike and about that time there was a major spike in offensive production that is attributed to widespread steroid abuse. Bud is certainly on the hook for letting the inmates run the asylum.

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