Around the Bases: MLB Instant Replay Edition

Posted on January 17, 2014 | in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Respect For People, Safety, Sports | by
MLB Umpires Instant Replay

MLB owners approved of using expanded instant replay in 2014 – there was much rejoicing.

Because there are so many individual examples of Lean thinking either being used or being applicable in sports – based on my overflowing bookmarks queue the latter clearly takes the cake – I’ve decided to try out a way to quickly review news and notes from the sports world that deserve a mention or are an update from previous posts. For now I will call it a feature, name it “Around the Bases”, and I’ve done something like this before but will now see if it can be set as “regular”. PDSA, indeed. ~~~ Major League Baseball has approved the use of expanded instant replay in 2014! It will incorporate a similar “challenge” system used by NFL head coaches on the sidelines and referees. The baseball powers-that-be used the Arizona Fall League in 2013 as a testing ground for the new instant replay system but really only applied one iteration instead of doing trials and adjustments that are reminiscent of Agile deployment. It’s not yet known how much the expanded use of instant replay will slow down the pace of game but we’ll find out once the regular season starts.

Selig has emphasized that he doesn’t want replay to slow games, whose increased length in recent decades has been targeted for criticism.

What’s also possible is the gaming of the system, which should have been rooted out far before being deployed in regular season games. Instead, we’re gonna have to rely on “integrity” of coaches and managers.

But MLB doesn’t want managers to tell players to stall to give team employees time to review video on their own and instruct the dugout whether to use a challenge. In tests last week at the Arizona Fall League, most reviews averaged 1 minute, 40 seconds. Former manager Tony La Russa, now an MLB special adviser, said managers will have to “rely on their integrity” and not cause delays.

One type of play that is NOT reviewable? The phantom “neighborhood” double play where a fielder receiving a throw at second base is close to the bag but not actually touching the bag when the received throw is in hand/glove prior to throwing to first base. Why that type of call is being left out, I have no idea (nor does Rob Neyer, evidently). Also, teams will be allowed to show replays of close plays on their giant Jumbotron video boards, whether the play is reviewed or not. Could help managers on either side determine if they’d like to use their replay challenge, but we’ll see how they use it. ~~~

aaron rodgers

The demand for the Green Bay Packers’ first round playoff game was extremely lower than normal – why?

The Green Bay Packers barely snuck into the playoffs on a last-minute touchdown drive in their last regular season game against the Chicago Bears to win the NFC North division. Despite having an intensely loyal fan base with an infamously-long season ticket waiting list, the demand for playoff tickets was low enough that the game was nearly subject to TV blackout in the Green Bay area due to possibly not selling out. In order to figure out why demand was dangerously low, the Packers used surveys.

The surveys were sent to season-ticket holders and those on the team’s waiting list. For the fans who didn’t buy playoff tickets, the survey asked why they chose not to and where they watched the game instead. The surveys differed slightly based on level of financial commitment to the team. Six days before the Packers’ wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Packers — known for their rabid fan base and legendary waiting list of more than 100,000 fans — had 40,000 tickets to sell.

Proper use of surveys can assist teams in assessing causes of demand fluctuations as well as analyze potential sources of direct and indirect competition. It’s an excellent tool for assessing customer expectations and true size of market. ~~~ More with the NFL – a judge has rejected the deal between the NFL and the lengthy list of former players suffering from the effects of concussions and CTE resulting from their playing days because she is concerned it is insufficient to cover all the expected damages.

U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody asked for more financial analysis from the parties, a week after players’ lawyers filed a detailed payout plan. “I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their [families] … will be paid,” Brody wrote in a 12-page opinion issued Tuesday.

The plan outlined how much each player in the lawsuit would get, varying from type of diagnosis to the current age of the former player. While it’s most likely true that $765M won’t go a long way toward covering the quoted 20,000 current and former players covered by the suit (despite what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says) , wouldn’t the league and the individuals be better suited through diagnosis treatment and coverage on an individual basis instead of a lump sum? It seems frivolous to jump to a conclusion on what the actual costs are going to be when handling cases individually will not only come up with better support for those who need it – the damaged players – but also reduce the opportunity for players to slip through the cracks or see the money dry up before they get their cut. Anyway, I had questioned whether the suit settlement was large enough to cover damages adequately back in September, but I came at it from a different angle than did Judge Brody. ~~~ And lastly, for now, the University of North Carolina is doing its student-athletes a disservice by admitting far-underprepared high school students who cannot read beyond an eighth-grade level and driving them into either non-rigorous majors or no-show classes. Not only that, but an outside researcher and reading specialist investigating the reading levels of student-athletes had her investigation stopped until individuals higher up in the university could investigate the claims themselves and until she received approval because of identifiable information of her subjects.

In an open letter emailed to university students, faculty and employees Thursday, chancellor Carol Folt said she takes (Mary) Willingham’s allegations “very seriously.” But the chancellor said the school has been “unable to reconcile these claims with either our own facts or with the data currently being cited as the source for the claims.” “Nevertheless, we are investigating all the claims being made and, if they are found to have merit, I will take all appropriate actions,” Folt said. “We also will do our best to correct assertions we believe are not based in fact.”

But apparently the institution itself can cut through the red tape and do research, while also instituting bias to the data and controlling how it is shared with the media and public. What can’t be argued is this information about UNC’s 2005 national champion men’s basketball team (although the data source is unknown – shared in a tweet through ESPN’s Outside the Lines):

2005 unc mens basketball

Not to question the level of rigor involved in the majors/degrees of seven of these players, but doesn’t it seem odd that all seven gravitated toward the same program?

UNC and the NCAA have a responsibility of educating and graduating their students, regardless of athlete status. However, when schools admit players that are incapable of learning and competing in the classroom and still send them out with degrees that won’t serve them any significant purpose or programs with no-show classes, then the school and the NCAA have failed significantly.

Student-athletes who can’t read well, but play in the money-making collegiate sports of football and basketball, are not a new phenomenon, and they certainly aren’t found only at UNC-Chapel Hill.

If UNC wants to get serious about providing a valuable education to students/athletes who are ready and capable of withstanding its rigor, they should hold themselves to a higher standard than this. They should tighten their academic success metrics – measure the right things and create action plans to meet those metrics properly. They should also take more seriously the research done by Ms. Willingham and probably leverage her to help them fix a broken internal system.

Willingham’s job was to help athletes who weren’t quite ready academically for the work required at UNC at Chapel Hill, one of the country’s top public universities. But she was shocked that one couldn’t read. And then she found he was not an anomaly.

But how? From ESPN:

In all, there have been seven internal and external reviews or investigations since 2011 resulting in more than 70 recommendations to improve policies and procedures.

If there have been so many reviews/investigations that come out with improvement recommendations…why are the improvements not implemented? Is there no program in place to manage the implementations? In order for improvements in policies and procedures to occur, they have to be planned and managed and resources have to be devoted to their progression. It’s not clear those resources or plans are in place at UNC. Recommendations are not of any value if no one acts on them. If UNC wants to fix the problem, they have to define the problem and begin developing plans for improvement with the resources required to achieve them. That is, if they care enough about doing it right instead of being an athletics money-making factory.

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