The Miami Marlins continue to demonstrate that they struggle with really understanding what matters to their fans. Sure, they’ve won some World Series titles in the last 20 years, but those peaks in interest are surrounded by valleys of lows. They practically gut their team of any high-salary players when they sign a bunch of free agents and try to force a peak in on-field success, and they treat their season ticket-buying fan base poorly. Now team president David Samson wants to see his team “play faster”. Um, why?:
“If we want to engage fans 18 to 49, we have to play faster,” he said. “We’re not going to put up with 3½-hour games. Our fans don’t want it.”
Why does “playing faster” matter? Well, it doesn’t. Here’s why it doesn’t.
– Baseball’s limiting/constraining resource isn’t time – it’s outs created. A game ends when both teams complete 27 outs and there is a difference in runs scored. Baseball has no time limit. A team can “play fast” all day and have a four hour game that is entertaining. I think the fans would be okay with a four hour game with a bunch of runs scored.
– Baseball’s “slow” problem is the pace of the game, not the time of the game. The delays between pitches, the lack of action, the inconsistent activity, all of which stem from the clock not being the constraining element – this is the issue.
So if Samson’s end goal is to wind up with a more action-filled game, playing fast is the wrong thing to measure. The game isn’t enforced against a clock.
However, he also thinks that fans care about a faster-paced game. They do, but they also care about being treated better by the organization and actually paying to see an organization put itself in the best position to win ball games. The Marlins have struggled to do either of those things based on their own internal decisions.
It’s clear that the Marlins are suffering because they are measuring the wrong things through using the wrong metrics, and they really don’t know their customers’ needs. They don’t know what success really is.
So what should the Marlins’ goals be and what kinds of metrics should they use?
– Safety: Maximizing a safe atmosphere for fans, players, and all individuals involved in the game or operations should be the top priority. Monitoring slips/trips/falls, injuries or incidents, or any kind of safety/health code violation would be a good start.
– Quality: Quality in the eyes of the customer would be based on a subjective level of entertainment relative to costs, but also no bad surprises like bad food or poor customer service. The quality of the team would probably be measured in winning percentage.
– Delivery: Providing what is wanted, when it is wanted, in the manner in which it is wanted. Related to quality, where did the Marlins fall short in their delivery of what the customers want? Did they have concessions or merchandise stockouts? Were there fan/customer complaints relative to safety and quality? Were the games actually too long or was the pace of play too long instead? What are the Marlins failing to provide that the fans have a reasonable expectation to receive?
– Costs: It’s important to keep costs/investments of resources in control, but it’s also been proven over and over again that slashing costs to the absolute bare minimum rarely ever works out to the customer advantage. A good Moneyball-related metric is payroll costs per win – the lower costs per win, the more productive the team is with its resources.
The Marlins would become a more effective organization if it properly defined what it is their fan base expects and then began crafting their offering based on those expectations.
Instead, the organization provided poor customer service to those fans investing the most in the team via season ticket purchases, slashed the payroll to the bare minimum by trading away star players with high salaries, and drastically reducing the quality of offering to the fans purchasing tickets which drives those purchasers away. I bet that having game times less than 2:40 long is a pretty low critical-to-quality measure or expectation.