Baseball has perhaps the most famous Hall of Fame in the world, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Today, a few more of baseball’s elite will be elected for enshrinement on its hallowed walls. However, the entire process for selecting the best of the best for the Hall is inherently flawed because it lacks objective standards for what represents a Hall of Fame player/manager/executive/representative of the game and because it utilizes arbitrary baselines for election eligibility and vote quantity.
I’ll explain each of those flaws individually, but here is a quick rundown of the problem that is created – this year there is perhaps the largest group of strong candidates for enshrinement, but many of them played during a period of heavy PED and steroid usage and many voters refuse to cast votes for players suspected of using PEDs or steroids while other voters don’t hold it against players as much.
First, the arbitrary baselines. Players are eligible to be on the Hall of Fame ballot if they played during the period beginning 20 years ago but ending at least 5 years prior to election. That’s fine. However, players not receiving votes on 5% or more of the ballots cast in a year are no longer eligible to be on the ballot, but voters can vote for up to 10 players on their ballots.
Why 5%? What’s the harm in leaving a player on the ballot into perpetuity even if he never gets a vote? Does that hurt anything? The ballot might be a little more cumbersome to handle or sort through, but 5% is an arbitrary data figure that has no meaning. To compound that problem, what if in a year like this year a voter thinks there are more than 10 worthy candidates to receive votes? Jayson Stark of ESPN.com thinks he could viably vote for 19 individual players on this ballot. Because every voter can only vote for 10 total (and they don’t even have to vote for 10 – more on this in a moment) some strong and worthy candidates for enshrinement might miss the 5% threshold for remaining on the ballot just because they came along in a year when 10 other candidates had stronger profiles which compares player #11 only against these 10 and not against the rest of baseball history – and that’s not what the Hall is about.
That brings us to the other flaw – the lack of objective standards for enshrinement. From the Baseball Writers Association of America’s site on Hall of Fame election requirements:
5. Voting - Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
6. Automatic Elections — No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted.
#6 says there are no thresholds to cross for automatic enshrinement. That’s fine, but that means that #5 probably needs to have a lot of ambiguity stripped from it, and tightened up so that all voters could follow a similar standard to viewing eligible players.
We, unfortunately, don’t have that. What we have is a whole slew of really good candidates who have either been accused of, indicted for, or perhaps been guilty merely by association with PEDs or steroids.
So much ambiguity!
So much, in fact, that writers and voters are all over the place when it comes to taking a stance on steroids and PEDs – some voters flat out refuse to vote for players even remotely associated with their use (and getting beat up online for it):
“As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.”
…while others take a long view of the Hall of Fame being more of a museum than a sanctuary of angelic players only:
“the Hall of Fame needs to live on as a museum. Where no one tries to apply a giant eraser to any period in history. Even this one.”
When there is so much ambiguity, nothing gets accomplished. And here, players with great achievements on the field won’t receive enshrinement.
While I’m not a voter and my opinion as a baseball fan means nil, as a Lean practitioner focusing on doing things better for the greater good, my stance is this:
Keeping baseball players out of the Hall because of steroid or PED use is the equivalent of customers firing factory workers themselves because the machine given to them by managers was broken through no fault of their own.
Players existed during a time of broken testing and they took advantage because the system allowed it. It is a historical footnote, an occurrence that baseball did not do enough to stop. The process was broken, a process the players had nothing to do with building or maintaining. If the process was important enough to hold players accountable today, the powers that be in baseball should have maintained that process and tightened it long before yesterday.
Also, has anyone noticed that the people responsible for voting – the writers – are not the ones in charge of maintaining that process of keeping the game clean? Voters – writers – are holding players accountable for a broken process provided to everyone by baseball’s management. There are NO checks and balances here at all.
Yes, once, Hall of Fame time really did involve an actual baseball conversation. Then it became a PED conversation. And now, it’s just a flat-out train wreck.
And that’s why the baseball’s Hall of Fame is broken.
In short, 2013 was a pretty tough year, both personally and professionally. Some really great opportunities presented themselves, while I also found there is a great deal of professional growth I still need to accomplish.
2013 saw some amazing participation opportunities come this way, including attending the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement (and serving as a judge in ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards competition) and being named as one of the new ASQ Influential Voices as a writer. I also got to meet consultant/author/blogger/keynote speaker Karen Martin – a big honor!
I was a guest for two podcasts:
- Mark Graban on the Lean Blog Podcast where we covered Lean and continuous improvement in sports
- An introduction to Lean with John Patrick of the Buzz on Biz radio show (local to Augusta)
I provided multiple guest posts to other prominent Lean bloggers:
- Moneyball and Hoshin Kanri for Matt Wrye’s Beyond Lean blog
- Jon Spoelstra and Hoshin Kanri for Beyond Lean
- The Power of Asking “What Do You Think?” for Mark Graban at Lean Blog
I also presented Lean and Kaizen at multiple functions and helped facilitate a Lean business plan workshop with CETi through the University of South Carolina.
This all in addition to blogging.
Of all posts authored in 2013, here are the five that either were most insightful, reflective, highest viewed, or potentially influential.
- Lean or Sushi? - This is a quiz about determining whether a given Asian word or phrase is about Lean or a term for sushi. The purpose of the quiz is not about getting the vocabulary right as much as showing that knowledge of the concepts is more important than what it’s called. A Lean practitioner from Russia liked it and requested permission to translate it into Russian for his use. (Of course you can!)
- What is Lean vs. Six Sigma vs. Kaizen? - It’s a question that individuals interested in continuous improvement ask when they are getting started. It definitely showed as it was the highest-trafficked post in 2013.
- Anything about the Miami Marlins – This was the epitome of what a sports franchise should NOT do. I tip my hat to Jeffrey Loria for providing me with such fantastic post material.
- MLB Eliminating Pension Plans – This post was linked by Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation, one of my favorite baseball writers. Thanks, Rob…even if you didn’t totally agree with me.
- A Lean Look at the Baseball Jersey Manufacturing Process – This post was linked by Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, in the Ticker section.
I had three fantastic guest posts:
- Mark Graban on Rob Gronkowski’s back surgery and post-operation infections
- Mark Graban on Bryce Harper, warning tracks, and injuries from running into outfield walls
- Christina Kach on what Lean practitioners can learn from sports
I will share more insights as to the struggles of 2013, but it will be a building block for 2014. More to come.
Happy new year, everyone! 2014 can’t get here soon enough.
I have been absent from posting new Lean/continuous improvement content for the last month and a half, for which I apologize. Reasons for this will begin coming out in the next couple of weeks.
However, I want to wish all of the Lean Blitz Consulting readership a happy holiday season and thank each and every one of you for reserving a little bit of your time to check out the content here. Hopefully it has had an impact on your efforts to do things better.
There are three types of inefficiencies that Lean and the Toyota Production System look to eliminate from their processes – the eight Lean process wastes/non-value-added activities (muda), overburden or extra stress (muri), or constant starting/stopping resulting from process imbalance (mura). The Charlie Brown Christmas tree shown above (and in the cartoon) is an example of overburden. (Thank you to Russell Watkins for pointing it out!)
In yet another example of muri, leave it to Clark Griswold to overwork a city’s power grid.
Earlier this season Major League Baseball announced a planned expansion of instant replay use, similar to concepts applied in college football and the NFL, with the intent of improving the accuracy of the game on the field while minimally disrupting game flow. MLB instant replay will look to use concepts like limited number of manager challenges and what is/is not reviewable, similar to the NFL style of replay management.
It has not yet been fully approved by all relevant parties like the owners and the MLB Players Association, but there is high expectation that approval will be granted by the end of the calendar year.
What’s even more remarkable to me is that MLB is being very progressive about making sure they get the replay management process right – they are taking advantage of the Arizona Fall League as a trial league for the process. From Mark Townsend of Big League Stew:
Getting the call correct is the most important thing, but game flow and keeping the home viewer’s attention isn’t very far behind. Early returns there might not be as positive, but it’s all in the testing phase right now. AFL managers have been given unlimited challenges to use this week and are encouraged to challenge as frequently as possible to iron these issues out. If the proposed system is implemented in MLB, managers would only get a single challenge for the first six innings and two for the final three innings.
It’s not the apples-to-apples testing I was hoping for, but kudos to MLB for using a little PDSA (that’s Plan-Do-Study-Adjust) with the system before just flipping a switch and saying “it’s implemented, play ball.”
On the other hand, what’s true about the Arizona Fall League is that, well, it doesn’t really count in the grand scheme of MLB – only certain MLB players participate, statistics don’t count toward official records. This is a good thing, as it allows MLB and minor league players to continue training and developing. It’s a big practice league to help take players to the next level (literally and figuratively).
In that vein, Rob Neyer brings up a good point – why just five games? Why not use different iterations of instant replay throughout the entire AFL season?
I wonder if this five-game test — I think it’s five games, anyway — is nearly long enough. Why not use the entire Arizona Fall League season to get a big sample of plays and games, and work out the inevitable (but unpredictable) kinks? I suspect there will be more testing and fine-tuning next March. But there won’t be much time to internalize whatever knowledge is gained during spring training, with Opening Day right around the corner.
What would I like to see? Testing and tweaking of the instant replay process via Agile Development!!
Okay, wait, what is Agile Development? It is a relatively young concept for continuous improvement not too different from Lean. From Wikipedia:
Agile software development is a group of software development methods based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. It is a conceptual framework that promotes foreseen interactions throughout the development cycle.
Yes, Agile is mostly applied to software but the point of Agile is the continuous updating processes and testing of systems in order to get closer to meeting customer expectations. The keys are its flexibility and ability to check/test/update/modify inputs to optimize outputs.
Couldn’t Agile development principles be applied to the instant replay system trials in the AFL? If the proposed system was “implemented” in the AFL for the first week, the teams and umpires could test the system and provide feedback on what worked well and didn’t work so well. An updated system could then be “implemented” the second week – maybe fewer challenges, different plays can now be reviewed or others are no longer reviewable, etc. Give that new iteration a shot and provide more feedback.
This could repeat for the duration of the AFL season and by the end of the season a more robust and game-friendly version of instant replay could be the new proposal for owners and MLBPA to review…and they’d know it was game-tested instead of just conceptualized in a board room somewhere.
Anyway, the fact that MLB is using the AFL as a test case is fantastic, but their time constraint is probably keeping them from fully vetting the new system before the big boys return to the field in the spring.
This past season a fan attending a Kansas City Royals baseball game was injured by a hot dog thrown at him by the Royals mascot Sluggerrr. Now he is suing the team for medical bills and pain and suffering as a result of the incident.
Laugh as you choose at the apparent frivolity of this case – a team mascot throwing a semi-soft concessions item – but this is a genuine problem because of the results.
First things first. Poka yoke, a Japanese term referring to mistake-proofing or error-proofing, is based on the two facts that people will make mistakes and they will make mistakes because the system allows those mistakes to occur. The use of poka yoke concepts reduces (if not eradicates) the opportunity for improper outputs or occurrences to exist.
The hierarchy for reducing or eliminating the opportunity for error is as follows:
- Error proof – the opportunity for error has been completely eliminated
- Error-reduce – the opportunity for error has been minimized
- Error-contain – quarantine or separate the opportunity for error so it is under better control
- Checklists and inspection – reactive verification that resulting activity is error-free
- Installation of rules and policy – a last resort to minimizing the effect of errors if the other four opportunities are not possible
If you can’t error-proof, then error-reduce. If you can’t error-reduce, then quarantine and error-contain. The closer you get to error-proofing the better off you’ll be.
Rules and policy should only be used if there is no other way to make sure errors don’t occur.
Rules and policy should only be used IF THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO MAKE SURE ERRORS DON’T OCCUR.
How often do we NOT follow that line of thinking? How often do we encounter problems that we’re just too lazy to actually solve and we instead just throw a rule at it that may or may not make sense and may or may not be enforced?
Rules are tricky. Rules are generally punitive. Rules are fluff and not always objective. That’s why lawyers make as much money as they do.
But rules are not necessary if proper root cause analysis and proper poka yoke is implemented so that the opportunity for bad things to happen is minimized.
Here’s why poka yoke matters in this situation. Fans get injured regularly at baseball games due to flying baseballs and bats. However, they typically don’t bring legal action against the teams on the field, for two reasons.
One, most game tickets have disclaimers written on the back that warn patrons attending games of the opportunity for injury, and they claim that the teams are not liable for any injuries caused by the game.
Two, as Roger Cossack of ESPN explains in the video, there’s apparently a “baseball rule” that protects teams from being sued by patrons in the event of injuries directly arising from attending sporting events and the action on the field/court/turf.
Recall what I just said about rules and policy.
Well here’s where the legal mumbo jumbo and disclaimer wording makes things sketchy and why rules are silly.
This Royals fan wasn’t hit with a batted ball or a bat, and his injury was not a result of what happened in the game. His case is apparently outside of the legal disclaimer on the ticket and that’s why the courts are loathe to throw his suit out on the grounds of the “baseball rule”.
The mascot was reckless in tossing the hot dog…behind his back…at the unsuspecting fan. His (or her) carelessness caused harm to the fan. The team should be liable. However, the team tries to protect itself with rules and legal language based on contract law.
Baseball stadiums (and all sports stadiums) for that matter don’t go far enough in protecting the fans. Here are some examples from past posts and articles:
Now THAT is using poka-yoke to do the right thing instead of hiding behind legalese. Maybe the Royals don’t use their mascot for tossing food at fans anymore. If Sluggerrr can’t throw food at fans, he can’t hurt fans by throwing food. Right?
Today I contributed a guest blog post for Mark Graban‘s Lean Blog at LeanBlog.org about a lesson one of my continuous improvement mentors provided to me – a question we should all be asking that develops trust, ownership, accountability, and empowerment (as much as I prefer not using that word):
Check it out!
Here are other guest blog posts I’ve provided to Mark as well as a podcast he and I recorded in April 2013:
This month, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski pointed out that the application of quality, while traditionally found in the manufacturing industry, really has a place in every industry and he was curious to see how quality tools and concepts were being used outside of manufacturing.
It is my belief that for almost two years this blog has been identifying ways for athletics organizations – teams on the field, business units off the field and behind the scenes, and partnerships cultivated outside of the stadiums – to apply quality concepts in order to function optimally. In addition, there are many instances where those silos end up impacting one another.
First, we start with the basic premise that athletics organizations are small businesses with unique product offerings. A traditional small business and a sports organization will employ small staffs of employees, some of whom are considered temporary labor. They feature typical business functions like operations, maintenance, marketing, accounting, finance, human resources, supply chains, logistics, and so forth.
We also recognize that all businesses have processes – some add value, some not so much. Just as a small business has processes that add value for customers, sports organizations have business processes. Inherent in all business processes are elements of inefficiency.
That’s where quality concepts are applicable – we can use quality to improve those processes and optimize the customer experience through Lean, Six Sigma, training, defect reduction, root cause analysis, acting on customer feedback, and so on.
How are customers directly impacted by poor quality with sports organizations?
- Stockouts of merchandise of their favorite player’s jersey
- Slow-moving concessions lines due to poor employee training, untested technology, and facility layout
- Safety concerns resulting from poor cooking processes in concessions
- Overselling of game tickets because of technology issues
- Traffic flow into and out of parking lots
- Defective merchandise
- Filthy stadiums
Poor quality can also find roots in the partnership between off-the-field and on-the-field activities.
- Poor cleaning conditions in locker rooms could have impacts on player availability (MRSA outbreak)
- Bad risks in taking on players with questionable character
- Improperly-set equipment impacts Olympics results
- The Penn State University football fiasco
- Organization of stadium color-outs
- Football concussions research and taking care of former players
- Use of outdated communications technology meant a Denver Broncos player had to be cut
- Lack of manufacturing specifications overseas meant a design change in baseball production, leading to a spike in offense
So how has quality concepts and thought made a positive impact on athletics?
- The 2012 NFL Draft was special for first round draft picks
- There was alignment (accidental or not) between the 2012 Notre Dame football team and the 14 Principles of The Toyota Way
- Augusta National Golf Club does a wonderful job with the customer experience at The Masters
- Major League Baseball has taken steps to increase the pace of the game, but they still have a way to go
Unfortunately, the sports industry tends to be the slowest when it comes to implementing new business ideologies. As a result, the industry remains ripe with opportunities for improving the partnership with customers.
I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.
With less than one minute remaining in the game and down six points at home to the Dallas Cowboys, Matthew Stafford drove the Detroit Lions down the field with the hopes of scoring a touchdown.
(Link to video here - apparently the NFL does not like embedded videos)
In a grand example of “take what the defense gives you” Matthew Stafford made a spur-of-the-moment decision to lunge for the game-tying touchdown (game-winning extra point came afterward) instead of simply spiking the ball, which is what conventional wisdom in football says to do.
But isn’t “conventional wisdom” an example of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”? Just because it is what normally happened in the past doesn’t mean it will always remain true.
In fact, Stafford even admitted he was planning to spike the ball and stop the clock with 12 seconds left so that the Lions could set up a play to score. However, when he saw that the Cowboys defense was also expecting him to do that and were unprepared for an actual physical play to commence Stafford took advantage.
But in the split-second before Lions center Dominic Raiola snapped him the ball, Stafford noticed that the Cowboys’ defensive linemen weren’t getting down into their stances. That made Stafford think if he just lunged forward, he could stick the ball over the goal line before the Cowboys realized it had happened.
“So I’m on the line, and everyone in the stadium thinks I’m spiking it, and that was the plan,’’ Stafford said. “The other 10 guys [on offense] thought I was too. I thought I was—but then I saw a couple of their guys, almost standing up, and I just had this thought: Maybe I could make it by sneaking, or just putting the ball over the line. Maybe that was our best chance. . . . You just feel it. Hard to explain. You just go to the line and you feel it sometimes, and I just felt: Our best chance is me taking the ball and diving it over. I mean, all we were was three inches from the end zone.”
This is the value of not placing full reliance on conventional wisdom – take the time to go and see what is actually in front of you before making the final decision on how to proceed. Visual indicators (like a lackadaisical defense) can help you make better decisions.
What’s also important is flexibility and the ability not only to identify the opportunity to improvise but also properly execute. If Stafford was a little shorter, maybe he can’t make that leap and spiking the ball makes more sense. If Stafford was a little heavier (maybe like Louis Nix) perhaps he can’t get to the line fast enough. Stafford was prepared for any quarterbacking option in that scenario.
Stafford “called an audible” based on what he saw instead of relying solely on what was planned. As a result, the Cowboys were caught off guard and Stafford is the toast of Detroit today.
Three players for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been diagnosed with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) this season, including one player who has been hit twice with the infection.
Kicker Lawrence Tynes and guard Carl Nicks were both diagnosed with MRSA back in August, resulting from unsanitary conditions in the close quarters of an NFL locker room that caused infections in the feet of both players.
Staph infections are unfortunately common in NFL locker rooms, where sweaty and musty conditions allow for bacteria to thrive if proper cleaning and hygiene are not maintained. Staph infections, especially treatment-resistant ones, are especially dangerous and not only career-threatening but also life threatening.
The growth of MRSA at the Tampa Bay football facility inspired the team to sanitize the facility and even bring in outside help from Duke University’s DICON (Duke Infection Control Outreach Network) to help get rid of the issue.
Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON) Co-Director Dr. Deverick J. Anderson, recognized as the country’s leading authority on infections disease control, addressed the team and Buccaneers staff earlier on Friday.
Over the past two months the Buccaneers organization has been working with the world-renowned DICON and other infectious disease specialists to treat and educate its players, sanitize its training facility and install new health and safety protocol.
However, this post is about more than just the treatment issues.
First, the Bucs said to “spare no expense” in cleaning up the issue – this is presumably with regard to dollars invested in treatment of the facility with chemicals to kill the bacteria.
However, did the team consider a new layout of the facility so as to prevent the growth from having the proper conditions to grow? What about evaluating processes in containing and cleaning spaces and uniforms that get attacked with bacteria-ridden sweat and grossness? Has DICON explored all of this? (I’m assuming they are and/or have, but it’s unclear what they’ve done…and whether the Bucs will comply with new protocols.)
Not only that, but the original facility treatment in August wasn’t enough for keeping the bacteria from returning – Nicks has had the MRSA come back a second time. So what didn’t go properly that allowed it to return?
And look at the other costs of having this outbreak in the locker room. Nicks is an All-Pro offensive lineman and his absence is a major blow to the Bucs and their chances of making it to the playoffs.
Nicks’ infection is to the same toe that prematurely ended his season last year. The Bucs proceeded to lose five of their six games with the All-Pro guard out of the lineup [last year].
So now with Nicks out to get treatment, the currently 0-4 Bucs have an even steeper hill to climb to make the postseason. A bacteria-laced locker room that is improperly cleaned and maintained has weakened the Tampa Bay roster.
And now back to Lawrence Tynes. When players have been lost for the season due to staph infections and breakouts such as these, they are placed on Injured Reserve (IR) where they still collect pay and benefits because of football-related injuries or illness. A very talented kicker who has Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants, he has been placed on the non-football-injury (NFI) list because the Bucs claim his staph infection isn’t conclusively linked to what’s going on in their locker room. This is not the same as the IR – Tynes is not entitled to the same level of benefits as those who are placed on IR, and he is rightfully angry.
In an exclusive interview with FOX Sports on Saturday, Tynes broke his silence on the matter. He said the NFL Players Association is behind him and is preparing to file an expedited grievance in an attempt to force the Buccaneers to place him on Injured Reserve.
“This whole thing is wrong,” Tynes said by phone Saturday afternoon. “My biggest emphasis is I don’t want this to happen to any current or future player. I’m going to fight this thing as long as I have to, because this team should not be allowed to do this to players.
“If I drop a 45-pound plate on my foot while lifting weights in the weight room at the facility, it’s IR. So I just don’t understand how my situation is any different. I went to work, I kicked, I practiced, I cold-tubbed, I hot-tubbed, I showered for all those days there. I come up with MRSA and it’s a non-football injury? They’re basically trying to exonerate themselves of this, and I’m not going to allow it to happen.”
Tynes has filed a grievance against the team for failing to do the right thing. I can’t accurately calculate the cost difference for the Buccaneers to have the semi-inexpensive Tynes placed on the IR versus the costs saved by putting him on the NFI list and limiting his benefits, but the grievance and lawyer battles combined with the lost integrity of the organization not standing behind its players could prove to be even more expensive had they done the right thing in the first place.
The Bucs also claimed that Tynes had been responding well to the treatment to MRSA but Tynes’s wife Amanda disagreed. She shared a picture and a tweet:
I hear my husband is responding “well” to treatment. LOL! He’s NOT responding at all yet. This is our #bucslife
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could save a lot of face and time/expense if they stopped being heavy-handed and treated their players with respect.
Last night a segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart poked a little fun (big surprise) at the new and allegedly better technology on Fox News for collecting and evaluating breaking news.
Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and process.
the point is that the process and its results should always take precedence over the technology that provides it. Fox News is looked upon as being a trusted news source by those with conservative leans, and it doesn’t necessarily matter what technology is used to provide it if that technology doesn’t make the process better.
The new Fox News technology’s improvement of the process is obviously debatable. In fact, it may even add extra effort in collecting and sharing information, which is overprocessing. Sometimes simplicity is sufficient.
Does Glenn Beck lose points or have less credibility because he uses a chalkboard?
As Jon says in the video:
“You don’t get to be better newsmen because your computers go to eleven.”
Remember the 2008 election when CNN was using holograms? Did THOSE provide additional nonpartisan informative value?
The opposite of having too much inventory you can’t sell is selling inventory you don’t have and confirming orders you cannot fulfill. Both can be equally costly – inventory absorbs resources that could be better spent elsewhere, while unfulfilled sales means extra effort required to rework the problems and a loss of credibility. Penn State football just ran into such a problem.
Due to a “TicketMaster glitch” Penn State oversold student tickets to this weekend’s white-out game against Michigan in Happy Valley – already confirmed as a sellout – and are now having to backtrack and request that some students voluntarily surrender their tickets in exchange for one of three “please pardon our mess, thank you” packages that could give students discounts or special privileges at future events.
(Side note: could that article have a worse, more offensive headline? Whatever it takes to beat a dead horse for attention and page clicks, I guess.)
Even though the game is a sellout, each of the three packages still allow students to sit in another part of the stadium so they still get to see the game but get the added benefits.
So as a result of this alleged TicketMaster glitch – I say alleged because it is not clear that proper root cause analysis was applied and it’s just what the school claims – Penn State had to put in a bunch of resource-consuming efforts to make things right:
- Create packages that would be enticing to those who purchased the oversold tickets and acquire everything associated with the packages
- Get the communication about the packages out to those who could be affected
- Manage the transactions
- Apologize for the inconveniences
- Take a beating in the media (inappropriate headlines included)
Had Penn State done things right the first time (talking about tickets here, not that other scandal) they wouldn’t have had to spend as much in implementing corrective actions.
Starting last Thursday, the NFL will bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month the same way they have for the last few years – players, coaches, and officials will sport pink accessories and trim. This means players have pink cleats, towels, gloves, armbands, and uniform trim. Officials are throwing pink NFL penalty flags instead of the standard yellow.
Unfortunately, it’s the pink penalty flags that are stirring up a lot of confusion.
During most NFL games it was very easy to tell when a penalty flag was thrown as the yellow flag stood in stark contrast to the field and the colors most teams wear (the Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, and Pittsburgh Steelers are the only NFL teams that have a predominance of yellow in their uniforms).
But while the pink flag is another way for the NFL to inject more attention to breast cancer awareness, it also created a new problem in that the contrast went away – was it a flag thrown or did a player drop a towel? Fans and television commentators alike are complaining about the distraction or failure to identify whether a penalty was called very easily.
Many applications of visual indicators are effective because they play on color contrasts to draw attention of the eyes that need to see them. That’s why the yellow flags worked well – it was very clear that a penalty flag was thrown. Pink flags would be just as effective as long as pink towels/cleats/armbands/etc weren’t already proliferating the games being played this month.
It’s unusual for a newly-added bright color element actually becomes less useful in a game but the NFL managed to do it.
Last month it was announced that there would be an expansion of Major League Baseball instant replay use and umpire video reviews of in-game calls, with some process similarities to the NFL’s use of instant replay.
The joint session was briefed on a proposal that would dramatically increase the number of plays that can be reviewed, currently limited to boundary calls involving home runs. The committee of Braves president John Schuerholz and former big league managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa that had been studying the issue presented its findings.
Instant replay will be very helpful in improving the accuracy of the in-game calls – not necessarily improving the umpires’ ability to make calls as they will still make mistakes, but at least providing tools to allow them to correct egregious errors in judgment instead of allowing them to stand (akin to allowing bad quality make it to the customer).
Today, instant replay is restricted to home run boundary calls (fair/foul, over the yellow line) but it is expected that the new process for reviewing calls – umpires send communication to central camera feed reviewers in MLB’s home office to review a call, the reviewers use video technology to check call, reviewers relay call back to umpires – will not be as big of a drag on the pace of game as previously feared and there will be a lot more types of reviewable calls.
This is all fine and dandy, MLB finally expanding its use of instant replay to make the game more accurate, but really…what took baseball so long to finally catch onto the improved game accuracy experienced by the other major sports through their use of replay?
“This is a historic moment for baseball,” Schuerholz said. “We have moved forward with a plan that would give our managers an opportunity to help control the calls that are made that impact their team, give them a better opportunity to see to it that they have an opportunity to win the game. It’s the first time in the history of baseball that managers have been empowered with this capability.”
Mr. Schuerholz, you say “historic” and I say “long time coming.” While I haven’t taken a formal poll, I’m pretty sure there are lots of baseball fans that wished this decision had come a lot sooner, most notably fans of the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and the family of Armando Gallaraga.
“I couldn’t help but sense in the room the acceptance and excitement,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “People understood they were sitting in on something that was historic.”
Again, was it “historic” or “a sigh of relief”, Bud?
Major League Baseball finally realized they needed to prioritize the accuracy of the product on the field instead of the “purity of not adopting technology” or further extending the time of an average game that’s already far too long. The fans were surely already prioritizing it this way.
However, we’re not out of the woods yet – everyone has to vote whether they are on board:
The owners will formally vote on the issue at their next meetings in Orlando, Fla., in November. And the changes must also be negotiated with both the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association, although the use of review for fair-foul and trap plays was incorporated into the most recent Basic Agreement.
Apparently everything under the sun is an element for negotiation.
But – BUT! – do I detect a little Plan-Do-Check-Act (or Plan-Do-Study-Adjust if that’s your flavor)?
Baseball expects to have the new system in place to start the 2014 season, but Schuerholz admitted this is just the first version.
“It is a phasing plan,” [Schuerholz] said. “This is but the first phase. At the end of ’14, we’ll go back and look at what we’ve done well — what’s worked, what hasn’t worked — and make adjustments, and then we’ll improve it in the next phase, the next rollout, the second iteration. And we feel that by no more than a third iteration, we will have diminished to the most minimal level the number of incorrect calls that impact our games.
“It’s going to take some time. We’re excited about [what is] going to happen in ’14, and we expect to use it in the playoffs in ’14, perhaps in even an enhanced manner. We’ll add to what we’ve seen that worked during the regular season and make it even more useful during the playoffs.”
I do! Put together a plan, put it in place, see what works and doesn’t work, and make adjustments. Well stated, MLB. Now let’s see it in action!