FanPost

Corporate cultures, Ryan Howard and Ruben Amaro, Jr. (Part 2 of a 2 part fanpost)

Ed. note: Frontpaged for the visibility.-P

This is part 2 of 2 fanposts. The first was In an Alternate Universe

In an earlier post, I discussed the tragedy (for all concerned) of Dick Allen’s time with the Phillies, and how in my view, it was strongly influenced by a poor corporate decision on the Phils part by mindlessly placing him (and then, seriously and negligently leaving him) in the toxic atmosphere of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1963.

What I’ve also discussed frequently on this site is how "corporate culture" influences the Phillies. Since I’ve studied and taught for many years at the university level about how corporate culture can influence organizations (including how the rare effective corporate culture can potentially lead to sustainable competitive advantage), it’s pretty obvious to me that the Phils are run by corporate types. That’s not really that surprising, the ownership are billionaires who’ve run successful organizations outside of baseball. And I have commented (ranted?) on how the corporate-like culture of the Phillies has resulted in risk-averse, drawn-out decision-making that puts the Phils at a serious disadvantage against nimbler adversaries (including the iconic Billy Beane, who appears to be, like the classic entrepreneurial firm, changing the paradigm that he helped create, once again). Most things done corporately, in fact, are annoying or inane. We can even assess the hiring of RAJ, and his continued employment, as a result of a "safe" corporate hiring process that promoted "management trainees" from within, that did not attempt to go "outside of the box" - although I think it was more than that, as I’ll discuss later.

But if there is one good thing that happens in a modern corporation, it’s that overt racism like that experienced by Allen in the 1960s will be punished, swiftly and without delay. Now, for those of you who are minorities, don’t get me wrong. there is LOTS of exercise of a "glass ceiling", where minorities are passed over and not chosen to be at the very top levels of management. Within the last few months, Facebook, Google and other high tech firms have even gone public with "mea culpas" about this problem. In those cases, it is often "omissive" error that wrongly prevents minorities from reaching their potential. However, for many years, directly *overt* racism will get you fired in a hurry in the majority of Fortune 500 companies. Without a second chance. For those of you young’uns, the classic example for baseball fans is the famous Ted Koppel interview with Al Campanis in 1987 (which I saw live), which even back then got Campanis fired within a week after it was aired. More recently, HR departments will put managers on a "probation" list if, say, they promote only majority first-line supervisors if the department has mostly minority workers. It is NOT a career-enhancing activity, and in itself could result in the manager being fired or shuffled off to the Anchorage Regional Office (apologies to Phrozen, of course).

So what does this have to do with the Allen post? Well, in addition to being billionaires, the Phillies owners are by all accounts lifelong Phillies fans. They are also around my age (shout-out to phillyinportland and other long-time Phans) or slightly older. They likely would have observed the Allen/Carpenter-family feuds, at least through the newspapers as I did. If they were anything like little Bud, they would have been shocked and appalled by the display, and if they were like most of my friends they thought that while Allen surely had a prickly personality with the press and with ownership that did him no favors, the majority of blame rested on an ownership who did not get it. Unlike little Bud, these owners grew up to be rich, and to play out their fantasy in truly owning a baseball team. But, interestingly, like no-longer-little Bud, these owners still craved a team that would dominate the league, instead of the frequent failures that team engaged in during the late 1980s and 1990s.

Fast forward to December 2009. The Phils have won a World Series. The Phils have just been in a second World Series. They had already locked up one generational talent, Chase Utley, to a long-term (and quite team-friendly) contract. And here, the second player of the Tremendous Trio, has concluded another exceptional year, which, while not quite as good as his MVP year, still was a league leader in multiple batting categories. In fact, if you trended his counting stats at that point without considering aging or injuries, Ryan Howard could have been considered on a trend to be a Hall of Famer. And all this with a public persona the polar opposite of Allen, the only even whiff of a off-the-field controversy being whether he actually eats those Subway cheesesteaks or not. You can see why ownership would direct Montgomery to direct Amaro to lock Howard up to a long-term contract. Moreover, I believe ownership, given their age and background, might consider it a slight righting-of-wrongs that they would give Howard the contractual security that Allen had surely deserved, making him the lifelong Phillie that Allen should have been.

I think that they might have thought that because I sure thought that. Even if the length and amount of the contract concerned me as soon as the ink was dry.

But tragedies are often a result of attempts to make up for previous tragedies - read any Shakespearean drama if you have doubt about that. I give the date as December 2009 deliberately. You see, something else highly controversial was happening in December 2009, surely more controversial than the likely-ongoing negotiations for a contract extension of Ryan Howard. Halladay was acquired, Lee was traded. Now, up to now, we have all been bemoaning the second Lee trade, as management apparently deemed it a necessity for the acquisition of Halladay. Up to now, I’ve concurred on this (and strongly disputed RAJ’s explanation of the trade). But in researching this fanpost, I’ve come to a quite different conclusion about Lee being traded to Seattle. I’ve always wondered....why would trade a guy who was only making $9 million in 2010? Surely, he was worth the money. Did they have to trade Lee then? I want you to understand the date of the Ryan Howard extension: April 26, 2010. If ownership has said "not only do you have a budget, but you have to allocate X amount in the budget for a Ryan Howard extension, whom we want re-signed at all costs". If RAJ looks at his future spreadsheet, how can he keep Lee in 2011 and everyone else if Howard is signed? So, in this scenario, Lee is not traded for Halladay, he is traded in order to save room for Howard, and, secondarily, to boost the farm system (on the second part, RAJ failed miserably). Later, Jayson Werth is let go, and instead Lee is re-signed. In my view, the Phils could have had Halladay AND Lee AND Werth as long as Howard’s extension had been postponed. Not only that, but without the first Lee trade, the Oswalt trade is never made, and an early re-signing of Werth prevents BOTH of the Hunter Pence deals; Cosart, Singleton, Gose, Happ, Santana et al are ALL Phils, with the result being, at the worst, a much more dynamic bench than what they have currently, and the best possibly being that they are trade bait for further upgrades.

And one more thing from the corporate-culture point of view. As I’ve suggested, there is a tension - as well as hypocrisy - in the typical current corporate environment, with the antagonism against overt racism resting comfortably with the continuation of the glass ceiling. But let’s assume, perhaps absurdly, that in 2008 RAJ is asked, like the rest of us schleps, to submit a resume to HR which will in turn be sent to the "Search Committee" (and I’ve been on a whole lot of these, both inside and outside of academia). HR has us, to avoid any prejudicial evaluations, assess numerically each of the candidates’ knowledge, skills and abilities, given the experience of the candidates. On RAJ’s checklist we find the following: current position (assistant to GM) - check; ability to budget - check; contract management - check; knowledge of players (former MLB player) - check; knowledge of corporate culture (loads of years with the Phils) - check. Etc. From a corporate culture view. not hiring RAJ for what is an upper-middle level management position not only looks like a "glass ceiling" has been engaged, it would lean closely to overt racism. Or at least, in many companies, HR would fear a lawsuit. He’s "The Guy". And given that, in a risk-averse corporate environment, now that he’s the incumbent, I suspect he’ll be given a very long period of benefit-of-the-doubt, no matter what our own preferences.

To conclude, I would like to go back to my alternate universe, this time to a report filed there at last year’s (2013) All-Star Game Break.

-------------------------------

Phils Need to Make Decisions About Future.

by [alternate universe] Todd Zolecki

For the first time in years, Ruben Amaro is faced with challenging decisions both at the trade deadline and most likely in the off-season as well. The World Series champions of 2008, 2009 and 2011 had a down year in 2012 due to the injuries to players like Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Madson, followed in the off-season by the controversial departure of Shane Victorino. Rumors persist of ongoing contract negotiations with Chase Utley, but rumors also persist that Halladay, having achieved his championship in 2011, will retire at the end of this year after two years worth of injuries. It’s unclear what will happen to Ryan Howard, signed to a three-year bonus-laden contract at the end of the 2011 season, who has not earned those bonuses due to multiple injuries. Many observers suggest that teams like Tampa Bay might jump at the chance to get a slugger like Howard, with no downside to them if the Phils sending the Rays the non-bonus portion of his salary, with the Phils acquiring one of the Rays’ many minor league prospects.


Of course, a deal involving Howard is more likely to happen in the off-season. And since 2009, Amaro has shown no inclination toward mid-season deals. Phils long-time right fielder Jayson Werth has publicly stated the need for help with the offense to take the team into the playoffs again, and that might be because 2014 is the last year of his four-year extension signed in April 2010. But manager Charlie Manuel has remained uncharacteristically quiet, including with regard to persistent rumors about his impending retirement at the end of 2013 after 3 world championships in Philadelphia.


In an informal discussion with the media prior to last night’s 20th anniversary celebration of the Phils’ 1993 World Series win before the game with Montreal, Amaro was dismissive of the rumors awash in Philadelphia that it will send prospects like Domingo Santana or Jon Singleton in return for "rental players" to help the team in the short term. "Look, the fans are not going to be forgiving. They are going to be vocal, they want us to act, they want that 10th championship in Philadelphia. So we always have to deal with things like injuries and retirements. Years ago, the Phils had to deal with retirements of players like Allen, Carlton, Jenkins and Schmidt. In 2012, we suffered a blow when Ryan Madson went down. But bringing in players like we did in Joe Nathan and our core of young relievers and other prospects gives us confidence in the present and hope for the future. And you all should know, injuries can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. After all, a whole bunch of teams passed on Mike Trout when he had that knee injury a few weeks before the draft. We all know that it turned out to be minor, and that’s why he’s in our lineup in centerfield tonight. "

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