Friday, April 23, 2004

The Quotidian Cramp: Prospectus Team Wraps,
& Doing What Needs to Be Not Done.  

In baseball, as top announcer Jon Miller would say, “Life is everyday, though we may not always be ready for it...teams have to play regardless of who's on the roster virtually every day throughout their long schedule.” At least, according to this article in Thunder Bay's Source.

That every day rhythm grinds down the players, exposing the weaknesses of individuals, both physical and mental. A lost opportunity or mistake here and there affects a game or two here or there (only 1% of the season) and it makes the difference between never even getting into the playoffs and winning the World Series. It works this way in non-baseball organizations, too, too, much to the detriment of

The length of the season, the quotidian parade of events, means baseball reporters and analysts face the same grind the players do. Columnists with thrice-weekly columns have to crank them out whether they have anything to say or not, and like a leadoff hitter with a leg cramp, sometimes they gut it out and get from first to third on a single, and sometimes they fall flat on their faces and writhe around like a bucket of sea cucumbers.

Even the best suffer the results of the grind. Baseball Prospectus, a purveyor, nay a veritable pipeline of fine information I relish, features regular, rotating three-team wraps that catch a reader up on current items of interest on each team. Which means each team gets a spot in a lineup whether there's anything interesting to say or not. Take day before yesterday's wrap of the Dodgers, Twins and Giants.

On the Dodgers piece, the (anonymous) author took on the most interesting season start, because the consistently lackluster Dodgers blew out of the gate with a 9-3 record. The author points out some interesting small sample facts, although bothering to present them is something that doesn't add knowledge (the samples were so small, that if during the period Adrian Beltre's swell-looking performance that delivered .353 BA / .361 OB were trimmed by just one hit and one walk, would have been a lot less crunchewy at .324 / .324; add two hits to Dave Roberts' weak-looking .237 / .404 and you get a lusty-looking Joe Morgan-like .290 / .436).

The article goes on to argue Jeff Weaver is having a slow start and then shows a table with one good and two bad ones. Hardly a "start" at all. This is just filler, factoids that consume toner on paper and electrons on the internet.

In the Twins' wrap, the author suggests Kyle Lohse's performance is improving because of this three start sequence.

Date ...IP H R ER HR BB K ERA ...BAA
.7 4.0 9 5 .5 1 ..3 4 11.25 .450
Apr 12 6.0 7 5
. 5 1 ..2 2 9.00 ..348
Apr 17 6.0 6 4
.4 2 ..4 5 7.88. .319
BAA = batting average against

Essentially, no. The second and third starts are both bad, but in different ways. I'm not suggesting Lohse isn't improving...maybe he is and maybe he isn't. But this table can't tell you either way. The Quotidian Cramp brought on not by lack of diligence or intelligence, but just having do deliver something.


This happens outside of baseball all the time. Organizations hold regularly-scheduled meetings to cover a set of topics, and in weak (that is, the overwhelming majority of them) I call these "Overhead Meetings". People bring their overhead slides. The meeting marches through the agenda, item by item, rarely a person with nothing real to add having the mojo to just admit there's nothing important, but usually instead filling the quotidian requirement of "a report", "an update", "a heads-up". And it's self-amplifying...once it becomes obvious everyone is going to say something whether they have anything to add or not, everyone starts to conform to the dysfunction, generating time-fill the way New York City consumes land-fill. People glaze over, consuming time, but also losing focus when they go back to work, knowing this effort is just overhead, wasted oxygen, their empty stares aimed not at the speaker but overhead, wishing they were elsewhere.

But this effort extends to things like regular organizational newsletters, monthly rah-rah meetings, press relations departments where, to justify their existence, they crank out meaningless drivel occasionally to make it appear they're actually working.

This overhead saps departments and entire organizations. The quotidian cramp will take the edge off your game if you allow it to. It takes courage to stand up in a meeting and be the only one to not time-fill, or to entirely cancel the meeting when no-one has anything to say that wouldn't fill a short e-mail message. It takes courage to cancel a newsletter for lack of substance that publication period.

It takes courage to overcome the interia of the daily grind. But it takes overcoming the daily grind to win the pennant.

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