Thursday, May 13, 2004

Follow-Up: Change, Problem-Solving
and the Long Parade of Bums  

I got an unusual amount of mail on yesterday's post making assertions the authors thought were in opposition to what I had said. Almost all of them were in agreement with my direction.

This means I wasn't clear enough in the entry. Here's the essence of what I was trying to get at.

1) The Dodgers used 42 different players as their main 3rd baseman over 73 seasons: used-up vets, mediocre young guys, never-was utility guys, guys being played temporarily out of position, guys they wanted on the team but didn't know where to put. Then after a successful ten-year stint with a home-brewed prospect who was a solid, legit solution, they immediately regressed, throwing 12 different main third basefolk at the position over the next 15 seasons.

2) Problem-solving has certain costs associated with it, especially if you have limited resources, so you want to invest your problem-solving resources generally in dealing with solutions that will have the highest impact. Not finding at least a Jersey Jor Stripp or a Billy Cox, mediocre-but-adequate guys you could throw at the spot and leave there for 5+ years chronically used up decision-making resources that could have been better invested that they were in finding the next stop-gap.

3) That gratuitous churn exposed a weakness in organizational perception.

I want to restate one thing I said in the entry...that is, I'm not opposed to change. If the Dodgers had brought up good young players, used them for a year or two, and let them go free agent or trade them for other value, I wouldn't argue it was a trail of tears as I did. Yes, there is a cost in churn, but it's possible the benefit/cost of changing every year could be positive if the player you were throwing out there every year was average or better, that is, you were prevolving consciously, planning for success, succeeding, planning for your next success, succeeding, and so on.

The Dodgers in no way did this. They were just flailing, throwing one body after another at the position in the hopes that a better solution would come along later or having hopes (sometimes justified, more frequently not) that a solution was at hand and then crashing with it.

The mean offensive performance at the position was below average for the first 73 years, and the mean defensive performance appears to be below-average, too. (Defensive stats can be misleading, but indicative). The Dodgers were not a stupid organization at all, just suffering from a blind spot at this position that prevented them for investing enough concern to fix it or from seeing what they needed to see in this isolated area.

A total lack of change (trying a guy, having him be sub-mediocre, riding him to a long & pointlessJim "Termites" Presley-like or Ed Sprague-like career while pretending he's good, is just as bad if the stasis is done out of laziness, lack of concern or wishful thinking.

It wasn't that they shouldn't have tried changes, they should have invested enough in the process to acquire a third baseman who would be adequate or better for a while. They didn't.

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