Saturday, June 09, 2007

Jon Daniels - Part II: Rangers' GM Gives
a Lesson in Resource Management  

In a recent entry, I started covering the conversation Texas Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels had with me in March. In this segment (more to follow later), Daniels talks about the making of decisions. Specifically the interplay of managing resources, here an apparent excess capacity of good relief arms.

Most managers beyond baseball have a hard time knowing what to do with excess capacity, especially how to choose among what look to be equal options. I asked Daniels about what he might do to resolve the apparent surplus.

MBB: Let me get away from a chronological approach here for a bit.

There was a story recently about relief pitching. Apparently you have this bullpen that other people think is strong enough that you should be trading some of those arms. And your response was something like, “We’re keeping an inventory of others’ interest”. 
So I’d like to get your insights on decision-making in general from this example. If the time comes that you’re going to trade, how will you go about deciding who in your bullpen you are most open to trading?

There seem to be a number of possible ways to anchor a decision. You want to keep the widest range of “looks”; last year you seemed to have a wide number of looks out of your pen. Choosing who you keep or let go might be based on pure ability…who’s the “best”. There’s who might offer you the best return. Or would you base it on what you can get back. Or something I haven’t thought of.

JD: It’s a little bit of all of the above. That might seem like a cop-out.

MBB: Do you try to anchor it on something though?

JD: It’s really a balance of two factors. It’s building the best bullpen we can right now, and measuring what the return is, even if that means giving up one of your seven best guys. 

After my experiences in the last couple of years – I think in this game, we have a tendency to overthink sometimes – I do anyway, try to get too cute. Will I consider trying to do something with one of our best seven guys? Sure. I’ll never just say “no” to any offer – I’ve got to consider everything, weigh all our options. At the same time, I put a lot more emphasis on putting our best club out there, protect our depth. We do have some guys with options. It’s inevitable we’ll need more than the seven relievers we have right now. I’ll put more emphasis on our own needs. Unless the return for one of our best seven is overwhelming to the point where it’s a deal you couldn’t turn down.

So Daniels' model (which should be your own, too, in most cases) he's going to balance the present against the future. He gives a slight extra nod to the present "I put a lot more emphasis on putting our best club out there", but without ignoring the future "It’s inevitable we’ll need more than the seven relievers we have right now". But this is not an absolute. If Daniels gets a return he couldn't ever match with present value, he'd go for the "overwhelming" return.

The balance of present against future is specific to the 2007 Rangers, and for them, today is a little more important, But as with all baseball organizations, both are taken into consideration -- you have to win today, and you have to win in the future..

At the same time he knows, he's prepared himself for the idea, that in spite of his initial setting (leaning towards the present against the future) there's some level of return at which , because if its magnitude, he can shift his balance to garner the better part of a deal.

Beyond Baseball you should internalise this Daniels method. 

Balance the present and the future...you have to win today and win tomorrow. Know if your organization/workgroup needs to emphasize one a little more than the other in the current context. Be prepared to be flexible, to slide along the now/future spectrum if an opportunity that's so juicy comes along it just outweighs your current balance objective.

Balance, flexibility, flexibility. Channel Daniels for an edge.

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