Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Accountability in the Clubhouse

More on the Mets after Jennifer's great post...

The headlines aren't pretty: click here and here

And even Jon Stewart and the Daily Show have gotten into it:

And the articles about how poorly this was executed were numerous to say the least: click here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here (we'll stop here to be nice)

Willie Randolph's mother even got her opinion in here via the Journal News: click here

Journal News Beat Writer Peter Abraham thinks (and has thought) that the Mets need a Vice President of Common Sense: click here

But maybe one of the topics we need to be talking about, especially as HR Professionals, are how little accountability gets taken in this situation. The truth is that the easiest person to fire in sports is always the manager or head coach. But why wasn't it the owners faults? Or the players faults? Or, most glaringly, the General Manager's fault?

In sports (unlike a lot of other places in life) players cannot be simply and cheaply fired. In baseball, hockey and basketball you can waive or buy-out players but you still need to pay the entire amount of their contract. Football players can be waved but certain parts of salaries and bonuses still need to be paid and a certain salary cap hit still applies. Since most players that would actually change the tone of an underachieving team are the biggest stars, this can be an expensive and usually cost-prohibitive method. Trading a player is always an option but if a player is overpaid and underachieving you either get back another overpaid underachiever or pennies to the dollar in value for the guy you want to shed. A lot of marginal or young players end up getting moved because of the flexibility they retain in having a small contract. So the truth is that while the players have the largest impact by far on the end-product, and in a normal business they would be the first to go, the star players usually can escape the blame.

Owners don't fire themselves both in real life and on sports teams so that's out. But they write the checks and approve the deals and hire the General Manager, Manager and coaches.

General Managers seem to have a greater lifespan than managers (who also last longer than their coaches--who become sacrificial lambs at times). Omar Minaya showed that in this case. Minaya built the team and served as the axeman...but seemed to bear no responsibility in the end, even blaming the media in the end.

So it's the manager that goes and it brings up an issue for Human Resources: when things goes wrong and nobody is obviously solely to blame: who do you blame? who gets fired?

Many people feel like Minaya is next but the truth of the matter is that he should go just for how he handled the situation. Letting someone go is never easy to do but it should never be this difficult and drawn-out and messy and public. At this point, they are making the Yankees look like model citizens.

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