Reese Kaplan - Project From Hell: Fixing the Mets

Last week I spent 5 days in Orlando working on continuing education units necessary to maintain my certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP).  While the course contained some very good information, much of it was a reinforcement of the principles of project management that I’ve studied and practiced over the course of many years.  During one of the less scintillating moments of the lecture, I began to ponder how the project of the Mets reconnecting with fans would work using the formal project management framework.

The first phase is called “Initiate” which is when you brainstorm openly about what it is you’re trying to accomplish.  During this phase you write down notes about stakeholders’ ideas but don’t dismiss anything, no matter how outlandish.  Things that might occur during this phase might include improving the roster, changing the leadership, spending some money, structural changes to the stadium and investing more money into the draft to develop new players.  You might do feasibility studies during this phase to ascertain whether or not proposed changes would have a significant impact on addressing fan apathy (and outright hostility).  Lowering the price of parking, beer and hot dogs might be something that would make it more appealing to go to the ballpark.

The second phase is, for Mets fans, painfully called “Plan”.  We’ve been hearing all about “The Plan” developed by Sandy Alderson and company since his arrival in late 2010.  While no one outside the executive offices was privy to its specific contents, it’s a safe bet that finishing at or near the bottom of the division each year, fielding a team of replacement level players and failing to heed the cries of the fans was part of it.  Obviously righting the S.S. Madoff was the first order of business and for all we know it is the singular goal of the unpublished plan.  What’s supposed to be done here is an analysis of the ideas in the “Initiate” phase, schedule and budget development for the key features and milestones you hope to achieve. 

The third phase is called “Executing” which is not what you do the hopes of young ballplayers that excel in the minors but never get a chance, but the implementation of what is developed during the “Plan” phase.  Here you develop the detailed steps necessary to achieve what was envisioned.  If, for example, part of the plan was to find lightning in a bottle through undervalued or over-the-hill ballplayers, then the “Execution” phase would include how you would go about it – applying advanced sabermetrics, looking for veterans coming off injury or PED issues, and offering up minor league deals with complex contract clauses that later force you to make the decisions you’re not willing to make during spring training. 

The fourth phase is called “Controlling”.  During this part of your project you monitor progress and measure it against the metrics for success you defined earlier in the project management process.  Seeing how you’re headed to a 72 victory record when 90 wins is set as the minimum acceptable performance would be an example of just such a measurement.  What is seriously missing from the Mets is the process of taking corrective actions to get the team back on track towards its defined goals.  Watching what’s working and not working, making changes, and reevaluating is all part of the “Controlling” phase.

The final phase is called “Closing” which has nothing to do with Jenrry Mejia or Bobby Parnell.  It is during this phase you get sign-off from the project sponsor (the one who signs the checks) that everything has been done to his satisfaction.  You document your successes and failures into a “Lessons Learned” archive, and hold project team meetings to discuss what could have been done differently to ensure that the project ran more smoothly.  Topics at this type of meeting might include not rewarding a losing manager with a contract extension, not investing in players whose best days are behind them (thus forcing you to rediscover more talent the following year), or being more active in the trade market to jettison dead weight, pare away surplus and address ongoing needs. 

The slogan at this conference on signs and printed on a t-shirt given to attendees was, “Keep Calm and Hire a Project Manager”.  It would seem that in the midst of all of this planning, execution, monitoring and closing failure, it is sage advice for the Mets to follow. 


Mack Ade said...

Reese -

You're making far too much sense to be around here... :)

Steve from Norfolk said...

As usual, a very good article.

I don't think Sandy expected to walk into a situation where he didn't have total control over operations. Jeff Wilpon is Sandy's boss. How can you possibly execute a plan when you have someone who knows almost nothing about how to run an organization in control? I'm starting to get the feeling that Fred has just walked away from the team, and is determined not to spend one cent of his money on it. Scary to think that Jeff's in control, isn't it. What a difference $20 million and a new director of operations (or whatever Jeff's title is) would make! As Firesign Theatre once said, and this applies to Mets management very well, "We're all bozos on this bus!"

Bill Metsiac said...

Once again, Sandy builds a lousy team and it's Terry's fault that they don't win.

If the horse is lame fire the jockey.

Look at what the As have done in the same time period, with a lower budget.

Reese Kaplan said...

Bill, Bill, Bill...under the best of circumstances Terry Collins is a mediocre manager. There is no justification for who he plays and who he doesn't except inside his own mind. You don't bring scorchingly hot prospects up from the minors and then bury them on the bench to give ABs to sub .200 hitters. It defies all logic.

Thomas Brennan said...

Great job, Reese

What do you call "You don't bring scorchingly hot prospects up from the minors and then bury them on the bench to give ABs to sub .200 hitters. It defies all logic?" PROJECT INSANITY.

We suffer from their project malfeasance and ineptitude - but so do they, as multiple millions of revenues never make their way to the box office.

I watched Jim Cramer of Mad Money for a few minutes last night. He noted that a portfolio of stocks he'd compiled that focused on the well to do did not do well. He did note that someone else had compiled a different portfolio catering to a similar segment, but the guy focused on stocks that provided (in his view) exceptional customer focus and service. Jim said that one way outperformed the market. The Wilpons don't really listen to the "collective us" as they should - they pay with subpar performance in both performance (wins and losses) and financially.

Of course, they could pull a Donald Sterling at any time and sell the team at a huge profit - but at least it hurts them now, financially, each year. Losing money can humble someone - eventually.

Dallas said...

I keep harping on this. The Mets are 10-20 in 1 run games. Their run differential is only about 4 runs off the Braves. Look at the difference that makes (first and last place). If the Mets were 20-10 in 1 run games they would be in first place. I think 1 run games are where Managers can affect the game the most. Its also where a small upgrade at a few positions wins you a bunch more games. Frankly the Mets did have a chance to compete this year if luck had gone there way a little more or if they made a few more upgrades or maybe had a better manager.

Reese Kaplan said...

Thank you all for the kind comments.

I neglected to refute Bill's spurious argument using his same metaphor. Did Willie Shoemaker just happen to always have the best steed under him, or was it something he did that garnered all those victories? Methinks the latter, otherwise he was the luckiest SOB who ever lived.

Change jockeys.

Mack Ade said...

Dallas -

But, the Mets are not lucky and a lot of luck comes from more skillful players.

They now have added losses due to defense lapses in the field which you just can't afford to have if you don't have a decent offense.

The team just isn't talented enough.

Mack Ade said...

Everyone -

A lof of you people may not believe this but Reese and Bill Metsiac are good friends and are both members of a Yahoo group that shares emails about the Mets. Just thought you should know they don't hate each other.

Reese Kaplan said...

Absolutely not...Bill's orange and blue goggles sometimes cloud his judgment about hard number realities :)

bob gregory said...

unfortunately, your last sentence describes this team around the All-Star break each of the last few years.

Bill Metsiac said...

It's true that Reese's Darth Vader is the perfect complement to my Luke Skywalker. And he's NOT my father! ;)

As soon as he or anyone else can convince me that Sandy has built a team that is capable of and expected to win, then I'll put the onus on Terry.

Even Shoemaker couldn't win a race on a 3-legged horse.

IBfromWhitePlains said...

A good jock will at least get an inferior horse in a position where he CAN win. Collins is forever boxed in and jostled by the horses around him. Lugging home.

Bill Metsiac said...

Las Vegas had the Over/Under on Mets wins at 73.5 on OD. At the halfway point we were at 37, right on target.

Where's the under-achieving?

Reese Kaplan said...

Right now they're on pace for under 70 wins. That fails both Alderson's standard and the oddsmakers. Of course, if you bet the under you're ready to cash-in, big time.

elizabeth thomas said...

Hi Reese,

Great Job! You Justified the PMP Certification.

Mack's Mets © 2012