Posted by: dodgrblu | August 22, 2010

Mission: Implausible

This was originally going to be one small part of a post on a slightly different topic. But as I did the research to flesh it out,
it took on a life of its own. Thanks for reading me!

Just win, baby!

I happened to be listening to ESPN Radio on Thursday, when someone (didn’t catch who it was) was talking about poorly run sports franchises. He declared that the reason that teams like the New York Mets and Oakland Raiders are perennial disasters is that they don’t have a mission statement like the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

First of all, I find it ironic that someone is holding up the Phillies as a team to emulate, given that the Phillies have lost more games than any team in the history of major league baseball. If this guy had been running his mouth in about 2006, it would be interesting to see whom, besides the Yankees, he would hold up as a model franchise.

Secondly, a mission statement? Really? That will take your team over the top, huh?

Puh-leeze! To quote Homer Simpson, “That’s a load of rich creamery butter.”

Mission statements are a way to take the basic, common sense goals for success in any business venture and package them up to make a company’s officers feel good about themselves and their “management concept.” In the business world, a mission statement usually reads something like this:

Clients know that [insert company here] has a personal interest in maintaining the unblemished record of value, fair-dealing, and high ethical standards that has always been the firm’s hallmark.

Okay, you caught me. This is, in fact, an actual mission statement. Can you guess whose name I replaced with “[insert company here]”?

If you guessed Bernard Madoff, go get yourself a cookie.

A professional* sports franchise’s core mission is pretty simple. It doesn’t get much more simple than “Just win, baby!” That would be the mission statement of the Oakland Raiders—one of the teams that supposedly doesn’t have a mission statement. (I would love to see someone try to tell Al Davis, owner of the Raiders, that his team doesn’t have a mission statement. That would make for some good reality TV. You thought there were a lot of F-bombs dropped in Hard Knocks?)

And lest you think “Just Win, Baby!” doesn’t count as a mission statement, consider the Yankees’ and Phillies’ vaunted mission statements.

The Yankees is “Win the World Series.”

The Phillies is a little more modest, “Make the playoffs and at least win the first series.”

Wow. Pure genius. How much did somebody get paid to come up with that?

The core mission—the “on-the-field mission,” if you will, of a professional sports team has to come down to this:

Win as many games as you possibly can.

To still be playing in late October (or January, for football) has to be the mission. Otherwise, why even try? In the words of the late Tug McGraw (Mets, 1973): “Ya gotta believe!”

If there’s a professional sports team out there that doesn’t start the season with the stated objective to make the post-season, they don’t really deserve to sell a single ticket to a single game. Moreover, any player who doesn’t start the season with a vision of helping his team get to the post-season should look for another line of work because he isn’t worth even major league (or in the NFL, rookie) minimum.

Unfortunately, in doing a little research on mission statements in sports, one of my very own beloved teams has made me look stupid. But they made the guy who was talking on ESPN radio look stupid, too.

It turns out, the Mets do have a mission statement.

Worst. Mission Statement. Ever.

The Mets 2010 mission statement, announced in spring training: “Prevention and Recovery.”

Translation: “Don’t get hurt, stupid!”

Apparently, Jason Bay missed the memo. Surely if he’d seen it, Bay wouldn’t have gone crashing face first into the padded wall at Dodger Stadium last month. (Next time, let the ball drop, Jason. Against the Dodgers or the Mariners, anyway. Repeat after me, “prevent and recover, pre-vent and recover”!) Actually, speaking of the Bay injury, maybe the Mets training staff missed the memo about the mission statement as well.

With a mission statement like “Prevention and Recovery,” though, it’s really no wonder the Mets suck this year. It’s utterly forgettable. Worse, it’s not a call to action,”prevention” is a call to INACTION—i.e., don’t do it if you might get hurt.

If that was the Mets’ front office’s response to their injury-plagued 2009 season, I can’t WAIT to see what the 2010 edition of the mission statement is.

Will they get right to the point with, “Don’t assault family members in the workplace”?

Too wordy? Maybe boil it down to “Duck and Cover”?

I’ll settle for “Just win, baby!”

*I’m strictly talking professional sports here. I recognize that, in college athletics, there would be a little more to the mission than merely getting a BCS bid, being one of the 64 teams in the NCAA basketball tournament, or making the College World Series. College athletes are ostensibly enrolled in school to do something besides win games.


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