Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Plug and Play

With interviews for the Phillies' managing vacancy beginning today, Phil Sheridan tucks his tongue firmly into his cheek and offers all of the candidates some unsolicited advice in this morning's Inquirer. Humor aside, the real reason for the perilous situation into which the next manager enters can be found in Don Steinberg's Sports Business column today.

Steinberg writes about Confidence, a new book by Harvard Business School faculty member Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who has an interesting take on one of Philadelphia's teams:

Kanter's book is about winning streaks, losing streaks and turnarounds, and she uses examples from the corporate and sports worlds to examine what makes them happen. ...

[S]he found the Eagles, whose tale opens her section on turnarounds.

The book would have you believe that the Eagles' salvation predates the 2004 arrival of Terrell Owens, and that this currently undefeated season has resulted from 10 years of planning. Kanter describes how [Jeffrey] Lurie bought a mediocre team in 1994 for $185 million -- then the most ever paid for an NFL franchise -- and was stunned by how bad it was behind the scenes.

When he first entered the team's Veterans Stadium facilities as the new owner, he thought: "This is an NFL franchise? ... I saw no windows, lighting that could put you to sleep, rats walking across offices, and a lot of unenergetic expressions."

Lurie and Banner set out to instill confidence, which Kanter defines as "positive expectations for a favorable outcome ... . Confidence influences willingness to invest -- to commit money, time, reputation, emotional energy."

They made employees and players feel appreciated with changes such as improving the salary-review process and spending more on player amenities. They hired Andy Reid, who, according to Banner in the book, "plans every minute of every practice" and "doesn't care how much anyone second-guesses him." Reid found player leaders at each position and began meeting with them regularly. ...

The Eagles also built Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, where, Kanter said, "the beauty of the place affects the spirit of winning."

Compare Kanter's rhapsodic description of the Eagles to the state of the Phillies these days and you begin to understand the last two years of vast underachievement. More than, say, a hard-ass manager and a failure to secure a true No. 1 starter, what besets the Phils -- what is their most significant obstacle to success -- is a systemic organizational dysfunction. It's as if they're hardwired to fail. And I don't think Don Baylor or Grady Little or Charlie Manuel is a sufficiently talented electrician to change that.


At October 13, 2004 at 9:39 AM, Blogger Tom G. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At October 13, 2004 at 9:43 AM, Blogger Tom G. said...

I've always suspected that teams that win year in year out have a culture of winning (Yankees, Braves, the 49ers of the 80's and 90's, Duke basketball, the Celtics of the 60's), and apparently this book backs that up. Somehow the Phillies have to turn that around. Somehow they caught lightening in a bottle in '93, but that wasn't a recipe for consistent winning.

At October 13, 2004 at 5:48 PM, Blogger gr said...

what weird coincidence. we have the second part of a 2-part interview with ms kanter in our upcoming issue of the magazine here at work. i didn't realize she talks phiolly sports in it, so now i'm going to be more vigilant in gaining a free copy.

actually, i would like to read a behind-the-scenes book on the 93 phils. i bet it was one of the few times for the franchised that there was a true team mentality in the clubhouse. that, or dutch just went around threatening everybody.

At October 14, 2004 at 9:02 AM, Blogger Wyatt Earp said...

They should just hire Lou Brown.

At October 14, 2004 at 11:33 AM, Blogger Matt said...

"Who's Lou Brown?"

At October 15, 2004 at 11:35 AM, Blogger gr said...

"Let me call you back, Charlie, I got a guy on line two about some whitewalls."

At October 15, 2004 at 1:08 PM, Blogger Tom said...

"Come on, Dorn, get in front of the damn ball! Don't give me this ole bulls---!"


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